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Don’t mourn the death of third-party cookies

1st Feb 2022
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When Google announced its plans for a cookie-free world by early 2022, the intent was clear: meet demands for more consumer privacy. But that didn’t stop brands, publishers, and marketers from hitting the panic button. Google has since delayed the plan to phase out third-party cookies until 2023, but marketers are still worried about what’s to come.

On the one hand, I get it: Losing access to consumers’ digital footprints could impact how brands personalize online experiences, but that depends on what data and tools marketers use. With the right strategy, brands don’t need to mourn the death of third-party cookies.

Third-party data can be less accurate because it’s often aggregated from several data sets. Along with that, tracking users across the web has raised major privacy concerns. Yes, without third-party cookies, you won’t collect as much data from outside channels, but you can make up for that with higher-quality, more accurate first-party data.

Because you collect first-party data directly from consumers, it’s easier to tag and use. When you’re transparent about how you’ll use it (personalization, product recommendations, etc.), consumers are likelier to trust your brand with their data. In fact, 40% of consumers say they’d share more data if organizations were honest about how they collected, used, and shared it.

Despite popular belief, brands don’t need to know exactly who a user is to provide relevant product recommendations. With contextual and real-time information, your first-party data helps personalize digital experiences for consumers who are interested in engaging but don’t want to share their third-party data.

How do you get consumers to share their information with your brand? You prove the value. The classic exchange is that consumers provide their data for more personalized experiences. Currently, most brands collect the data but don’t give value back to consumers. Brands must go beyond adding a consumer’s name to an email template. The real value comes from using first-party data to help consumers find what they’re looking for when they’re looking for it, whether that’s a certain product or a specific piece of content.

To start leveraging first-party data, take stock of your current practices and technologies. Improving your tech stack and data collection, tagging, and analysis practices isn’t an overnight process, and investment in new solutions can be a hard sell for decision makers. But if you don’t adopt the resources and tools you need in order to use the data you have effectively, you’ll likely struggle with the impending death of third-party cookies.

This is a substantial digital transformation that requires you to break down data silos and adopt a solution that can analyze the data at scale, leaving you the task of extracting the actionable insights. Figure out what data you have: Where’s it coming from, where’s it being stored, and how’s it being tagged?

Finally, optimize the consumer experience across owned channels. The faster you can help people find what they’re looking for with personalized product recommendations and dynamic content, the likelier they will be to stay longer, come back for repeat sessions, and share more data with you.

Optimizing owned channels also means using relevant and engaging content to capture attention and build brand loyalty. In practice, this could look like a pet store leveraging first-party data to curate relevant experiences for consumers and predict what content or products consumers want to see. Although third-party data could give the brand information on outside channels, first-party data allows it to dig deeper into behaviors and habits over time.

For example, a user viewing or purchasing puppy food, small beds, and puppy toys likely has a puppy. With first-party data, the brand can adapt to the user’s changing needs by providing relevant product and content recommendations as the puppy grows. Leveraging first-party data in this way creates brand loyalty and increases ROI with less guesswork and fewer privacy concerns.

Since third-party cookies appeared, brands have used the data they provide to better understand and connect with consumers. That chapter is closing, but it isn’t the end of the story. It’s an invitation to build a brand environment driven by first-party data where you can still achieve your marketing goals, and consumers can have peace of mind.

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