C is for Cookie, Not Good Enough Anymore
The unspoken truth of digital marketing is that we live in Cookie Monster Paradise. Third-party cookies are the backbone of internet advertising, enabling marketers to identify and track users and their online behavior, observe how they interact with our websites and storefronts, and even inform and measure our AdWords campaigns. Without cookies in our pantry of marketing tactics, many experienced marketers don’t even know what to reach for.
Cookies, snippets of data that get stored in browsers when a user visits a website, have benefits both for users and marketers. For marketers, cookies enable us to serve retargeting ads, store shopping cart data, and record user activity. For users, cookies allow forms to be autocompleted, log in details to securely populate, and user preferences to be saved. Even the user benefits of cookies benefit us as marketers, as these quality-of-life improvements encourage impatient customers to engage with us.
However, nothing stays the same with the internet and the regulatory structures surrounding it. While Firefox and Safari have already phased out third-party cookies, those two browsers account for a small fraction of the overall market. Chrome, the #1 web browser with around 56% of the market, recently announced that it’s phasing out third-party cookies by 2022. New laws such as the European Union’s GDPR data privacy law are targeting cookie use. As much as cookies seem like a permanent fixture, to be static is to die. There are alternatives and switching tactics now is much easier than waiting until you’re forced to and scrambling to find a better solution.
We’re marketers, not Cookie Monsters. Let’s look at how we can do the thing while leaving the cookies in the cupboard where they belong.
Your Email Marketing Can and Should be Cookie-less
In the fast-moving world of digital marketing, it feels like the only thing older than cookies is email marketing. Thing is, email works. An e-newsletter, used in conjunction with marketing automation and list segmentation, can deliver hyper-targeted content to your customers based on their behavior on your app and website, without the need for cookies.
E-newsletters are also useful for accumulating customer data with no cookies. Most e-newsletter builders allow you to track who clicks through on which links, to see which elements of a newsletter attract the most attention. Including infographics, surveys, and polls can also help you learn more about your audience. This all accumulates valuable data that allows you to develop behavior profiles on customers with no cookies! You can gather similar data on social media sites.
An email follow-up tool can also be a useful part of the solution. Trying to retarget a solid, high-ticket lead? You can spend less on retargeting ads and get right into their inbox by using a basic email follow-up tool, which will continue to ping the customer on a timing sequence you can customize until you get a response. Contact list retargeting, or using your contact lists to retarget customers on social media, is also a potential game-changer, especially in B2B marketing.
Homemade Cookies Are Better Anyway
Besides using email to gather data and deliver hyper-targeted content, don’t forget about your own first-party cookies and CMS data.
Third-party cookies are threatened by both browser changes and data privacy laws, but your website’s first-party cookies are still gathering data. Content Management Systems use this data to track basic demographics, visits, settings, and provide analytics about your site’s visitors. There’s a lot of data to leverage here if you’re using the right software.
Also, while Chrome is already planning to phase out third-party cookies (reportedly by 2022), they’re proposing to allow marketers to target ads using data from first-party cookies. They’re also developing what they call a “Privacy Sandbox”, that will privately store user data while allowing marketers to continue to target relevant and useful ads to the right users. While there are few specifics available about the tool since Google made these announcements recently, Google has made its commitment to providing tools for digital marketers clear.
In addition, the recent Google announcement has inspired other data management firms to announce that tools for leveraging first-party cookie data are in development. While privacy concerns have led to the imminent demise of third-party cookies, these new tools will lump user data into anonymized segments, protecting specific user data under current norms and laws regarding consumer privacy.
Build A Better Cookie Jar
With any major, disruptive change, there are both winners and losers. While the digital marketing industry has always been prone to rapid change and evolution, particularly disruptive changes such as the elimination of third-party cookies from the industry-leading browser are both dangers and opportunities for marketing teams. For teams that continue to do things the way they’ve always done them, disruption means losing ground, and seeing disappointing results. However, for agile, flexible digital marketers that easily pivot to new techniques, tools, and tactics, this kind of disruption is an enormous opportunity.
Skilled, adaptable brands will keep up with the changes and learn to employ tools such as Google’s ‘Privacy Sandbox’ as well as leverage other data sources such as email marketing and social media data. Yes, third-party cookies are a critical tool for digital marketers, but don’t forget that everyone else is losing this tool. To come out ahead of your competition, all you have to do is adapt to the change better and faster than they do. That’s a huge, exciting opportunity!