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What the End of Third Party Cookies Means for Marketing

Pros from a variety of technology-based industries share their thoughts on what effects the end of third party cookies will have on marketing.

What the End of Third Party Cookies Means for Marketing

If you haven’t already heard: the end of browser cookies, also known as 3rd party cookies, will soon be upon us. But how does that impact B2B marketers?

“Google is preparing to roll out an update this summer in which three specific performance metrics, called ‘core web vitals,’ will be explicitly used to measure page experience,” said Tom Capper, Senior Search Scientist at Moz, in an interview with Demand Gen Report.

“Moving forward, you will get a ranking boost on mobile if you pass a threshold on all three metrics, in addition to passing for basic technical hygiene checks — mobile friendliness, HTTPS, safe browsing and no intrusive interstitials,” said Capper.

As a consumer, it’s comforting that Google is taking steps to deliver a better experience for its users, but as a B2B marketer, it deepens the complexity of SEO practices by adding three more boxes to check.

Here are some thoughts from marketers in various industries regarding the end of third party cookies and its effects on marketing going forward:

Paige Leidig, CMO, NetBase Quid, a social media analytics company

I think it will prove inconvenient for a lot of marketers. But we and the majority of marketers have known this was coming and have been adjusting to other approaches to better understand what our target audiences are doing. This is a big deal because it is Chrome. But other browsers have taken a similar approach.

One of the best ways is to monitor and analyze the conversations that your customers are having with your current content, in particular your competitors’ content and industry related content through different channels – be it social, direct mail, customer care etc. and then responding and or pivoting to meet the changing interest and level of engagement.

Using innovative consumer and market intelligence solutions that aggregate all customer interactions and provide real-time insights is the direction leading companies are going.

Christopher Tompkins, CEO at The Go! Agency

With cookies on the way out, ad strategies will need to shift quickly. Marketers should now focus on more general platform options with access to less data; digital marketers will need to pivot their strategies and deduce how to fill in the blanks. That might mean that, as a marketer, you will need to keep a closer eye on your ads than you typically would.

There’s no room for a “set it and forget it” approach during this transition.

To help brands weather the changes, marketers should shift their audience building strategies and reevaluate their custom audiences, lookalike audiences, or interest based audiences. Digital marketers should prioritize events and conversions. That means, as a marketer, you should choose the best 8 events carefully, and make sure they provide the most telling data.

There’s no room for a “set it and forget it” approach during this transition.

Marketers must also refocus their metrics – you will need to learn to interpret your results differently. One best practice is to assess the metrics that you may have overlooked, including vanity metrics such as link clicks, website visits, and other on-Facebook metrics. This will help you bridge the gap.

Finally, make sure to update Google Analytics for Firebase, to support the new SKAd Network tracking tool.

For digital marketers managing paid media budgets, and looking to maximize ROI, it’s important to focus on new audience building strategies immediately, and rework the events on your website now.

Marketers should expect to see drops (some very steep) in the results of their campaigns. It’s critical to manage the expectations of your marketing clients in advance. It’s a good time to think outside of the box, and try new advertising venues you haven’t used in the past; Facebook Lead Forms, and other on-site activities, are great conversion tools.

In the coming year, without cookies, the way marketers plan their media campaigns will evolve, and shift to more interest-based audiences. Brands will likely avoid allocating all of their money in Facebook, Instagram and Google – and begin branching out to try other methods.

David Finkelstein, CEO & Co-Founder of BDEX, a consumer data exchange platform

As third-party cookies are phased out, marketers will have to lean on their existing first-party data and find new ways to leverage it in order to expand their reach and target more potential customers.

Third-party data was never the most effective way for marketers to build relationships with consumers, so in many ways, the depreciation of third-party cookies presents an opportunity for the industry to innovate and rethink how they connect with their audience and potential consumers.

One way brands can continue to provide consumers with the same level of ad personalization they love without relying on third party cookies is by using machine learning to create lookalike audiences.

One way brands can continue to provide consumers with the same level of ad personalization they love without relying on third party cookies is by using machine learning to create lookalike audiences.

This solution does not depend on any one identifier and instead uses the company’s first-party data collected from their base audience to create a highly accurate, scalable model of ideal target consumers who share the same characteristics as the company’s top consumers.

This solution is privacy compliant, but also ensures that marketers can grow their audiences while maintaining the same level of personalization in their ads.

Mark Huber, director of growth at Metadata.io, an autonomous demand gen platform

Instead of simply leaning into the alarmist language (primarily coming from ad tech companies serving B2C folks) around cookies, B2B marketers need to learn the options that will allow them to reach their audience directly.

Again: this isn’t new, and the world isn’t ending tomorrow.

Google announced it would phase out cookies in January 2020, with a two-year timeline. That means we’re looking at the beginning of 2022 for all this to shake out.

FLoC still in the origin trial stage — which has been rolled out to about .5% of Chrome users.

From there, the feature will slowly be “turned on inside Chrome via the usual process of introducing it into developer builds, then beta, then finally in the shipping version most people use.”

Unified ID, for its part, is still in the splash-new-partners-around-to-generate-buzz stage.

I would be 100% unsurprised if there were a 6+ month delay in getting 3rd party cookies alternatives fully rolled out.

Here’s how I think B2B marketers can prepare:

1. Retargeting on social media is safe, but you might need to update some settings. Facebook will be unaffected, as 1st party data is the default. For LinkedIn advertising, you’ll need to enable a new pixel by heading to Manage Insight Tag under Campaign Manager.

2. Stay focused on your customers’ privacy. Ad tech isn’t exactly a Situation Room type situation, but the way advertisers will be able to connect with their audience is shifting relatively quickly. Make sure you keep up with the conversation — and that you communicate that commitment to your customers.

3. Consider ads that don’t rely on intent data. Not every version of targeted marketing relies on cookies. Take the time to learn how the tools that don’t rely on 3rd party cookies can play into your marketing approach.

4. Land on the alternative that makes the most sense for your brand. One, some or all of these alternatives (FLoC, Unified ID) to 3rd party cookies are going to stick. Do your homework on these alternatives to find the right fit for your marketing efforts.

5. Focus on establishing as many first-party relationships with your market as possible. Google recommends it, and we recommend it as consumers become hyper-aware of how their information is being used. In a phrase: first-party data will future-proof your advertising efforts.

Long story, short: if your current marketing approach relies significantly on 3rd party cookies, it’s time to start expanding your horizon.

Sarah Cascone, Senior Director of Marketing at Bluecore

Third party cookies historically tracked browsers’ every move around the internet and then monetized it, with limited to no consent (which many browsers felt violated their privacy). In a customer-first world it’s critical that browsers can discover and interact with companies in what they feel is a safe environment, and 3rd party cookies do not meet that test.

First-party data is consent-driven and more customer friendly, which is why GDPR and CCPA were passed, establishing rules around consent.

Main browsers such as Google have committed to only allowing first-party cookies by 2022. For most companies, this represents a big shift in the way they market to customers: they will only be able to target and segment using their own data.

When the ability to use third-party tracking goes away, companies are essentially losing signal on customer behavior that helps inform digital experiences. This, coupled with the fact that this shift will power down traditional attribution models, make it more difficult for companies to manage against spend and create the superior customer experience that people are after.

First-party data requires marketers to delve deeper to discover insights and drive performance that is orders of magnitude higher than with third-party data.

The ability of digital teams to find a new normal in this environment will be based on the agility of being able to move and pivot on opt-in first-party data with ease and efficiency.

First-party data requires marketers to delve deeper to discover insights and drive performance that is orders of magnitude higher than with third-party data.

This uncovers more opportunity for retention, which is critical to accelerate digital growth and protect the business long-term.

Marketers need to invest in ecommerce experiences and capturing things like emails, behaviors and preferences. They’ll also need to look to technologies that will make the most of their first-party data, specifically AI-driven technology that can identify customer preferences to prioritize and automatically capture the next conversion opportunity.

Related: Data Regulation: What It Means For B2B Businesses

This will be key to making sure this doesn’t become a people intensive operation, especially for each communication channel. With this intelligence, marketers should focus on their owned channels, like Email and Direct Mail – quickly segmenting, personalizing and actioning on the data to drive revenue.

They should also leverage high-value first-party audiences for customers they have already identified in paid media, which will drive repeat purchases and increase the efficiency of the spend.

Doron Gerstel, CEO of Perion

Cookies have been central and essential to the growth of digital marketing efficiency. Entire sub-industries – like re-targeting – are built on tracking, so the impact is substantial.

Marketers are heads-down trying to construct different scenarios for “cookie compensation,” which include investing in the acquisition of 1st-party data.

Marketers will need to become more creative in identifying emerging post-cookie technologies, and will need to focus much more on building consumer and customer relationships based on meaningful engagement and shared value.

I believe that what we are seeing is the tip of the privacy iceberg, and that demands among consumers will increase. An anti-technology regulatory environment – it is one of the few things both sides of the aisle can agree on! – will make the deprecation of cookies only the beginning of the next generation of targeting.

  • Marketers can grow their first-party databases and then segment within it – by overlaying third-party data sources, through surveys and quizzes – and of course by tracking responsiveness – to come close to the behavior-based insights that cookies provide.
  • Marketers can leverage interest-based targeting and personalize content based on those learnings. For example, at Perion we can acquire traffic that reflects user interest in a specific area – say electric vehicles, or traveling in a vaccinated world – and then build “content environments” that are personalized around those user passion areas.
  • Third-party cookies are all about finding the differences between people and personalizing based on that. But there are also universal truths that link all people. Marketers haven’t focused their content on those truths because they were able to rely on cookies to find the differences. For example, a cosmetics company can use cookies to identify people who are about to travel to a sunny place – and then develop targeted content around their sunscreen protection products. But if I do not know a customer is about to travel – I need to find the universal truth that applies to many if not all of my customers. That could be, for example, that my consumers are concerned about the effects of the environment on their skin.

John Nardone, CEO, Flashtalking

With the imminent removal of third-party cookies and mobile IDs (MAIDS), the world of digital advertising is entering unchartered waters. Because there is no single piece of technology that can replace the cookie/MAID, this new world will be much more complicated with media buying and measurement fragmented across multiple ID spaces.

Identity underpins every aspect of the campaign life cycle, from onboarding, activation, prospecting and retargeting to creative personalization, data and measurement. On the buy side of the ecosystem, ad tech companies have been scrambling to introduce their own version of a post-cookie identifier, and significant progress is being made to activate these identifiers across the buying platforms. With the loss of addressable coverage via cookies, advertisers will most certainly require multiple IDs on the buy side to reach the scale they need to execute their omnichannel media campaigns.

With this shift, a whole new set of problems emerge around performance measurement and creative personalization. It is critical for advertisers to measure the effectiveness of their advertising investments, but will be very difficult to deliver reach, frequency and attribution results working from multiple disparate datasets. Advertisers will need a single, consolidated view of the customer journey by stitching these IDs together across every impression, click and conversion on the open web. And they need to leverage the new identity constructs to deliver personalized creative in the absence of cookies.

In short, advertisers need a way to safeguard their campaign measurement and personalization.

It is in this context that the ad server emerges as the most viable solution for safeguarding campaigns. The ad server is the only place in the ad tech stack where identity data and campaign data can be joined at both the user and impression level.

James Purtle, Senior Director of Digital Strategy, Data Axle

We support consumer privacy. We view Google’s curbing of third-party cookies as a means to that end. It will bolster privacy on the web. And will allow advertisers to stop relying so heavily on cookies, because cookies are unreliable, both in quality and consistency. This move will require advertisers to pivot their strategies, and shed light on the importance of high-quality, privacy safe data.

Advertisers should be getting closer to their data by investing in their own first-party data, data science infrastructures and working directly with third-party data providers. Going forward, advertisers, publishers and data providers will return to a model where they work more closely together when concepting, developing and executing campaigns—and the results are going to be stronger. Data providers have a vested interest in knowing whether their data is being put to effective use and driving ROI for brands.

Read Next: B2B Website Tools for Tech Marketers

In the current data exchange-driven landscape, however, most data providers never receive valuable feedback on campaign performance to help advertisers optimize their efforts or to incorporate learnings back into their product enhancement cycles. Working more closely with data providers will better ensure quality and create incentives for data providers to supply custom audiences and pricing options tailored to advertisers’ unique marketing challenges.

More on the key differences between 1st party and 3rd party cookies in this video: