Sunflowers being watered

Marketing in a Cookie-less World

Third-party cookies have been used in digital marketing for years to track website visitors, improve user experiences and collect data that helps us (the marketers) target ads to the right audiences. So when Google announced its plan to phase out the third-party cookie on Chrome browsers “without building alternative identifiers to track individuals as they browse across the web,” we realized that we may not be able to target our audiences so precisely. We don't want to water the entire lawn to get a single plant to grow—or market to a wider audience than we need to in order to reach our specific target market.

We’ve outlined some of the ways to prepare for the inevitable: how to market in a cookie-less world.

First-party data

More browsers and apps are adopting a first-party data strategy. This means that data is collected, stored and owned by a company with consent. For example, you provide your name and email on a website in exchange for content. Third-party data, in contrast, tracks behavior and usage between sites using aggregated data spread across many companies in the form of a cookie stored in a browser.

In the case of first-party data, publishers collect their own data about their audience, which might include information about the content they’re viewing, the kinds of topics they tend to be interested in and possibly survey responses about their interests and demographics.

Investing in a strategy for collecting first-party data and a CRM system to store this data would be a great strategy to prepare for the upcoming change.

Contextual strategies

Although contextual advertising was perceived as a bit old-school once cookies were put in place, it will likely be revitalized. While third-party data allowed you to place ads directly in front of people who matched certain user profiles, contextual advertising allows you to circulate ads on websites that rank for similar keywords as your ad. For example, if you are advertising bikes, your ad would likely show up on an outdoor recreation website.

Leveraging contextual strategies will help you place your ads in front of consumers that best resemble your desired target audience. What’s even better is contextual strategies often come at a lower cost per thousand impressions than third party audiences.

UTM tracking

UTMs are a simple code that can be attached to any URL to generate Google Analytics data for that unique URL. The benefits of UTM tracking are that you can figure out exactly how different components of a campaign are contributing to the big picture and adjust accordingly to most efficiently delegate time and money. You are able to measure effectiveness down to the ad level, which can make a big difference in ensuring the campaign is performing well.

The elimination of cookies will only boost the importance of UTM tracking in order to provide your clients with the best and most efficient strategies.

First-party data integrations

While we often rely on cookie data to target our audience, we also use cookies to track the actions our audience takes after clicking an ad. As that tracking becomes more limited on ad platforms like Meta (formerly Facebook), and Google, we recommend integrating the ad platform systems with internal tracking systems. For example, Google Ads offers Salesforce integrations so advertisers can reliably track user actions lower in the funnel, such as enrollments for higher education clients, without having to rely on cookies. Meta recently released Conversion API (CAPI) which allows advertisers to create a direct connection to marketing data instead of relying on browser pixels.

First-party data integrations not only allow us to improve tracking, but they also allow us to make more informed optimization decisions. By having offline conversion event data in the ad platform, we can better understand the impact of marketing and attribute ROI to a campaign.

Know your consumer

While marketing technology is always evolving, the importance of knowing your target audience remains constant. The best preparation to succeed in a cookie-less world is getting to know your ideal consumer inside and out. To do this, create audience personas and develop target strategies that connect with your audience on a personal level. Tap into emotions to build that initial connection with the consumer. At Vendi, we take pride in learning what is most important to our clients and conveying that to just the right audiences.

A world without cookies

While we all prepare to jump into a world without cookies, don’t be afraid to get back to the basics of creating well-thought-out strategies and conducting robust research in order to best target your audiences. Even though you may now need to water a little bit of grass to see your plant thrive and produce, just like your plant, your campaigns can continue to thrive and produce results in what will soon become the future of digital marketing.

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