The Cookieless Future: Four Ways the Cookie-Free Era will Transform Marketing

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by Steve Allison

posted on 08-25-2021

Third-party cookies have been a staple in the marketers’ toolkit. They’re especially essential when it comes to personalising the digital customer experience. In fact, a recent Adobe survey found that 60% of personalisation use cases rely on third-party cookies. But thanks to growing consumer privacy concerns and associated government regulations, the third-party cookie has been targeted for distinction.

The certain demise of third-party cookies will change marketing forever. But because marketers are a resilient and creative bunch, they’re finding opportunities to use data in more intelligent ways in this third-party cookie-free era. In fact, a “cookieless” future will actually empower marketers to create more meaningful and valuable customer engagements than ever before. Here’s why:

1) Trust is fundamental to the customer experience

At its essence, the cookieless future is about increasing transparency and control for consumers, and trust between customers and brands. And that’s a good thing, not just from an ethical business perspective, but also because trust has become a fundamental component and expectation of the customer experience.

As a result, marketers are grappling with the need to deliver increasingly more relevant experiences with less of the customer data that previously powered those experiences. When it comes to privacy and personalisation though, it’s not a case of one or the other – it’s perfectly possible, and necessary, to deliver personalised experiences while also providing consumers with transparency and control of their data.

Ultimately, companies create trust when they keep promises and deliver value – as defined by their consumers and in ways that delight them.

2) First-party data will reign supreme

Before we continue, it’s important to point out that when we use the term ‘cookieless future’, we’re referring to the demise of third-party cookies specifically. First-party data remains a vital component of a data-driven business. In fact, as third-party cookies bow out, the first-party data will ultimately take centre stage.

At the end of the day, what better way to build long-lasting relationships with customers, than by using data they have willingly shared with you? Still, brands must also toe the line between acquiring more in-depth first-party customer data and pushing people too heavily to share personal information.

The key here is demonstrating tangible value to your customers – how exactly will their brand experience improve if they voluntarily share more information? This could come in the form of exclusive offers and discounts, loyalty bonuses, or access to premium content – make it clear to them how increased data sharing will benefit them, rather than you.

3) Everything will come down to CDP

It’s one thing shifting your data collection strategy to focus almost exclusively on first-party data, but actually transforming this data into actionable insights that benefit the customer is an entirely different nut to crack.

The emergence of customer data platforms (CDPs) provides brands and marketers with a centralised hub that empowers marketers with a true understanding of the individual customer. Using first-party data, CDPs can resolve that data down to people, so marketers can drill into an individual’s history and behaviour, including click streams and contextual information (such as location and device of choice), all in real time.

Possessing this information, and using a CDP to bring it all together and actually act on it, will help companies achieve true brand differentiation by providing them with detailed customer profiles that update in real time, while using AI-driven insights to help them deliver the right experiences across every channel. Speaking of which…

4) Machine learning will become your unsung hero

With third-party cookies on their way out, one of the biggest challenges facing brands and marketers is how to turn anonymous visitors into known customers. In addition to creating robust first-party data strategies, brands must also find ways to create compelling and valuable customer experiences for visitors they don’t yet know.

This is where machine learning will deliver real value in the cookieless future: by providing predictive insights and enabling marketers to continue targeting anonymous visitors. Observing these visitors across owned platforms, machine learning can identify patterns in their behaviour, such as common drop-off points or repetitions in click streams. Then, when a new anonymous visitor lands on a brand’s website, machine learning can predict their behaviour based on existing patterns, and personalise their experience accordingly.

The future’s bright and it’s cookieless

There’s no doubting that the cookie-free future will result in a permanent change in how marketers do their jobs. But rather than viewing this as the ‘cookiepocalypse’, brands that embrace the cookieless era have an opportunity to redefine and reinvent what data they gather, how they use it, and how they engage with customers and prospects in more meaningful and trustworthy ways.

To embrace a cookieless era, marketers and IT professionals must develop a legitimate two-way relationship with their customers, built on trust, where both are equal parties to a shared profile that ultimately empowers a better experience.

Topics: Cookieless, Retail and ECommerce Trends, Marketing, Data & Privacy, UK,

Products: Marketing Cloud