A cookieless world isn't game over

3 minute read

We’ve all read the news: “The death of the third-party cookie…The cookie is crumbling…RIP to the cookie.”

As these headlines multiply, marketers are increasingly thinking about how they will operate in a cookieless world, while ad platforms double their efforts to develop solutions for the post-cookie era. The crumbling of the third-party cookie is arguably the most profound change in digital advertising since its inception.

Over time, cookies have become the backbone of the ad-supported internet. Enabled cookies grant advertisers unrestricted, cross-platform access to users for retargeting, optimization and attribution. By placing a third-party cookie on their website, an advertiser follows visitors throughout their web journey. It invites them to come back at every turn with the goal of attributing a conversion to their efforts. On the flip side, third-party cookies allow ad platforms to collect limitless information about a user and, in return, offer precise targeting.

Meanwhile, users ask, “How are you managing my data?”

Data breaches and privacy scandals, combined with digital ad fatigue, have pushed the industry to reset. Nearly half of Canadians use ad blocking. Safari and Firefox already block third-party cookies. Google’s announcement that its Chrome browser will stop supporting third-party cookies by 2022 will essentially end the practice.

But where something ends, something else begins.

Where do marketing and CX meet? Read what the experts say before the cookie crumbles.

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The new data-driven landscape

With control back in the customer’s hands – and with privacy and transparency playing a pivotal role – the industry will be forced to course-correct. It will have to find new privacy-centric approaches that support the digital economy. It will not be without disruption, but as bright minds work to reinvent web advertising, a new equilibrium will be reached between customer privacy and personalization.

This shift will bring web advertising to a level playing field with other media channels, encouraging a more balanced mix. It will force marketers to discover solutions that support a fully omni-channel marketing approach [including online and offline channels]. In this new world, first-party data, aggregated data and attribution will become more important than ever.

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First-party data targeting

Whereas data is the new currency of the marketing world, first-party data is now the new gold. Now is the time to start collecting data about your customers, with their consent, and invest in building real relationships along with website visitors. If they aren’t already, modern authentication and CRM platforms should become the anchor of your marketing strategies.

This shift will bring web advertising to a level playing field with other media channels, encouraging a more balanced mix.

In fact, first-party, permission-based customer data has been at the centre of direct marketing since its beginning. Digital can now steal a page from the offline world to power a rich marketing strategy focused on the collection of signals across the path to purchase – cutting through walled gardens for a more comprehensive cross-platform, omni-channel view of customer behaviour.

Data-driven aggregation

The move away from third-party cookies to track and collect individual information across the web means we must start inferring characteristics, behaviours and preferences via data aggregation. Postal-code-level data, a marketer’s tool of choice for precise consumer insights, is well suited for the task.

A postal code provides insights on the demographics, interests, behaviours and lifestyles of a household in a way that anonymizes the individual. Not only is it small enough to offer the precision marketers need to maximize results from their investments, but it lends itself well to scaling up reach across multiple dimensions and geographies.

The postal code also supports effective look-alike acquisition strategies, because your new customer likely shares similar characteristics with your best customer. Not only does it increase relevance and reduce waste, but the postal code can also be effective in driving existing customer engagement and loyalty with more targeted communications and customer experience programs.

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Multi-channel marketing attribution

Data clean rooms are emerging as the new privacy-centric platform for marketing analytics and measurement. If you’ve been measuring direct mail using traditional match-back or key-coding methodologies — you’re ready for the digitization of this process. The post-cookie world will create opportunities for enhanced multi-channel marketing-attribution models that provide better insight into channel performance. Future models will look beyond single-event attribution of results, to a place where direct mail and offline channels get commensurate credit for contributing to a conversion.

With third-party cookies going away, the digital advertising world as we know it today will change. This will create new opportunities for marketers to create customer-centric programs anchored in data etiquette and actionable insights that stimulate engagement and curate relationships across channels for more effective marketing.

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Sophie DeLadurantaye
Sophie DeLadurantaye leads Canada Post Smartmail Marketing™ data solutions at Canada Post. With a background in digital analytics, she has developed and taught Algonquin College’s first Digital Analytics online learning program. Sophie holds an MBA from Carleton University and a Bachelor of Commerce from the University of Ottawa.Read more by Sophie DeLadurantaye