How Digital Marketers Are Personalizing in a Post-Cookie World

Digital Marketers Are Personalizing in a Post-Cookie World plate of cookies

Third-party cookies enable brands to target ads to the right person, at the right time – all through digital marketing automation

But as cookies disappear, brands may lose some targeting capabilities. We will be able to meet consumer expectations for privacy and reset marketing and advertising practices in a way that makes adhering to data privacy regulations possible. 

So what will happen to personalization in digital marketing?

Google expects to phase out the use of third-party cookies on Chrome browsers by 2022. Apple has already banned them, and Firefox has taken steps to block them.

When Google initially announced this change in 2020, the digital marketing world took it pretty hard with marketers throwing around terms like “cookie apocalypse” and “death of cookies.” The reality is, in a post-cookie world, some brands will struggle to pull off the same level of personalization.

But all is not lost. There are still plenty of ways to personalize content and digital ads, which is essential for delivering excellent customer experiences. So, instead of worrying about what we can’t use to improve CX, let’s look at all the ways personalization in digital marketing is happening without third-party cookies.

Key Takeaways:

  • Marketers are concerned about the third-party cookie phase-out – 41% believe their biggest challenge will be an inability to track the right data, and 44% believe they’ll spend 5% to 25% more to reach the same goals next year.
  • Those organizations that have relied on third-party cookies might struggle to offer the same level of personalization, putting them at a disadvantage.
  • To cope with these changes, marketers are looking into new, innovative ways to personalize. They’re using first-party cookies, contextual targeting, and other strategies.

The Impact on Personalization in Digital Marketing

For digital marketers, third-party cookies have been essential for sending out personalized ads, emails, and more. This data helps brands sell their products, and it makes it possible to deliver the highly personalized experience consumers expect.

  • With cookies, marketers can identify what a consumer is likely to be interested in and send ads they would prefer.
  • Third-party cookies help with audience targeting – cookies reveal which groups of users are worth reaching out to on the web.
  • They also enable marketers to track and measure the impact of an ad. Who clicks on an ad? Who makes a purchase? This is all highly valuable data that marketers can use to improve CX and ROI (return on investment).

The better the personalization, the better the experience for consumers. It also leads to a better ROI for marketers because people are more likely to click on ads that interest them.

Without the individualized data cookies provide, it’s still possible to personalize. However, what once was a seamless process will now require a new approach. Personalization also won’t be as effective as it will be harder to understand the customer journey.

This means marketers may have to devote more resources to reaching the right customers at the right time. Digital ads, retargeting, personalized email, and other content could all suffer as a consequence.

3 Ways Marketers Are Thriving in a Post-Cookie World

A cookie-less world is shifting the way digital marketers approach customer relationship building. They’re using different types of data to reach customers. Here are some of the solutions marketers are using:

1. Relying on first-party data

First-party cookies come from your website. By using consumer consent – asking a web visitor what cookies they are okay with – you can still store data and use it to tailor ads and content.

You can also use other types of first-party data, including subscription information, data you have stored on your CRM (customer relationship management), and transactional data.

The advantages: First-party cookies live up to today’s privacy standards, including GDPR and CCPA. They don’t require you to store personal identifiable information. Combined with other first-party data, you still have a lot of customer information to use to ensure a good CX.

The challenges: The problem with first-party data is that you’re limited to the customer and prospects you’ve already interacted with. You can’t use it to target consumers who’ve never consented to your website cookie data or shared their information with you.

To solve this issue, marketers will have to spend more energy building trust and attracting buyers through their website. They can do this with a smart content strategy.

2. Expanding options with second-party data

Another way to get around the loss of third-party cookies is to start using second-party data. Second-party data are data sets owned and stored by another organization.

The advantages: Basically, you’re expanding your consumer data pool, but you’re also accessing more relevant consumer data than you would with third-party cookies. This is because you choose which organizations to partner with rather than simply paying to use aggregated third-party data.

The challenges: For small businesses or newer companies that haven’t had the chance to build up their own first-party data, finding a willing partner might not be easy. To make this strategy work, you have to find a partner that will share data with you and then disclose the relationship on your website if you’re sharing your customers’ data with another company.

General Mills recently announced the launch of their “connected commerce” program, which is a second-party data initiative. The company is combining its data with that of retailers to improve its ability to offer personalized marketing, “spot patterns, experiment, scale up winning tests, and launch new capabilities.”

3. Using contextual targeting

Contextual targeting has been touted as an alternative to cookies for years. This is because it allows marketers and advertisers to get around the main challenge of the privacy age: the use of personal data.

With this approach, the focus is on the content consumed – the context of the blog post, video, or other content the person is engaging with – rather than personal information.

As a result, there’s no infringement upon data privacy. Yet, digital marketers are still able to offer highly personalized content and ads.

The advantages: Marketers can get very granular with contextual targeting. You can target metadata, titles, related keywords, comments, and more. By mining this information and looking for signals, marketers are gaining in-depth insights into their customers.

The challenges: This is a still-developing area of personalization and targeting. You may need to learn more about how it works and use a powerful tool for personalization to help you develop a process that works for your brand’s marketing goals.

In fact we use contextual targeting for a handful of our clients and the approach works. Our average cost per clicks hovers around $0.22 which is roughly 95% cheaper than a B2B brand paid search ad. And our click though rates are better than 3% – 60 times higher than average!

We Can Look Forward to Post-Cookie Marketing

Prioritizing data privacy is essential because people don’t want their data shared. Marketers simply have to figure out a new way to increase their personalization in digital marketing. With privacy-friendly data sources and contextual targeting, exceptional experiences are still possible.

Image provided by Oleg Magni; Pexels

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