Seven ways to prepare for a cookie-less future

It won’t be plain sailing but the death of the third-party cookie presents plenty of opportunities as well as hurdles for performance marketers

Seven ways to prepare for a cookie-less future

By 2022, the Chrome, Safari and Firefox browsers will no longer support third-party cookies, an impending demise that is an ongoing source of angst and head-scratching among digital advertisers and marketers.

But in an ever-changing and fast-moving world, we’re all used to adaptation and agility. As Asher Gordon, head of media at Tug, the full-service digital performance marketing agency, put it: “The cookie has been around for over 25 years so it’s quite an old solution that needs to be updated to be compliant in this world of data regulation and usage.”

Maybe this is a good thing and brands might have to start looking beyond the audience and pay much more attention to the content and context within which they are advertising.

Surprise and delight
For Vivienne Mackinnon, head of marketing at Zipcar, the app-based car sharing and rental company, a cookie-less world brings first-party data, CRM and owned media to the fore. Testing and learning is key but, says Mackinnon, “that’s the fun part of digital marketing”. She added: “We will expand our CRM activity to the target one-off users to drive more. We’re looking at ways to surprise and delight our members as well.”

Be useful and relevant
Building and maintaining trust is vital, according to Mackinnon, in a world where you need your customers to opt in and be willing to share data. “Be as relevant and useful as possible otherwise you will lose trust,” she said. “What other channels do you have at your disposal as a brand to talk to customers and make it a pleasurable and efficient experience for them.” 

Customers before cookies
“We should always be concerned about putting the customer first,” said Gordon. “The end goal is always going to be the same. You want to make sure you’re targeting relevant people with your offering. 

“Giving customers a bit more control over their privacy is a benefit for them. Say, if someone wants to buy size 12 shoes, that personalised experience works really well. You should always be thinking ‘how can I benefit this customer? How can I show them an ad or a journey that's specific to them, and making sure it works for them?’ If users understood that, they would be happy with personalisation.”

Costs may rise
Because of the emphasis on test and learn, Mackinnon warned that costs may increase whether that is a rise in agency usage or internal hires. “If we normally do one campaign with one or two partners,” she said, “we might need to try between three and five to see what works.”

Limited data activation
According to Gordon, Google’s prototype privacy solution FLEDGE has the potential to limit the amount of user data that flows to different (non-Google) websites or partners.

Be truthful but not alarmist
Selling your ideas and campaigns to CFOs and senior management “will be harder in a way” in a post-cookie world, according to Mackinnon. But it’s important to keep the information you share “top level”. She added: “Often when we speak upwards, we can be too specific and a bit too techy. Education is important as is taking senior directors on that journey. It’s important to be truthful but not alarmist.”

Audience (in)visibility
Gordon estimates that more than 50% of the audience may become invisible due to the privacy changes of iOS14 and the like. “Most people opt out of targeting,” he explained, “but we’re also seeing Facebook trying to entice and engage users first and say we need your consent, we need you to log in to receive personalised advertising.” Gordon is sceptical of that approach being effective in the short term but, he added: “Facebook are really good at testing and learning so who knows in the future?”