The age-old marketing adage “It’s all about the customer” now has at least one more caveat to add: “It’s all about the customer… and their online privacy.”
From GDPR to CCPA regulations, the marketing industry faces a somewhat new need to target and measure marketing success differently. The digital marketing and advertising world is already highly regulated, and now, post-COVID, third-party cookies are becoming obsolete.
The end of third-party cookies
By loose definition, “cookies” are small pieces of data files stored within a web browser. Following Google’s recent announcement to end tracking in Chrome by way of third-party cookies — happening sometime in early 2022 — advertising agencies, brands and technology companies alike are pivoting to other ways of potentially collect unique user data while still adhering to “privacy-first” customer experiences.
The shifting customer journey
This change leaves many marketers wondering if the online customer journey will evolve — or will the customer, now that user privacy is more front and center, change how they engage online?
Not according to George Popstefanov, founder and CEO of digital agency PMG. “The important thing is that consumer behavior isn’t fundamentally shifting, just our ability to track and measure behaviors as we’ve been accustomed to.”
Still, it seems safe to assume marketing in a post-pandemic world will be further elevated by those brands that embrace customer trust through transparency, consent, privacy and safety. And companies must be ready to heed the call.
The need for first-party data
While there is much speculation around the landscape of “cookieless” advertising, there is no real need to worry. Brands have time to prepare and leverage existing customer information, through first-party data platforms such as CRMs, websites, call centers, applications and paid ads.
Brands must, now more than ever, rely on actionable, first-party data. This shift in perspective creates a unique opportunity to nurture more meaningful, one-on-one customer interaction points and fosters an environment where long-term relationships with customers can actually flourish.
In fact, first-party data, which is, in effect, owned data, can be much more reliable and scalable than that of a third party. According to a Deloitte Digital blog, “Customer trust is one of the most powerful business assets that a company can own. Investing in and effectively deploying the right consent management solutions will be increasingly important in order to get more value out of first-party customer data while respecting the privacy and listening to the preferences of customers.”
The need to build and earn a consumer’s trust is still a foundational element of effective marketing, and the removal of access to third-party data will force companies to evolve.
The demand for privacy and transparency
For years big tech companies (Apple, Amazon, Facebook, Google, Microsoft, etc) have profited from both collecting and selling consumer data to third-party advertisers, but as privacy becomes more and more of a customer concern, the tides are turning toward consent, privacy and transparency.
Steve Jobs said, “Privacy means people know what they’re signing up for, in plain language, and repeatedly. I believe people are smart. Some people want to share more than other people do. Ask them.”
As marketers, we have a responsibility to respect a consumer’s right to data privacy while also ensuring relevant experiences.
The opportunity to for marketers to shine
As the means for gathering and collecting data shifts to be more in line with what consumers want and expect, the demand for more enhanced targeting tools and emerging technology increases exponentially.
A brand agency or marketing company offering creative, scalable alternatives for leveraging meaningful, consumer-first data may see cookies going away as opportunistic. Since selling customer data is seemingly a thing of the past, the “cookieless” landscape evens the playing field for all sized companies.
The challenge to the industry becomes less about performance efficiency and more about quality control. When told to “do more with less,” it’s time for marketers to rise to the occasion.
The path forward
The removal of third-party cookies will disrupt the long-standing way in which consumer data has been leveraged and monetized, but it also stands to strengthen the relationship between companies and their customers.
The brands who are and have been adept in connecting with users through regular, cross-channel, consent-driven engagement points will weather the “cookies going away” storm better than companies who are trying to play catch up.
This past year has caused a shift in how many companies do business. No matter the cause, a customer’s needs are what drives change, evolution and enhanced experiences. Moving away from third-party cookies is not the end to digital marketing as we’ve come to know it but perhaps a turning point in how the marketing industry serves targeted ads considerately and effectively across channels.
Want to dig in deeper about digital regulations and adjustments? Read more about Google’s ever-shifting algorithm and what that means for marketers.