How will you know your audience's intent, desire, or need without cookies? Just ask.

/ 9 August 2022

You’ll likely already know that third-party cookies, the now-controversial tracking codes, are soon to be, sort of, consigned to the history books. We’ve previously discussed the challenges that advertisers will face without the ability to track customers’ activity across the web – but what are the opportunities?

The Challenges of a Cookie-Free World

Ninety percent of marketers use cookies to understand cross-channel and cross-device interactions. As consumers typically access the internet across four devices daily, this cross-tracking helps brands provide a consistent experience at every touchpoint. The inability to link individual activity across devices will be keenly felt and will impact virtually every part of digital marketing.

Overall, marketers anticipate a 22% reduction in marketing ROI due to the cookie depreciation. Savvy brands are responding by increasing their first-party data – by an average of 31% in 2021.

Tied into this is the renewed focus on email marketing. According to a 2022 Loyalty Research survey, 70% of brands plan to increase their email marketing budgets. However, in the same survey, 84% already reported a high or medium impact on their email marketing efforts due to cookie depreciation.

It’s clear that focusing attention on a different platform isn’t the whole answer; a shift in mindset is required to see the emerging opportunities.

The Flaws of First-Party Data

As it comes directly from the customer, first-party data is often considered as consented and lacking the underhand nature of third-party cookies. However, first-party data still covers a range of information that most customers are only partially aware of – purchase history, account information, and abandoned carts.

Customers don’t get a say in whether a company uses this information to advertise so it can’t really be considered consented. It’s still pretty underhand and holds plenty of flaws for the brand too. Analyzing behavioral data or purchase history shows what customers were interested in. It shows the needs they used to have. But it doesn’t necessarily show their future interests, motivations, or intent.

So how do you find out this information? Just ask.

The Benefits of Consented Data

The recent privacy debate has given rise to the view that no customer wants to share any of their data. However, this is not true. Our own Consumer Insights Survey showed that only 8% of consumers would be unwilling to share their personal data with a brand. That means 92% would be comfortable sharing data with a brand if they saw the value in doing so – such as receiving a better experience.

Enter consented data. This is information that the consumer actively shares in return for a better and more personalized brand experience. To collect this data, consent needs to shape the company’s entire data strategy. How it’s collected, protected, used, and kept up to date.

A key element of consented data is in allowing the customer to control their marketing preferences. They should be able to dictate their preferences, interests, and future intent. In essence, they can assist you in providing them with the best possible brand experience.

Marketing communications will arrive at a time, place, and frequency that suits the customer, so they’ll pay more attention to it.

So don’t track users’ past behavior, ask for their future preferences.

Seeing the Opportunities in a Cookie-Free World

There was much hand-wringing when big tech decided to end third-party cookies, but we see it differently. This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to shift our marketing models and mindsets to build in customer control and trust.

If brands do this, they will get to know their audience better. Gain richer data sources from which to glean truly actionable insights. Be able to reduce friction throughout the customer journey.

The end of third-party cookies might just be the best thing that’s ever happened to the digital marketing world.

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