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What Does a Cookieless World Look Like for Marketers?

The impending extinction of the third-party cookie has placed digital marketers in a difficult position. For many years they have depended on these little data files to gather all sorts of information relating to consumer browsing and buying habits. This information has proven to be extremely valuable in guiding the development of ad campaigns across many industries—it would be difficult to pinpoint an ecommerce sector that hasn’t come to rely on the data-gathering power of the third-party cookie. 

Many standard marketing tactics that have been developed over the last few decades assume the ready availability of data obtained from these cookies.

We’re rapidly coming to the point where third-party cookies, and the retargeting options they provide, will no longer be a viable part of the digital marketing toolkit. More and more major players in the tech industry are taking steps to prevent the use of tracking cookies without explicit consent, or even block them by default. 

The future doesn’t have to be bleak for marketers—but it will definitely be necessary to make changes to the ways you promote your goods and services online. A 2019 Google study, based on a “randomized controlled experiment” conducted by the platform, discovered that disabling third-party cookies resulted in a 52% decrease in ad revenue for web publishers. Sticking by the same old tactics just isn’t going to be an option.

Your first step in facing the new marketing environment is to understand the extent of your reliance on third-party cookies. How much of your data comes from these sources? How deeply does your data-analytics procedures depend on them? This will give you an idea of how much you will need to change in order to operate successfully in a post-cookie world. 

Here are a few marketing trends that may emerge in the “cookieless” near future: 

Increased Emphasis on Transparency

A growing number of consumers are becoming aware of the privacy issues surrounding tracking cookies. It wasn’t so long ago that the majority of internet denizens barely gave a thought to these matters, but the release of Apple’s App Tracking Transparency (ATT) framework, which essentially abolished the IDFA and forced consumers to make an opt-in/opt-out decision, pushed the subject right into full view. 

That means consumers, now more than ever, are worried about data privacy. That, in turn, means you must be transparent in your data collection policies. 

Due to the still-evolving state of tech industry practices and privacy law, it’s difficult to say what degree of visibility you will be required to observe when posting your data policy; but it’s best to ensure that your customers clearly understand what kind of information you’re collecting and what you’re doing with it—even if this means going well beyond what is minimally required. 

Being upfront about your data procedures will help engender trust among an increasingly wary consumer base.

Cohort Marketing

An established advertising tactic that will likely experience a surge of interest in coming years, cohort marketing can be defined as the targeting of consumers based on similar characteristics. Cohorts can be based on a wide range of data, from demographic information (e.g., customers who live on the West Coast) to web events on your site (e.g., customers who first visited the site in April). These cohorts can then be effectively targeted without compromising any individual’s personally identifiable data.

Google’s Topics API, intended as a substitute of sorts for third-party cookies, is an attempt to do something of this nature by grouping internet users according to their browser activities. However, Topics has already been criticized for its lack of transparency. It remains to be seen whether Google Topics will play an important role in the future marketing landscape, but cohort marketing in one form or another is likely here to stay in the post-cookie world.

Zero-Party Data

Digital marketing is largely devoted to inferring consumer preferences from a mass of data that can be difficult to interpret accurately. Wouldn’t it be fantastic if you could get your customers to tell you what they like? 

Sometimes they do—in the form of surveys and other explicit data-gathering tools. Information collected in this manner, with the full consent of the consumer, is called zero-party data, which can be thought of as a subset of first-party data. It will likely become increasingly prevalent as third-party cookies go by the wayside. 

Typically, you collect zero-party data by inviting consumers to answer some questions relating to their shopping preferences and demographic information; often this is facilitated by a fillable or multiple-choice web form set up for this purpose. The customer must be made aware that the information they provide will be used for marketing purposes. To incentivize participation, you can offer discounts, access to loyalty programs, or other rewards to customers. 

First-Party Data and AdBeacon

Without the benefits of third-party cookies, marketers will need to learn how to take advantage of the personalized ad targeting that first-party data alone can provide. That includes using the best digital ad performance platform for this new era in marketing: AdBeacon. 

AdBeacon uses your own ecommerce conversion data, not “processed” data generated by third-party tracking pixels and similar devices. With AdBeacon, you have a suite of state-of-the-art tools that enable you to optimize your ads, reduce your overall campaign expenses, and boost your revenues by 500%.

Book a 1-on-1 AdBeacon demo today!