The Cookieless Future is Already Here
For years, brands have been using cookies to track website visitors, improve the user experience and collect data that helps target ads to the right audiences.
These practices are changing rapidly as the internet is becoming increasingly devoid of third-party cookies. Safari (36% of browser market share), Firefox (4%) and others have already banned them, while Google (Chrome: 48% of browser market share) have called extra time (by end 2023). Browser restrictions are not occurring in a vacuum, rather they are a continuation of a rapidly changing digital landscape that prioritises consumer privacy.
The main implications from the change.
The ban will give consumers more control over the data they share with companies online since they must give explicit consent for it to be collected. The downside is that personalisation could become less common with potentially more irrelevant ads being shown.
For advertisers these changes are affecting a range of major marketing tactics and capabilities. As an immediate effect most third-party audiences will diminish in size due to cookie expiry, until they are no longer useful for media buying activities. In the longer-term companies might not be able to collect as much personalised information from customers, leading to incomplete customer mapping and inaccurate measurement of the full user journey.
Advertisers are painfully aware of the potential marketing impact: a recent survey from GetApp showed that 44% of marketers predict a need to increase their spending by 5% to 25% to reach the same goals in a cookieless future.
Businesses need to prepare and adapt to changes in personalisation solutions and develop new ways to collect audience data that do not require third-party cookies but are GDPR compliant.
How brands can stay relevant to customers without third-party cookies.
Brands that adapt quickly will create competitive advantage and thrive in a cookieless world. The most successful online advertising campaigns in an environment devoid of third-party cookies will run on a mix of emerging alternatives, including first-party data, consent, contextual approaches, identifiers and more.
Focus on your owned data.
First-party data is now more valuable than ever. It is vital to maximise the data people hand over willingly. Some tactics include account creation, wish lists, loyalty programs, rewards, content download, surveys, etc. Improving collection will ensure robust data is available for targeting and personalisation. Starting early is key as it might take time for data to build up sufficient and significant volume.
Explore second-party data
Partner with large and trusted publishers that collect first-party data; they know a great deal about the interests of the audiences they serve based on content consumption.Google and Facebook offer aggregated data collected across their respective platforms (Google Search, YouTube, Instagram, Facebook). Additionally, the main publishers offer display and native buys overlaying their owned data.
Experiment with clean third-party data
Some third-party audiences do not rely on cookies and are already available for targeting. VisualDNA (www.visualdna.com) aggregates its audiences in a transparent manner based on personality quizzes.
Taylor content creation
Contextual personalisation is even more important in a cookieless world. Cookies provided certain conveniences for advertisers, but the consumer still only cares about the content, not the cookies. Focusing on building specific and relevant content for different audience segments and contexts will ultimately lead to a more successful and effective communication.
Create new personalisation tactics
Moment marketing and geo-targeting (time and place) can generate high engagement and be extremely effective.
Third-party cookie data that long powered digital advertising is going away.
Many changes are coming on the technical, legal, and operational front. There is no doubt that the coming years will bring challenges for digital marketers and advertisers. There is an urgent need to rethink and explore alternatives that deliver a better experience for consumers and produce more effective communication and therefore deliver more valuable results to brands.
Not futureproofing has a cost. Failing to implement a cookieless strategy could result in significant loss of marketing attributable revenue.