Why cookie loss is good for customer focus
The wailing and gnashing of teeth over the loss of third party cookies shows no sign of ending as the ad tech community endlessly searches for alternatives. Cookies did little to build profitable consumer relationships, but their demise may be one the best things that happens for customer-focused marketers. Here is why.
Social media pixels can successfully achieve many of the key functions of cookies, but – and this is the important bit – pixels can also be used to gain extraordinarily high degrees of understanding of customer behaviour and sentiment to build compelling long term relationships.
In fact, building profitable and sustained connections with buyers is what social media is actually best at. But, at the same time the tactical need for remarketing and other cookie functions can also be met. Crudely speaking, the result for brands is a two for one option that can lead to building greatly improved customer relationships. Here are the finer points.
Cookies need little planning or integration, and are extremely convenient as a shot to nothing sales driver. It is why their end next year is already causing so much pain.
Pixels too can also be used to construct remarketing audiences to retarget website visitors, and identify lookalikes from website visits, or from what customers have bought. This meets a lot of the needs of tactical marketing.
But pixels are brilliantly powerful tools. They enable the identification of demographic data - standard criteria such as age, gender and location. Granular understanding is achieved through behaviour and sentiment tracking, choices of TV programming, magazines, attitudes, and specific motivators can be identified and analysed. It is also possible to track conversation content. In fact, software enables recognition of more than 40 million attributes. This is about psychographics, and not demographics.
For example, pixels enable the extraction of information that tells the optimum time of day to message customers. Something that can be the important difference between a miss timed call to action, or a sale.
Used to the greatest degree, pixels based engagement approaches one to one marketing to reach customers on their terms, via their preferred buying journey, using their language and with the most effective proposition. And once the profile of the prime audience becomes know, it is possible to identify lookalikes.
However, there is a new need to the importance of talking with consumers using high levels of insight.
Social media has been flagging changing consumer attitudes that emerged during covid. The pandemic has moved interest away from consumption as the priority, to family and friends. Analysis shows people could barely wait to the end of lockdown be with their family and friends. Buying interest dropped considerably. Motivations and desires have changed, and possibly for good.
In addition, an increasingly marketing savvy public is less trusting of brands. Individuals now not only own the marketplaces they shop in, but they increasingly understand their power within them. When you deal with powerful people, things have to be as they want it. Second chances are few.
Currently much of marketing is stifled. Talking at consumers with the brand as the hero is not working. The answer is that you have to know much more about buyers, and how they want to be communicated with, what buyer journey they want, what channels are appropriate, what is the right content, the right call to action.
To a large extent we have entered a new world in which the customer is setting the agenda. In the past it was possible to create long term buying through regular broad brush communication, reliable customer services, ensuring stock was always available, delivery times were kept, and providing repeat order discounts, or other loyalty bonuses. This is no longer enough.
Dialogue has to be smarter, and work harder. This creates the need to humanise the brand. It means adopting communication that is about creating conversations that are authentic and meaningful. People want to be recognised, and rewarded for being important to brands. They want more than to be acknowledged. They want to feel heard.
At the moment the empathy and communication criteria are mostly not being met. There is commercial noise that barely registers, and it is time to consider social media for its deeper analytical qualities. It is the only channel suited to fulfilling the need for understanding in terms of both depth and scale. It also happens to be the most preferred channel for consumer conversation.
Of course, the advanced use of social media requires specialist knowledge, and intense activity. It comes at a cost. But from this perspective cookies being withdrawn could be one of the best things that can happen for customer focused marketers. If budget is diverted to both tactical and strategic use of social media this creates a win, win situation. A better use of marketing investment would be hard to find.