Flipping the Goodbye of Third-Party Cookies Into a Brand Loyalty-Creating Opportunity

By: Joel Percy, Regional Director and Eagle Eye

When Google announced it would be ending the use of third-party cookies, panic ensued. The search behemoth’s move to ban the use of third-party cookies within its Chrome browser will be upending a $152 billion U.S. digital  ad industry. Brands, advertisers and marketers that have come to rely exclusively on the collection of third-party  data for targeted online advertising will be left without consumer data and fewer revenue opportunities. 

So when Google announced it was pushing the third-party cookie ban deadline from 2021 to 2023, many  organizations collectively breathed a sigh of relief. While this extra time is absolutely a gift, it should be used  advantageously. Brands must do more than react to the loss of third-party data; they should ask themselves,  “what’s next and how do I gain an advantage?”

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Who will have the advantage in a post-third-party cookie world? 

How will brands that have long relied on third-party tracking data move to a position of advantage in this new  digital advertising landscape? If they’re smart, they’ll focus on ethically collecting and utilizing first-party data.  Brands that embrace first-party data and then share with consumers that they are doing so will have a competitive  lead. 

It’s understandable why marketers have leaned into the collection of third-party data – that data provided big picture behavioral insights by tracking web users across their entire browsing journey. By contrast, first-party data  only examines the behavior of a web visitor within the context of a single website. If third-party data got to know  you by asking everyone at the party questions about you, first-party data did it by having a one-on-one  conversation with you. 

Third-party data may deliver a more extensive collection of data points to target online marketing, but first-party  data accumulates meaningful relationship-building data. The transparent and direct nature of first-party data  collection also builds customer trust and brand loyalty. Advertise waffles to consumers because they were  googling, “which waffles taste best,” and it comes off as off-putting to those concerned about data collection. Offer  a digital coupon for waffles because a consumer placed them in their shopping cart, and it comes off as helpful  rather than intrusive. 

Responsibly owned and obtained first-person customer data will offer a distinct competitive advantage and  become the only path to growing audiences, share, and sales. Consumers still want personalized advertising, but  they want it delivered to not compromise the trust they’ve placed in their favored brands.  

KPMG recently conducted a survey called “Corporate data responsibility: Bridging the consumer trust gap“, which found that 86% of consumer respondents expressed concern over their data privacy, and 78% said they were  fearful about the amount of their data that companies were collecting. Perhaps most significant is that 40% said  they don’t trust companies they suspect are using their data unethically. 

First-party data collection allows companies to engage in trusted relationship building with their customers,  demonstrating that they are paying attention and responding in kind. So how can brands make the transition from  third-party to first-party cookies and do it in a timely enough manner? 

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Firstly, don’t wait until 2023 

According to several estimates, up to $10 billion in ad revenue will need to be replaced with first-party data  alternatives once the ban is in effect. Retailers, marketers and brands need to prepare for the absence of third party cookies now, not later.  

Retailers should first reconsider how they view their customers at a basic level before third-party cookies  disappear. Foremost, brands should treat customers as individuals with varying preferences and shopping  behaviors rather than segmenting customers into marketing groups. Without third-party cookies, direct  engagement with consumers will become much more valuable and only continue to increase.

Traditional multichannel businesses will be arguably ahead of the game because they already interact with  consumers on multiple platforms. Multichannel businesses that have set up multiple customer access points, such  as brick-and-mortar stores, e-commerce websites, mobile apps, and customer loyalty programs, have more  opportunities for first-party data collection. 

But everyone, regardless of whether they are multichannel or not, should review existing loyalty and rewards  programs, looking for ways to expand and deepen these initiatives. Customers may be willing to share a lot more  information if you ask them. Remember that loyalty programs are only as good as the level of engagement they  drive among members and customers. The more shoppers are incentivized to engage, the more data a brand will  collect on their activity. 

Building out opt-in programs and optimizing existing loyalty programs will allow you to communicate with your  customers and learn from them. Collecting more and better quality first-party data ultimately makes it easier to  tailor your marketing campaigns and individual promotions to align with your customers’ preferences and values. Once you have your first-party data strategy in place, ensuring the technology supporting your new data collection  processes is also ready for the transition is critical. 

Evaluate your data collection technology 

Strong technology platforms go hand-in-hand with first-party data collection, and finding a reliable partner is  crucial because the right platform will serve as your brand’s “central nervous system.” That can help conduct deep  analytics, execute data-driven decisions, and transform customers into a connected and engaged audience.  Brands can then monetize those customer connections because audiences consisting of first-party data are now  becoming very attractive to other brands and advertisers.  

With full transparency and customer permission, brands can sell access to their custom audience to those looking  to personalize their ads with information based on real interactions and purchases. A dependable technology  platform will help consolidate those multiple streams of first-party customer data into a single, unified view of a  brand’s customers. 

It’s time for brands and their marketers to take an honest look at why they embraced the use of third-party cookies  and acknowledge why they no longer serve them. The intent behind third-party cookies was to better understand  and market to customers, providing a highly personalized and targeted online advertising experience. However, the outcome was an increasing alienation as customers felt uneasy about the data that was being collected.  Brands should view Google’s cookie ban as a reflection of changing consumer needs rather than seeing it as  something taken away. Those that do so by embracing the use of first-party data, and finding ways to increase its  acquisition via loyalty programs, will lead the way. 

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