Connecting With Customers Without Third-Party Cookies

Exploring the challenges of obtaining first-party data and how the cookieless future will impact marketers’ relationships with customers.

Consumer awareness and concerns about data privacy are driving data regulations and changes in the tech sector as brands move from third-party cookies to first-party data and other less invasive methods of gathering customer demographics, analytics and historical details. Let’s take a look at marketing in a world without third-party cookies, and how it will impact a brand’s relationships with its customers. 

Why Are Third-Party Cookies Being Phased Out?

Google is set to phase out third-party cookies in its Chrome web browser by 2024. Initially set for 2022, Google pushed the date back because it wanted marketers to have more time to change their advertising strategy. The move comes due to ongoing pressure from privacy advocacy groups and regulators pushing for more significant consumer data privacy regulations. 

Up until recently, most businesses relied upon third-party cookies to monitor and analyze the behavior of users across multiple domains. This behavior was largely tolerated by consumers, but it came at the cost of customer privacy. As such, brands including Google and Apple started considering restrictions on the use of third-party cookies. Apple has disabled third-party cookies in its Safari web browser by default.

The European General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) laws, which took effect in 2018, effectively put brands on notice, requiring all websites that European users could access to place notices on their sites that allowed users to opt out of the use of third-party cookies. Since then, GDPR cookie notices have become common on most websites.

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Raj De Datta, CEO and founder at Bloomreach, a commerce experience platform provider, told CMSWire that brands must be proactive about data privacy. “You can’t assume you’re too small to get caught or that certain regulations don’t apply to you. Data privacy regulations will only continue to grow, and businesses that are building their practices (marketing or otherwise) with their customers’ privacy at the forefront today will be ready for whatever may be down the road,” said De Datta.

Related Article: Bracing for a Cookieless Future and the Age of the Self-Service Buyer

How Will Brands Obtain First-Party Data?

The biggest effect of the elimination of third-party cookies for brands is that it will vastly change the relationship they have with customers. Previously, brands made the assumption that customers were willing to provide their data to the brands. Now, brands must work to gain that trust because the customer is in charge. Aurelia Solomon, senior director of product marketing at Drift, a conversational marketing platform provider, told CMSWire marketing without third-party cookies will be focused on building trust with customers. 

“To do that, marketers will have to create value for customers before asking them for anything in return. Taking this a step further, removing third-party cookies from the marketing cycle completely shifts the relationship between brands and buyers by asking buyers to qualify your brand before you can qualify them,” said Solomon. “This creates trust and results in customers willingly ‘opting in’ to share more information about themselves with you.” Solomon explained that this helps brands learn what customers care about and how to connect with them — without infringing on their privacy.

Joe Karasin, head of growth at CircleIt, a generational platform provider, told CMSWire that the change from third- to first-party data for marketing and advertising will be difficult for some. “Essentially, we are moving into what Seth Godin famously termed ‘permission marketing.’ Consumers are going to have to give consent in order to start receiving marketing from different brands,” said Karasin. 

Permission marketing is defined by Godin as the privilege (not the right) of delivering anticipated, personal and relevant messages to people who actually want to get them. In his blog, Godin stated that real permission differs from presumed or legalistic permission. When consumers give brands permission to market to them, it means they are already interested in what the brand has to say, and they are prepared to listen. It’s a different way of thinking about marketing and advertising. 

How Will This Impact Marketing?

According to Twilio’s 2022 State of Customer Engagement Report, 42% of brands predict that the upcoming changes will result in lower ROI on ad spend and a decreased ability to measure campaign efficiency. Additionally, 55% of brands say they aren’t fully prepared for cookieless marketing, as 81% are still reliant on third-party cookies. From the customer’s perspective, the report revealed that 85% of consumers want brands to use only first-party data when creating personalized services.

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