The shift to cookieless will change marketing forever: 5 reasons to get there ahead of the competition

Business Team Meeting Connection Digital Technology Concept.

Google’s recent announcement that it will delay the depreciation of third-party cookies in their Chrome browser by nearly two years didn’t come as a shock to many observers. Between legal and regulatory challenges, lack of broad agreement and participation on standards, and a myriad of new and untested replacement technologies, companies and vendors alike are struggling to find new ways to reconcile their need to acquire new customers with consumer demand for transparency and privacy.

While the announcement provides marketers more time to evolve their strategies around first-party data, consumer sentiment isn’t changing, and it won’t wait for brands to catch up.

In other words, just because advertisers and publishers can continue to use third party cookies to track and target consumers doesn’t mean they should do so at the expense of developing first-party data strategies. Here are five reasons why brands’ long-term success depends on accelerating the move to these new strategies now:

1. Consumers want more

Consumers are demanding different relationships with brands. They want more transparency, they want choice, they want control, and they want great experiences. They aren’t willing to compromise and aren’t concerned with how hard it is for brands to deliver. While Chrome may have delayed third-party depreciation, the browser industry (e.g. Firefox, Edge, Safari, Apple iOS) has already shifted to align with these new customer expectations around how data is used in marketing and advertising.

2. Consumer trust is earned

While consumers don’t want brands silently tracking them across the internet via third-party cookies, they are willing to trust brands with data in exchange for experiences they value. The new consumer-brand contract starts with transparency, consent, and privacy, and builds as brands keep their promises to deliver great experiences — as defined by the consumer. This is the new customer journey and pathway to building lifetime value.

3. Regulations are on the rise

Governments around the world are responding to these new consumer sensibilities by establishing higher standards for how companies collect, protect and use customer data. The EU’s Global Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) set the bar, and other countries and municipalities are following. In a digital economy, companies can’t afford to limit their ability to reach and engage with consumers because they can’t, or won’t, comply with local and regional regulations. Consent-driven, direct customer relationships are essential for brands to succeed in a more privacy-aware environment.

4. First-party data is the future

While many companies are beholden to third-party cookies to engage customers (in a recent survey we found that 60 percent of personalization use cases depend on third-party cookies), the data quality can be quite poor, resulting in personalization misfires that harm consumer trust and their relationships with brands. On the other hand, first-party data comes through a thoughtful exchange of value between brands and their customers, giving companies the ability to build consumer trust early. First-party data is key to thriving in this new environment, not just in marketing, but for all customer experiences.

5. Competitive differentiation

While first-party data is valuable from both a marketing and a relationship perspective, it takes time and focus to operationalize first-party data strategies. In the same survey mentioned above, we found that only 37 percent of marketing professionals were very prepared for a cookieless future and 41 percent said they will need up to two years to get ready. This translates to a tremendous opportunity for companies that are proactive about preparing for a future without third-party cookies. If most of their competitors are not prepared, there’s room for differentiation through improved customer experiences leading up to and following the deprecation of third-party cookies in Chrome.

The future of marketing is about creating experiences with customers, not just advertising to them. Consumer expectations will continue to trend toward more transparency and more ownership of their data and their experiences with brands. This temporary reprieve gives brands the time and opportunity to look beyond stopgap fixes and workarounds and invest in the right strategies and technologies for their customers, and their business.

With Google’s delay, brands would be wise to not “take their foot off the gas” in preparing for a cookieless future.