How to Effectively Reach Your Customers Without Third-Party Cookies

  • Danielle Dougan
  • Marketing & Communications
  • Jun 29, 2021

Most people like cookies, just not the kind that follow you around the internet.  

Major announcements have been made recently relative to how the use of third-party cookies will be changing through legislation and regulation to protect consumer privacy and level the playing field from Apple and Google. While deprecation of cookies on the Chrome browser were expected by 2022, it has now been pushed to mid-2023. These announcements left marketers and advertisers scrambling to figure out how to better leverage first-party data, re-focus on the creative experience, and fight the tide of disintermediation that pushes them apart from their customers.  

How do you build a marketing stack to move closer to your customer in the next 2-3 years and comply with changing regulations? That is exactly what the three sessions of the recent BIMA (Boston Interactive Media Association) Data Privacy Summit put on by the Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce just covered. Speakers from agency, brand, and ad tech companies offered their perspective. Here are the key takeaways:   

How to Scale First-Party Data

Julianna Thiessen, Digital Marketing Manager at skincare company Bliss knows a thing or two about overcoming the challenges of following customers through the funnel to retarget or follow-up post purchase. While the company has a website (Bliss World) the majority of its sales were occurring in drug stores pre-COVID. As a result, they have been leveraging as much first-party data (data that comes directly from the customer) as possible. As Julianna shares, “When you want consumers to buy what they want – best to ask them directly. Those shopping online will give information for a personalized experience at the end of the day.”  

COVID forced manufacturers to create more relevant digital experiences. For Bliss, a “Find my Routine” product recommendation quiz saw a 93% completion rate with high engagement rates across email (a two times higher increase in email open rates for the quiz), SMS, social marketing, and paid advertising.  

Julianna shares some of her tips for effectively leveraging first-party data:  

  • You do not always need an offer – product recommendations are enough to provide genuine value as people don’t always know what they want to buy when browsing.
  • The 20% off value proposition Bliss gives for quick completions of its quiz ensures that both Bliss and the customer win. The customer gets a discount, Bliss gathers more information so that they can talk more relevantly to the customer in subsequent communications, and it puts customers in the marketing funnels based on their quiz responses. 
  • The number one reason customers mistrust a brand is asking for too much information. It only takes 4-5 questions to understand your customer (you can ask more down the road). Focus on what is important to drive conversation and help keep the completion rate high and be transparent about how their data will be used.
  • Think about yourself and where you would be willing to share information that feels natural (avoid asking for information in pop-ups, for example).

Overall: keep it natural, start simple, and add value for the customer. The forms of genuine value you give to consumers can include recommendations, testing their knowledge, entertainment, unlocking benefits (offer, content, loyalty points), saving them time, and saving them money. 

Missed the session? Watch now:

Future-Forward: The Rise of First-Party Data

How to Advertise Responsibly in the Age of Data Privacy  

Hiran Patel, Chief Product Officer at Hybrid Theory shared that consumer trust in the advertising industry has never been lower as COVID rapidly accelerated and brought to life gaps in trust and transparency. Due in part to increased media consumption during the pandemic, this year global spend on digital is set to outpace traditional media for the first time. Taking the lead are search, social (with emerging channels like TikTok), display, OTT Media (media services over the internet) and Connected TV Devices.  

While UK GDPR set the standard globally for the principles, ethos, rights, and tenants of other regulations globally for advertising, 23+ U.S. states are in active debates on state privacy laws while the implications of cookieless customer journeys (frequency capping, audience lists, remarketing and bidding) are coming to life.  

Cookieless implications across the industry include: universal IDs (based on user IDs and consent/authentication or paywalls), deterministic IDs (where the individual is confirmed by 100% accuracy using Machine Learning to identify and make a match), contextual signaling (web page content being scraped to make quick decisions, understand sentiment of a page) and audience cohorts (Google FLoCs – large groups of users that have preference to a specific category, aggregate groups of 500 segments). The 1-1 identification once enabled by personal data through cookies—to  understand the consumer journey and track effectiveness—is now much more complex through data regulation. Data needs to be consented, and advertisers need to think like consumers with digital ad strategies.  

Hiran’s top tips for advertising effectively in this new landscape follow:  

  • Utilize emerging tools in a cookieless landscape that allow you to enrich what you have with first party data, these include:  
    • AI (which has been underutilized in the industry) 
    • Contextual signaling,  
    • The Google Privacy Sandbox 
    • Publisher Gardens (understand what’s happening in your site for retargeting; big media have had advertisers engage with them to buy audiences)  
    • Data Clean Rooms (tech make it easy for brands to share information with another party)
  • Marketing used to focus on the top of the funnel, but the transition online generated more tracking and data and made things more analytical. Marketers now need to figure out how to connect the dots across a funnel that is no longer linear.
  • Consumers have higher expectations in an online experience in terms of control and data protection. Consumers want to engage, but on their own terms. They expect brands to be responsible and protect their data. It’s about consumers opting in more than ever before – advertisers need to be deliberate and transparent about data uses. 
  • Remove friction to increase morale–determine how to make lead generation more efficient, or automated. 
  • Put content out that is interesting, relevant, fun and make the rules of engagement known.

Overall: Ethics and privacy enable responsible advertising to do what’s right by customers, and brands significantly outperform with customer trust, which generates sales and loyalty and defends brand reputation. 

Missed the session? Watch now:

Responsible Advertising in the Age of Data Privacy

The Roadmap: How to Replace the Cookie 

Gogi Gupta, Founder of Gupta Media and Alex Binder, Vice President at GroupeConnect joined forces to address how creativity should be brought back into campaigns as advertisers and marketers look to replace cookies and adapt to a shifting model of users needing to opt-in (versus opt-out) which creates a smaller pool of addressable opportunity.  

As Gogi shared, “Cookies are a bedrock in the fabric of the internet–everyone accepted them; will we find the next thing to be as universally accepted? First party data and other data will replace it. There needs to be a change in mindset from a relentless pursuit of opportunities. As businesses come up with their roadmap to replace the cookie, it will be a long and winding road for alternatives.” 

Gogi and Alex’s top suggestions for such alternatives include:  

  • Digital marketers love data and tracking and the benefit from the cookie was that it allowed precision and reduced risk, but marketers need to flex other muscles: measure top down (how is the business doing?) and bottom up (how are channels contributing?). 
  • Cookies served as measurement for A/B testing but cookieless solutions rolled out on Amazon, Facebook, and Google with cloud-based data and clean room solutions provide the same structure that cookies otherwise afforded.
  • In the cookieless world, ad verification partners will be more important than ever to ensure accountability for third-party verification with Google and Facebook “walled gardens.”   
  • Instead of talking about ads as a CPA, we can now measure as a percentage of revenue.
  • Shore up data and take stock of all campaign performance and KPIs to establish benchmarks to compare against when cookies do deprecate or IDFAs become less available with rollout of IOS 14.5.
  • Put together test and learn roadmaps
  • Hire data scientists to prepare for the future–modeling and predictive bidding 

Overall: when you can’t connect users to web browsing behavior it becomes more difficult. Marketers will move away from spreadsheets down to each sale, and making consumers want their product. There will be a re-focus on the creative experience, a return to contextual targeting, and a freedom to test environments (like connected tv, in-app, mobile, podcast) that cookies had deemed not to work.   

Missed the session? Watch now:

Countdown to Cookieless: Are You Prepared?

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Danielle Dougan Marketing & Communications

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