Digital marketers have been using third-party cookies to target ads and personalize the campaigns for years. But browser behavior is changing. In response to an increasing demand for greater privacy, transparency, and control over personal data, Google Chrome, Safari, Firefox and other platforms are gradually phasing out the use of third-party cookies by 2022.

“Digital media companies do a lot with third-party cookies; for many companies they provide the backbone of their campaigns. Cookies can help to personalize ads and target the right audience, all while shaping the browsing experience with digital banners, frequency capping, and good data hygiene, for example,” explains Joris Garritsen, Transformation and Digital Leader at MediaCom. “The death of the cookie is going to fundamentally change how we execute digital media and reshape the customer experience.”

Failure to adapt to the demise of third-party cookies could spell disaster for media companies, but the shift doesn’t mean customers are unwilling to share personal data. In fact, provided data is collected with their consent, 90% of people surveyed are happy for data to be used if it means they’ll get a better user experience and good deals of products.

Data collected directly from customers, known as first-party data, is key, and with a year to prepare for the new normal, now is the perfect time to adapt your marketing strategy, collect more relevant first-party data, and hit the ground running in 2022.

Putting first-party data in the spotlight

While ATL (above the line) advertising is still a great way to attract new customers, the death of the cookie doesn’t mean you have to abandon targeted marketing campaigns. In fact, leveraging first-party data will help you build stronger, more meaningful relationships with your existing prospects and customers, and with the right strategy or through lookalike audiences, for example, you’ll be able to capture more leads as well.

“Successful companies are focusing more and more on the customer experience, but using third-party cookies isn’t always great for customers – we all know how frustrating it is to be followed around the internet by ads for products we’ve already bought,” says Jaap van Oort, Strategy Director at Wunderman Thompson.

With first-party data, however, businesses have the opportunity to provide extra value to customers while flexing their creative muscles. So, how do you go about gathering first-party data?

Breaking down silos

First of all, you need to get closer to your CRM team. To give customers a seamless user experience, you need company-wide visibility of data and common goals; the same is true for creating marketing campaigns with greater impact.

“Your CRM team is sitting on a wealth of valuable data, and working together is win-win for everyone,” comments Joris. “Smarter marketing campaigns will help close more deals, drive sales, and boost company growth, but it’ll also highlight the pivotal role data plays in customer success.”

To capture more valuable data from customers requires a shift in perspective. Start by thinking about the customer experience – if you want them to log in to your website before they browse, what’s in it for them?

Supermarkets are a great example, and they’ve been leading the way with first-party data for some time. “Ten years ago it would’ve seemed crazy for supermarkets to collect customer data, but today they’re using it in a really intelligent way to turn marketing into a service,” explains Joris. “For example, with digital loyalty cards, customers can collect points and get vouchers for money off items they actually buy, making them more likely to shop there again.”

Another great example is a top music streamline platform. People can listen to music for free if they don’t mind putting up with adverts, or, they can sign up with an account and create their own playlists, get personalised music suggestions, and enjoy ad-free listening. It’s fun and engaging for the customer, and the company has more long-term subscribers.

Getting started with first-party data

The benefits of working with first-party data are clear, but where should you start? If your marketing team needs a little guidance, working with a partner can help you identify your USP and work out how to leverage it to give you a competitive edge.

There are also simple proof of concepts you can run to see first-party data in action. “Start with low-hanging fruit, like using your data to create a lookalike audience,” advises Jaap. “You’ll quickly see how targeting people with similar traits to your existing customers will generate more interest.”

Another campaign to consider is the abandoned cart journey. On average, abandoned cart campaigns can increase sales by 19% in our experience, and provide cross-sell opportunities for other products the customer might be interested in. “If you have a product that’s customisable, you can take this one step further by letting customers design their perfect product on your website for free, then using their design in targeted ads or emails if they don’t complete the purchase,” adds Joris.

Working with first-party data isn’t new; you may already be using it. But change is coming, and companies who take the lead early have the opportunity to shape customer behaviour and get them ready for a whole new world of marketing.

The death of the cookie is going to fundamentally change how we execute digital media and reshape the customer experience.

Joris Garritsen

Transformation & Digital Leader, MediaCom

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