A huge chunk of the ads you see online are driven by third-party cookies, which are part of a somewhat questionable ad tech infrastructure that tracks and trades on website visitor and identity data.
So, when Google announced in January that it will phase out Chrome's third-party cookie support in two years, there was angst among marketers who were concerned they'll no longer be able to track audiences and show relevant messages to them as they traverse the Web.
But, despite all the handwringing, for marketers there are long-term upsides and benefits to the demise of cookies.
Balance trust with privacy
Global privacy concerns about the use of their personal data are at an all-time high. Since the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) went into effect in Europe last May, the European Data Protection Board has already received 144,000 complaints.
Furthermore, a recent global study on customer experience, Experience 2030, found that only 54% of people worldwide trust brands to keep their data private, and a startling 73% believe the use of their personal data "is out of control."
Moving away from reliance on third-party data—which doesn't have clear chains of consent—can give brands back control and help them protect their customers' privacy.
Surround your marketing with thoughtful data stewardship efforts (such as governance, security, and protection) and transparent communications with customers on how their data is being used (such as preference centers, clear opt-out mechanisms, and proactive communications on data collected).
Work smarter with first-party data
But marketers might still not be convinced.
It's true that they're losing their ability to track users around the web; however, all is not lost. Applying advanced analytics to first-party data can reveal highly relevant purchase intent signals and help orchestrate optimized cross-media journeys.
Savvy marketers are already dynamically collecting every interaction on their digital properties—with a single piece of HTML code. They then apply AI to that data, to historical data, parallel journeys, and other data such as geolocation, sensors, and more to derive intelligence.
Armed with that intelligence, these marketers uncover opportunities to cultivate value-generating behaviors and extend the customer's lifetime value. For example, they use AI or machine learning-powered customer journey or path analysis to deliver individualized customer experiences.
Get better at attribution with a more unified approach
With the demise of third-party cookies, marketers may feel they're deprived of key marketing performance data—which informs media effectiveness and provides guidance on future media spending.
Let's level-set. Current attribution modeling approaches rely on cookie-level data, don't tie in brand performance, and offer little insight into offline media and interactions.
With or without cookies, marketers must recast attribution into a more holistic, unified measurement approach. It's a continual journey that employs more algorithmic approaches to show near-real-time correlations between marketing engagements and a chosen success outcome—across the journey, not just single-touch.
Think about bringing in relevant data and analytics together at a strategic and tactical level to capture a holistic view of touchpoints—paid, owned, and earned (digital and offline). For example, marketers should be able to evaluate offline channels—such as a contact center interaction, direct mail receipt, or event attendance—to determine their position in the customer's path to purchase and the effect on brand loyalty.
With an analytically driven measurement approach, marketers will move beyond clickthrough rates to focus on business, customer, and operational-level outcomes. Key performance indicators like return on marketing investment, incremental revenue, and customer lifetime value take center stage, because they directly link marketing impact to business outcomes.
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The upshot is that the future is bright for marketers. Third-party data may become extinct, but those that act intelligently on their first-party data will have richer and more accurate data sets and better customer interactions.
And marketing metrics that go beyond attribution dependent on third-party data, and tie to business impact, will accurately prove the value of marketing.
That's the way forward.