The days of using third-party cookies for consumer engagement — from anonymous audience segmentation to targeted advertising — are coming to a close for companies.
Numerous thinkpieces and studies have highlighted what the post-cookie landscape will look like and how businesses can adjust their marketing efforts accordingly.
Some suggest there isn’t a clear-cut path to adjust their customer engagement strategies.
But there is. And it’s a path your organization needs to take to thrive moving forward:
Shift from cookie-centric marketing to a strategy built around first-party data.
More specifically, collect first-party data you can unify in a customer data platform (CDP), add to dynamically updated customer profiles, and activate whenever and wherever you need — the combination of which coalesce into the data confidence you need to succeed.
The state of cookie-based consumer engagement — and why it’s failing
You know about the demise of third-party cookies by now. But here’s a quick recap:
- The first signs of the cookie’s end came when Safari, Firefox, and Microsoft Edge implemented policies that limited companies’ ability to track individuals across channels.
- Then, Google went a step further. The company noted it will get rid of third-party cookies from Chrome, its popular browser (the most popular of all, actually), by 2022.
- These changes, along with similar consumer privacy-oriented measures (e.g., Apple ITP and IFDA, GDPR, the CCPA), have sent companies (perhaps yours) scrambling.
The ‘heads up’ provided to organizations who’ve long relied on third-party cookies to drive their digital consumer engagement efforts appeared to be a modest silver lining.
After all, businesses could research and eventually implement cookie workarounds.
Then COVID hit. Added on to the gradual decline of cookies, companies of all kinds — especially those with ad-centric business models — knew their problems could worsen:
In fact, Digiday research found 85% of publishing executives said they saw a decline in ad revenue in 2020, while 88% noted they missed their projected revenue forecasts for the year.
All is not lost for these publishing organizations, though. Far from it.
They may incur short-term losses. As Deloitte Digital indicated, however, these companies and others reliant on cookies still have time to learn how to better engage individuals across their customer journeys and achieve their desired marketing and business outcomes:
“Advertisers have two years to adjust to a future without third-party cookies. For those that do it right, this marks a once-in-a-generation opportunity to deepen customer relationships and drive growth.”
Savvy publishers and other businesses across industries that have depended on cookies — have already taken advantage of this ‘head start.’ Many have even made shrewd adjustments to their consumer engagement strategies to better target customers.
Specifically, they’ve prioritized building first-party data sets — and invested in modern tech to persistently store this data and make it available to systems and channels as needed.
Forming a first-party data foundation to drive your consumer engagement strategy
Many companies use third-party cookies as a proxy for customer identity. A common cookie-based workflow they (and perhaps your business) implement looks like this:
- Marketing collects temporary (24-hour life span), anonymized data from site visitors.
- That data is then sent to legacy technologies like data management platforms (DMP).
- Analysts build ‘black-boxed’ segments in the DMP to eventually hand off to marketing.
- Marketing sends the segments to demand-side platforms and adtech tools for targeting.
The downside of this method of leveraging a ‘limited-time-only’ customer identity is clear:
None of these business users really know the individuals from whom they collect cookie data — or if they’ve ever even consented to being tracked and marketed to.
Failure to comply with consumer data privacy laws poses potential legal and compliance issues for companies today. But from a use-case, consumer engagement perspective, this cookie-oriented marketing approach is an unsustainable, unscalable model that ultimately leads to inefficient segmentation, analysis, and activation.
Forrester Sr. Analyst Tina Moffett laid out the most notable challenge with this approach:
“Data deprecation is not just a DMP issue. Marketers must now reimagine how they collect and leverage data to effectively acquire new customers or retarget existing customers.”
Thankfully, the solution to this challenge is clear: Prioritize first-party data instead.
Speaking with AdExchanger, BlueConic COO Cory Munchbach noted how companies can build a more effective customer engagement model without the use of third-party cookies:
“The death of third-party cookies will create a significant ripple effect in terms of how marketers need to think about consumer engagement, and that is going to start with accurate, consented data that gets treated like the asset it is.”
The continual shift to using first-party data is because business users now realize there’s inherent value in ‘knowing’ their customer — like whether they’ve consented — and providing opted-in individuals mutually beneficial, highly personalized experiences.
To deliver bespoke experiences to customers across touchpoint, though, you need to put customer identity at the center of your engagement strategy — and technology stack.
Thinking long term — and investing wisely in technology — to improve engagement
“Identity is the core and should be the core of everything you’re doing,” BlueConic Director of Product Marketing Sam Ngo noted during our recent webinar on consumer engagement.
To do so, Sam added companies need “the right technology … to collect all the customer data [they] need with consent and use that to deliver on great customer experiences.”
A prime example of a business that modified its consumer engagement approach to better understand and interact with customers is BlueConic customer goba Sports Group:
- The goba team wanted to resolve customer identities so it could create more accurate, multi-dimensional segments and, in turn, enhance its personalized marketing.
- The company invested in our pure-play customer data platform (CDP) to gain the ability to create anonymous profiles for potential customers who had not yet identified themselves. Over time, goba was able to turn anonymous individuals into known contacts by incentivizing them to sign up for things like giveaways.
- Moreover, the company could now also build custom, dynamic segments — for anonymized and known individuals — to send to Google and Facebook for targeting and retargeting and improve its advertising-related customer acquisition efforts.
- Using our CDP, goba has boosted return on ad spend by nearly 60% and cut customer acquisition costs by roughly a quarter of what it spent prior to using BlueConic.
And this is just goba’s customer data platform success story to date. The company’s ongoing consumer engagement transformation continues (and will in the years ahead).
Ultimately, goba and other businesses with BlueConic are building more scalable and streamlined marketing programs, enhancing efficiencies across their organizations, and accelerating business growth — all of which, when taken together, leads to:
- More impactful customer interactions: Knowing who interacts with your company is critical. But it’s equally important to communicate with them in the most appropriate manner. Sometimes, that means one-to-one promotional messaging from marketing. Other times, it means customer service connecting with individuals to answer questions. With access to a complete, real-time view of customers and prospects, a CDP like BlueConic can aid both teams’ outreach efforts and help them exceed these customers’ expectations.
- Increased customer loyalty: Gaining and maintaining loyal customers who buy your products or services frequently, purchase high-priced items, or sign up for your loyalty program is more difficult than ever. Thankfully, BlueConic provides a real-time single customer view that enables your entire organization to build a unified CX strategy that improves customer satisfaction and keeps them coming back (i.e., elevates your customer retention numbers).
- Better omnichannel customer experience: Engaging customers across all touchpoints is a must today. The ability to ‘meet’ them where they are in their buying journeys with social media ads, personalized emails, on-site messaging, and personalized service and support makes these customers feel valued. By leveraging the aforementioned single customer view and lifecycle orchestration capabilities, like those offered in BlueConic, you can realize this omnichannel approach and provide a superior CX.
Revisit your data management strategy, upgrade your technology, and ensure you can confidently utilize your first-party data. That’s your path to better consumer engagement — as well as your path to end your dependency on third-party cookies once and for all.
Watch our webinar to learn how you can enhance your consumer engagement by moving away from third-party cookies and prioritizing first-party data.