Adobe experience makers: Talking cookieless

Cheerful businessman attending a meeting with his team

Along with all the other changes wrought by 2021 was the start of the slow death of cookies. In an announcement that sent shockwaves through experience makers across the globe, Google said it would eliminate cookies by the end of 2023.

For many powering the $100bn in digital advertising spend currently predicated on third party cookies, the announcement held cause for concern. Research shows that while 60 percent of all experience personalisation is currently dependent on third party data, only 37 percent of brands are ready for the cookieless future.

But in reality, Google’s timing shouldn’t matter. The future of digital experience is in first-party data – data created and stored by sites directly from users. According to McKinsey, companies that do not figure out a strategy to maintain – and even grow – their access to first-party data may have to spend 10 to 20 percent more on marketing and sales to generate the same returns.

So why is this the case, and what steps can you take to prepare?

The future of trust is first-party

Regardless of your third-party data position, we know that great customer experiences are built on data, specifically first-party data.

Data tells us that consumers expect their brand experiences to be personalised while also maintaining control of the data they share. They want authentic experiences from brands they trust.

First-party data strategies and platforms foster this trust, as well as create growth via a value exchange between you and your customers.

According to Gabbi Stubbs, Senior Product Marketing Manager, APAC at Adobe, this moment is less about the ‘death of cookies’ and more an opportunity to build trust and creatively connect with customers.

“Consumer trust is key, and first-party data sets the foundation for a trust-based relationship with customers. The simple act of owning our own data, and having our customers willingly opt-in, redefines our relationship with them and puts it on an equal footing.”

“First party data enables you to really know your customers and develop more meaningful insights about them to help develop better experiences with their evolving needs,” said Stubbs.

When it comes to strategy, collaboration is key

For those looking at implementing first-party data strategies within their organisations, there are three key elements to consider. John Mackenney, Principal Digital Strategist APAC at Adobe, says brands need to move to long term thinking, galvanise leadership and empower employees.

“Moving your strategy to one of lifetime value is a challenge, but it’s also a huge opportunity. There will be no replacement for third party cookies. The time for first party data strategies is now,” Mackenney said.

**“**How you work with and activate data in the future will inform success, and it’s all built on collaboration. First party data strategies require a deep relationship between CIO and CMO and board-level buy in. Lastly, you need to empower employees. Beyond digital upskilling, shifting culture to think long term means getting people to step outside their role or channel for a wider view, and empowering employees to collaborate across teams and functions,” he said.

Organisations who’ve spent time building a strong first-party data set are now set to see returns on that investment. National online vehicle marketplace Carsales got the business firmly behind a first-party data strategy and are now able to execute against it.

“It’s been a journey making sure everyone in our business understands the importance of our strategy. Now we have a fantastic first party data set,” said Stephen Kyefulumya, GM Media Growth and Innovation at Carsales. “We will come out of this being able to offer marketers a strong, privacy-first way of targeting their users in a post-cookie world.”

Well-measured is well-managed

Meeting modern customers requires combining data from multiple solutions to get a clear picture of each individual customer and act on those real-time insights to deliver a truly connected experience. The value of your first-party data is only as good as the ability to deploy it.

Hiro Awanohara, Adobe’s Senior Regional Product Marketing Manager APAC & Japan, says there are three areas marketers or organisations should investigate when considering platforms to manage their customer journeys: scale and performance, security and privacy, and connectivity and extensibility.

“We all recognise the volume of data is going to continue to only increase, not decrease. So, you need a platform that will future-proof you from a scale and performance perspective. When thinking about security and privacy, look for certifications, privacy tools and governance features,” Awanohara said.

“Lastly, once you have a centrally managed data foundation, the last thing you want is the inability to efficiently act on that data. Make sure you’ve got out-of-the-box channels and destinations, as well as a flexible, API-first architecture to extend beyond,” he said.

The opportunity for marketers is smooth workflows leading to enhanced customer experience. Megan Brown, Head of Channel Personalisation at NAB, said in terms of journeys, NAB has been event-based and profile-led, but their strategy is evolving.

“We are thinking a lot more about how we connect our data to allow us to build end-to-end journeys, everything from media to one-to-one. Apart from journey optimiser we see the use of a CDP playing a central role for us,” she said.

Action in a world of infinite data

Keen to optimise your own journey from third-party to first party-data strategy? Begin with these three steps.

· Start small and simplify: Avoid ‘analysis paralysis’ by first using the minimal depth of data needed to start. Identify campaigns or initiatives that are low in expense but high in business impact, so when you go to your stakeholders, you can show successes.

· Learn and optimise: Everything from different dimensions to messaging to UX and UI design, all the way down to targeting rules - look not only at the rule but also where you apply it. Testing and optimising is really how you make customer experience better.

· Expand your first-party data: Digital interaction and behaviour tools are great in terms of understanding where, when and who, but what’s missing is why. Things like user testing or even talking to your customer-facing team give you a more ballistic understanding of your customer.