Hey Advertisers: Here’s What Tracking Looks Like in a Post-Cookie World

By: Adam Robinson, CEO and Founder of GetEmails

The main issue on most marketers’ minds this year is data privacy, not only because of changing legislation like the CCPA, but also because of Big Tech’s changing policies — mainly Apple’s App Tracking policy, and, of course, the end of third-party cookies on Chrome. 

What’s more, antitrust activity against Big Tech is heating up. A Big Tech breakup resulting in an independent YouTube, Instagram or WhatsApp would change the targeting landscape entirely.

So what might the future look like? And what do marketers need to know? 

Continued consolidation of power to walled gardens 

While working with Google, Amazon, and other services (i.e. walled gardens) offers obvious benefits, it all comes at a great price, marketers must relinquish their visibility, and trust wholeheartedly. Yet it’s not easy at all to step away, walled gardens account for 79% of non-search digital ads, and this number is only set to increase. The end of third party cookies means marketers can no longer leverage Google’s vast amount of data to track and segment for their own ads, so it will become even more difficult for anyone outside of walled gardens to serve a targeted ad. 

As it becomes harder to target people away from walled gardens, the importance of owning your audience grows. First party data (primarily email and SMS as channels) will become increasingly more valuable, as it grants an independence that comes with great flexibility and control. 

Unlike walled gardens, the rules of email typically don’t get changed because Apple suddenly changes their policies (like the tracking modifications in apps), so there is not much risk of this being affected in the near future.

Of course, building a first-party audience is it’s own matter.

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An emerging need for third-party identity resolution solutions

It stands to reason that products and solutions that match identifiers to build out first-party audiences for brands and publishers will gain incredible momentum. 

As it becomes more and more difficult to track users across websites, technologies like Wunderkind, Persistent.id, and GetEmails, which have cookieless identity solutions built for Email Retargeting, will see increasing adoption of their products. 

These are cost-efficient ways to exponentially increase email capture across web properties, and retarget website visitors in a safe, compliant, and affordable way — far superior to solutions that use form fills, like LiveRamp’s ATS. The rate of email capture through form fills is less than 20% of what on-website identity resolution technologies can deliver, which directly translates into much smaller owned segments for brands and publishers.

While the accuracy of on-website identity resolution isn’t perfect, because of the techniques involved for assigning identities to website visitors, the increase in coverage more than offsets the accuracy gap. 

How will on-site identity products work post-cookie? Isn’t Apple placing Consumer Privacy first? 

Device fingerprinting is another form of tracking that works by using publicly available attributes to create a user “fingerprint”, which can include data such as the device type and user location.

As per new policies, fingerprinting might be blocked in some instances and tracking individuals through browsers in general will certainly become more difficult in the future. However this can be offset through data coming from other sources, such as the email ecosystem.

There are ways to be found to pair a browser with an identity through the myriad of data points that can be collected about a user, through the browser fingerprint and otherwise, and these products will continue to do so.

A cat-and-mouse game will result, similar to what happens with search algorithms in the SEO world. Changes will be made, people will adapt, then more changes will come, and we’ll adapt again.

The way forward – an audience-centric strategy

No matter what the ever-changing landscape looks like in the future, owning your audience will always be the best insurance policy to safeguard yourself from sudden, abrupt changes from powers over which you have no control. 

Brands and publishers who invest in owning their audience and state-of-the-art tools that increase the velocity of audience growth will be the best positioned to weather the coming storm.

Email and SMS will see the two most substantial increases in value, as they allow brands and publishers to control the conversation with their customers with very little interference from walled garden platforms with interests that are far from their own.

Creative ways to monetize emails and SMS lists are on the horizon, many of which involve further enriching databases with third party data. Tight segmenting will shift from the open internet to newsletter takeovers.

The future is bright for email, and even brighter for identity resolution technologies that allow brands and publishers to grow their owned audience at ever faster rates.

Adam Robinson is a tech entrepreneur and Amazon best-selling author. He has founded two tech startups, first Robly Email Marketing in 2014 and most recently GetEmails, which he launched in November 2019.

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