Grow, Augment, and Build. Your three keys to responding to a cookie-less world

The cookie is (finally) crumbling. After several delays, Google rolled out a new feature called 'tracking protection' to 1% of Chrome users that restricts third-party cookies by default. While 1% may seem insignificant, momentum is building. The tech conglomerate plans to retire all third-party cookies come Q3 2024. 

Alarm bells may be ringing, but they need not be. We as marketers have long been preparing for this development, pressure testing and executing different strategies to ensure our clients can continue to deliver smart, targeted, and effective digital advertising campaigns. 

If you haven't already begun future proofing your paid media strategies for a cookie-less world, the time is now. Follow these three strategies to get started: 

Grow your first-party data

First, let’s break it down: What are third-party cookies? Third-party cookies are text files that contain small data fragments used to recognize a user’s computer and track their activities across various websites. They play a role in cross-site tracking, retargeting, and serving curated ads to users based on their online behavior. Put another way, third-party cookies create a window into consumer interests and purchasing habits, and they allow marketers to better identify and market to their target audiences.

Without this third-party data, the focus must shift to first-party data that is collected directly from your customer base, including demographics, purchase history, website activity, mobile app data, email engagement, sales interactions, support calls, customer feedback programs, interests, and behavior.

The more first-party data feeding into CRM and CDP databases, the greater efficiencies you can find with your media spend. While there are a number of ways to collect first-party data, here’s where to start:

  • Utilize opt-in strategies: be it an email newsletter or SMS texts, opt-ins give control back to consumers. Amidst rising data privacy concerns, giving consumers control builds trust and brand loyalty. Once prospects have voluntarily engaged with your company, you can feel safe targeting them with personalized messaging. Prioritize the optimization of your website, emails and content to push customers towards a call-to-action (CTA) that drives consumers to opt-in to future content.
    Email and SMS acquisition ads, when done effectively, are an effective way to generate new interest and grow your first-party data. 
  • Build your social media following: To gather first-party data, your brand first needs to catch customers’ attention. Promoting your brand across a multitude of channels amplifies your online presence, drives website traffic and generates new leads.

As your marketing partner, REQ can help audit and optimize your current approach and implement new strategies to enhance your first-party database. 

Leverage your data, augment your strategy

With first-party data reigning supreme, consider the types of strategies you can employ to both enrich and activate upon your quality, stored data. 

Platforms such as Liveramp can onboard your data, both online and offline, helping to match records to a person-based, digital identifier for marketing and advertising efforts. Liveramp is utilized by many Demand Side Platforms, allowing you to take your hashed data and activate across their programmatic inventory for targeting inclusion, exclusion, or modeling. 

If you’re in the B2B space, ABM software tools like 6sense ingest your B2B first-party data, empowering you to segment customer accounts based on sales intent data. This segmentation assists with better personalization of ads by account and where they stand in the buyer journey. 

What else can we do?

Outside of first-party data, there are existing and emerging tactics that will help establish your cookieless strategy, both in activation and measurement.

  • Contextual targeting is a long-standing tactic in marketing, and still has plenty of benefits. As a content-led approach, it puts the placement of ads before the audience, with great scalability and minimal privacy issues.
  • Cohort solutions, like Google’s “FLoC”-turned-”Topics”, groups audiences based on similar online behaviors. This enables interest based targeting without utilizing third party cookies to track individual users.
  • ID-based solutions, while still being scaled, match user information via email or phone data to a single, digital identifier for a fully addressable tactic.
  • 1P Identified, or Seller Defined Audiences, is a new opportunity that programmatically scales first-party data from publishers that our partners have access to, building out behavioral and contextual segments.

Another way to augment your strategy is to diversify your marketing split. The loss of third-party cookies affects paid media targeting and remarketing, but it doesn’t deter other critical components to a holistic marketing strategy, including search engine optimization (SEO), email marketing, display advertising and more. Engage your REQ team to audit and optimize these mediums moving forward, and explore emerging channels, such as connected TV (CTV) ads and digital out-of-home (DOOH) audio and display.

Furthermore, with more limited remarketing capabilities, the quality of your advertisements has never been more important. Clear, direct and targeted messaging and creative are paramount in a world with limited remarketing abilities. With more limited remarketing capabilities, it’s now harder to disqualify audiences and hone in on target customers. Having clear, direct and targeted messaging and creative lets audiences self-disqualify and will generate higher quality leads. 

Build your own data ecosystem

The way marketers traditionally utilized third-party cookies is dubbed client-side ID tracking, where cookies and pixel tags are used to track users’ behavior across websites/browsers. For marketers that still want to track users’ online behavior, server-side ID tracking is emerging as a highly promising solution. 

Server-Side ID Tracking is a method of data collection and analysis on a website or application that processes user tracking data on the server-side, as opposed to the traditional client-side tracking approach (that is now becoming obsolete through the deprecation of third-party cookies). 

Instead of relying on client-side scripts like JavaScript, server-side tracking records user interactions and behavior directly from the server, providing enhanced privacy, data accuracy, and ad-blocker resistance.

In this way, server-side ID tracking is a powerful tool for enhancing data accuracy, privacy, and user experience. However, it's not a one-size-fits-all solution. Implementation is complex, requires the usage of additional servers, and - being a newer technology - not all systems are yet compatible. 

The decision to implement server-side ID tracking should be based on a client's specific needs, budget, and technical capabilities. We can help you carefully weigh the benefits and challenges before committing to server-side ID tracking.

The time is now

Without third-party cookies, tracking, understanding and measuring consumer online behavior is now more complicated. It calls for creativity, innovation and iteration. At REQ, our business is built around ‘Owning. What’s. Next.’ We’ve been preparing for the deprecation of third-party cookies, and we are here to help you navigate these waters. 

Reach out to your REQ team and let us help you drive greater awareness, consideration and conversion in today’s (soon-to-be) cookie-less world.

Let’s talk.