The approaches of Google and Apple to prioritising user privacy have been subtly different. Apple is laying down a hard-line, focussed on satisfying growing user demand for better privacy protection. Google – who relies more heavily on ad revenue – has so far taken a more nuanced approach, drawing on input from the industry in shaping their policies.
Back in August 2019 Google launched its “Privacy Sandbox”, a forum to begin to their efforts to make tracking data more secure and anonymised going forward. They raised concerns about the consequences of not having a workable alternative in place post cookies – either the rise in subversive tracking methods such as fingerprinting, or a sudden drop in ad revenue causing a dramatic decrease in free, available content on the web.
However in early 2021, Google joined Apple in announcing an end to third-party cookies on Chrome. They have also concluded not to provide alternative user identifiers to replace cookies.
So where does that leave marketers? Is it an end of the line?
The answer is, of course, no. The changes will be phased in gradually over the next two years. But marketers need to act now to rethink their strategies and retarget their marketing budgets.
How do marketers respond to the end of third-party cookies?
So what can marketers do to prepare for a cookieless world? The jury is still out on what will become the most popular methods, as this is an area that is likely to evolve rapidly.
There will doubtless be a surge of new technologies developed over the next few months and years to respond to the phase-out and create new alternatives for brands to continue to assess and respond to their market.
Here are just some of the ways marketers can start to prepare their campaign strategies for a cookieless world:
Create your own first-party data
Google have made it clear that first-party data is the future. Brands need to invest in creating proprietary data on their customers, instead of over-relying on Google and its competitors to track their customer behaviour.
Whilst there are other places to turn to for user data, collecting first-party data is invaluable since you own all the rights yourself and are not reliant on a third-party.
There are already technology options available for curating first-party data, but of course, be sure to check that you are GDPR compliant before you begin creating your data sources.
Examine customer behaviour
Instead of tracking device history, businesses will need to focus more on studying their customer behaviour within the data they collect. This analysis will equip you to predict and respond to evolving consumer behaviours.
The world of commerce has seen dramatic changes in the last year, so understanding how your customers’ expectations have evolved will ensure your marketing campaigns will be well received.
Match advertising to page content
Another way to target customers with relevant ads is to match ads to the content on a webpage, rather than to the user specifically. For example, a user reading an article on canine health is likely to be interested in an ad for canine supplements shown on the same page.
Topic detection software such as that developed by Smartology is able to automatically analyse webpage content and match the most relevant ads to that page. This positions ads where they are most contextually relevant, maximising your conversions without the need for tracking individual users.
Predict trends through AI automation
Automation will be increasingly important in intelligently predicting relevance and context for your users, tracking keyword trends and predicting the most effective patterns for your brand.
The AI’s ever evolving ability in Natural Language Understanding (NLU) enables it to interact more naturally with customers, and therefore gain a better understanding of the customer through those interactions.
AI such as Ghostwriter can identify purchasing intent, opinions and interests from different text sources, to help you identify your target market.
Remarketing will become even more important
The growth of remarketing – particularly on social media – is likely to continue to expand into this new era.
The ROI of remarketing tends to be excellent, since winning new customers is far more costly than converting sales from existing or former customers. So budget invested in loyalty programs and remarketing strategies will likely be well spent.
Use of IP Addresses and Device IDs
Websites have been using IP addresses and device IDs for some time in their geo-targeting, in order to personalise their content to the location of the individual.
For example, if a user from a French IP address attempts to enter a US site, they may receive a pop-up redirecting them to the French site – if one exists – or simply preselecting the language they may wish to view the site in.
The advantage of using IP addresses is they are anonymous, so they can continue to be used without the need for cookies.
Replace your third-party cookie data with social data. Social media platforms are continuing to become a focal point for marketing, with users providing a wealth of information on the interests and likes of the account owners.
Social media browsing is trending and gaining ground on traditional browsing, so this is a valuable channel to focus your efforts on.
Tell your story
Storytelling is an increasingly important way of connecting with online users, especially with younger generations.
Without third-party cookies, your focus should be on taking users on a journey, helping them to engage with the story of your brand. This creates a deeper connection to the brand which is far more long-lasting and valuable than a one-off click on an advertisement.
The concept of no more cookies can feel daunting for marketers now. But the digital world is advancing rapidly, over the next two years multiple new options will be appearing on the scene.
Cookies have been around for a long time, so moving on from them can be seen as a step towards the future. And with so much change in digital interactions since the pandemic, what better time to invest in new strategies?
The future of marketing is a focus on being relevant, without being invasive. It must be personalised whilst still respecting users’ privacy. That’s no mean feat, but it’s a method that has the potential to build more robust, long-lasting brand-consumer relationships over time.