Digital marketing has seen major changes in the past few years. Apple updated Safari to block all third-party cookies, preventing advertisers and websites from tracking users around the internet. Google followed, though their third-party cookie blocking on Chrome won’t go into effect until 2023. This has undoubtedly thrown a wrench into the plans of many digital ad targeting strategies.
Marketing strategies must now evolve in harmony with a cookieless future. Here’s what that will look like, and how you, your brand, and your targeted advertising strategy can evolve.
In cookie-based tracking, a web browser stores a small text file — aka the cookie — on a user’s computer. A cookie tracks a user’s IP addresses to learn their behavior, like which sites they visit. This allows for conveniences like a website saving your preferences, and also allows them to target people based on user behavior.
Cookies are not innately bad. They don’t carry malware or viruses or access data on your computer. But they can collect data like user location, purchase history, and the types of devices an individual uses.
There are three types of cookies, and it’s important to remember that Google, Apple, and others are blocking one kind: third-party cookies.
First-party cookies are directly created on a website you are visiting and stored on that same domain. If a user visits your site and looks at some products, that first-party cookie can remember what they looked at and show it to them the next time they visit your site.
Third-party cookies are stored on a domain different than the one someone visits. If that user visits your site, then sees ads for your products on a site that is not yours, those ads are enabled by third-party cookies. Just visiting a site with ads can create cookies, even if the user never clicks them.
The forthcoming demise of third-party cookies is not nearly as catastrophic as many digital marketers fear, though it will require some adjustments for those who rely heavily on third-party data collection. Here’s how brands can build a marketing strategy that gets results, even in the cookieless world.
Now that you can’t rely on third parties, it’s time to pay extra attention to what first-party data can do for you. If that means leveraging first-party cookies on your site, great. Then, determine whether you have any gaps in what you get from first-party cookies and what you previously received from third parties. Also, be sure that if and when you do collect data through first-party cookies, you are compliant with important regulations like GDPR and CCPA.
Your website will now be a more valuable piece of real estate if you rely on it to collect usable data. Put practices like A/B testing into place so you get high-value insights into what resonates with your customers. Test headlines, CTAs, and even that ads that drive to your site. Learning what your target audience responds to will be critical for ongoing success.
You can also use the data you have on your existing customers to create lookalike audiences that will help continue to grow your visitor and customer base.
Your current customer database can reveal a wealth of information, especially if you have the first-party data to yield those insights. Use your existing customer data to calculate your customer lifetime values. This will give you a general idea of your customer lifecycle, though it won’t predict customer lifetime value (called either CLV or LTV).
To do that, you can run your customer database against a data set and model that will predict with more 90% accuracy which individual customers are your most valuable. Ocurate’s database of 260 million American adults can also identify your business’s unique high-value customer profile, including their attitudes and behaviors. When you identify who your highest value customers are, you not only have more targeting options for ad campaigns, but you also open yourself up to more tactics to reach those customers, like email. Targeting high-value customers will allow you to reduce churn and increase profitability. It will also enable you to further refine your lookalike audiences as you target new customers.
Email is the only reliable channel to directly contact your customers, so ensuring that contacts remain on your list is crucial. That means providing ongoing content and value at the pace your contacts respond to. Insights into high-value customers and their attitudes and behaviors will help you shape all of these tactics.
For instance, if you know that your high-value customers do not respond to discount emails, perhaps because they are not impulse shoppers, you’ll know that your email strategy should not rely heavily on coupon codes or sales.
Knowing your ideal customer profile will also allow you to attract new subscribers by targeting them where they are most active. If you know that your ideal customer responds to social media ads, you can use your lookalike audiences to reach new customers and entice them to subscribe to your email list, where you can continue to provide them with content they value and act on.
Though changes to third-party data tracking will require a change in how you market, you may find that this cookieless future is an exciting opportunity to get back to flexing your marketing muscles and making decisions based on meaningful data. In fact, you may have the opportunity to learn more about your customers than ever before.