Opinion: Cookies are on the way out, but you can still be master of your data destiny
This year has shaken us all. As marketers, our 2020 plans have been interrupted, derailed and canceled. The global population is adjusting to a new lifestyle. Companies, too, had to change overnight how they operate and communicate. With more consumers than ever shopping online, businesses have rapidly modernized. Without a doubt, we are witnessing the fastest digital transformation in more than a decade.
Amid change and uncertainty, data insights have been instrumental in helping brands understand real-time consumer behavior shifts and pivoting business and marketing strategies to adapt.
Digital personalization at scale has long been considered marketing’s holy grail; 80% of companies report seeing an uplift in growth since implementing personalization. It’s also what customers want, with 80% more likely to make a purchase from a brand that provides a personalized experience.
However, in fewer than 18 months, we will undergo yet another massive upheaval: a future without third-party cookies. The methodology behind mass personalization as we know it will cease to exist. And with Apple’s recent change to mobile ID tracking and Chrome scheduled to phase out third-party cookies in 2022, our ability to activate data-driven campaigns and measure attribution using standard practices will all but disappear.
For brands and publishers alike, this is our moment to start building direct, more relevant relationships with people.
Own and leverage first-party data
For starters, marketers need to focus on their first-party data set—owning it and leveraging it to build a unique competitive edge. Marketers should look for partners with a data-agnostic approach to do this. While first-party data is typically focused on inferring customer preferences from their behaviors, the data a customer voluntarily shares with a brand in exchange for more custom-tailored content is more accurate and effective. The industry has recently coined this subset of first-party data as ‘Zero Party Data.’
Value exchange is not a new concept, but it’s become even more significant with the economic uncertainty brought on by COVID-19. Brands need to deliver genuine value as shoppers evaluate purchasing decisions against personal safety and tighter budgets. As marketers, our success is dependent on our ability to generate relevant conversations with customers, glean insights from those interactions and translate that data to deliver better recommendations and more personalized experiences to them.
Over the course of the pandemic, our clients across a range of industries are talking about the future of data and mass personalization. Vineet Mehra, global chief marketing and customer officer of Walgreens Boots Alliance, is not only leading an influential global business adapting to a new reality but is getting to know individual customers better than ever.
Mehra says that Walgreens thinks of itself not just as a store on the corner where you fill your prescription, but as an omnichannel experience through which customers’ needs are anticipated. To that end, Vineet and his team are embracing Zero Party Data as an approach to enhance their first-party data.
All marketers need to be proactive and adapt quickly. Regardless of how things shake out with cookies, customers will continue to want personal experiences and relevant content from brands that deliver value to their lives. Personalization remains critical for brands to earn trust and loyalty.
As our industry shifts to protect consumer privacy, technology advancements in the form of cloud computing, AI and stream processing will support our continued evolution and future success. This means that marketers will need to work more closely with technology teams than ever before.
In the meantime, here are three practical steps we should all be taking to prepare for a cookie-less future:
Own and build your first-party data set
Learn more about your customers through different means of engagement. Own and enrich your data with other data sources while still possible.
Invest in a private identity graph
Take ownership of your ability to recognize your customers.
Bring your data to the point of decision
Improve your ability to respond to context, adapt messaging, and evaluate each marketing decision in real time.
We need to take ownership of first-party data assets to enhance our personalization strategies and engage our audiences in deeper and more meaningful ways. We need to invest in next generation technology solutions to support real-time data processing and decision-making. And we need to build a future-proof modern marketing solution by investing in a modular and compatible technology infrastructure that will allow you to continuously upgrade and evolve with the ever-changing landscape.