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Part 2: Unpacking the pillars to effectively prepare for a cookie-less future

In the first article in our cookie-less future series we introduced a framework to help brands think about and navigate the unknown as well as explored how to effectively prepare for the change.

In the second part of our series, we take a closer look at the 5 core pillars that should form part of a businesses and brands strategy to effectively adapt.

digital experience strategy areas

1st party data

You can’t talk about how to adapt without talking about 1st party data. In a world where we are less able to rely on the assets of others collected through various means, the importance of our own 1st party data is heightened. If a brand has built a strong robust data asset, it can activate that data with partners and publishers – which sounds a lot easier in theory than it is in practice.

For those intending on building a 1st party data strategy there are a number of key considerations:

  • Multi-faceted data collection approach. The reality is that no one single program or activity will enable you to capture a holistic view of your customer. For brands looking to build a scalable 1st party data asset, consideration should be given to combining a series of data collection approaches and activities to build and stitch together assets that can be leveraged to power experiences. Capturing onsite interaction data, online authentication, progressive profiling, loyalty programs and gamification are just some of the many ways brands can build a robust data asset overtime.

  • Scale is paramount. Having a strategy to collect data isn’t enough – the size and depth of the asset matters in order to enable brands to deliver scalable experiences and personalisation for customers. This is because data matching with publishers and platforms typically sits between 30 – 50%.

  • Think about the value exchange. In a world where every brand is scrambling for data never before has the creation of a compelling value exchange been more important as consumers face data collection fatigue. What’s more if you are thinking the allure of personalisation is enough to snag a customers interest – think again. Research shows that 47% of consumers feel companies don’t use personal information to benefit the customer.

Targeting & activation

To understand how targeting and activation strategies need to evolve, it is important to be informed about the impact of cookie deprecation on media activities today. Whilst the past decade of digital advertising has been focussed on marketing to one customer cross-device, the changes brought about by 3rd party cookie deprecation will in some ways see the industry retreat from this approach as Google and others pivot to deliver privacy preserving targeting alternatives to consumers in a post cookie world.

Browser based targeting will form a key part of Google Chrome's approach moving forward. Rather than collecting data on the user, browsing behaviour will be stored locally within the browser and used to target consumers, which moves us away from targeting individuals as is done today.

Marketers will increasingly use techniques like contextual and geo-location targeting to reach consumers in relevant environments as well as people-based audiences to replace cookie-based targeting approaches. When it comes to people-based audiences, this is where 1st party data scale matters most given match rates reduce the pool of customers or prospects to target. Re-marketing solutions will also evolve in a post cookie world. Google is implementing Fledge, which is designed to enable marketers to deliver relevant ads based on browsing behaviour – without the ability for third party solutions to track and store user browsing behaviour. Fledge effectively enables marketers to re-market to customers through data captured in the Chrome browser on one’s device.

For brands who have reliance and built maturity in programmatic advertising, re-marketing and others, it will be vital to begin to ask questions of their agency around how those strategies are impacted by the deprecation of 3rd party cookies. Equally, as Google and others release new technology and targeting approaches like Topics and FLEDGE, brands need to be proactively trialing and experimenting with new ways to target and engage consumers in order to be ready for the transition.

Data Partnerships

As brands will face limitations to build their own 1st party data assets, brands must also consider how to augment their 1st party data strategy through partnering. While Facebook, Google and Amazon have amassed large data sets, brands need to ensure they don’t build an over reliance on these walled gardens as a result of 3rd party cookie deprecation - and this is where data partnerships play a vital role. Building strong mutually beneficial partnerships with publishers or complementary brands can provide brands with access to high quality 2nd party data assets to support their personalisation and experience endeavours - while also enabling brands to ensure they don’t create an unhealthy dependency on major players. Unlike walled gardens, data partnerships (if architected right), also enable data to be passed back to the brand which provides brands with the ability to better measure return and outcomes and enhance improve targeting overtime.

When it comes to acquiring and building strong publisher partnerships there are a few key ingredients to success:

  • Clear objectives from the outset. Brands looking to establish data partnerships need to be able to answer the questions of what and how - what is it that we are looking to achieve from establishing data partnerships and how does that support our broader data strategy and deliver on our experience objectives. This ensures a brand identifies the right partners for which to engage, not simply engages in a partnership for partnership sake.

  • Go in with eyes wide open. Undertaking appropriate due-diligence ensures brands can minimise risk and maximise outcomes from the engagement. Brands need to ensure that the partners they are engaging with have robust and privacy compliant data capture processes in place to safeguard their brand and reputation. In addition, brands need to ensure that the partners dataset will provide the scale, reach or be able to augment the brands data assets in line with the intended outcomes that they seek to achieve.

  • Commitment to grow & scale the partnership. To determine the optimal approach to scale and derive value from the partnership, both the partner and the brand must be actively prepared to invest time and energy into building maturity in the partnership overtime informed by a series of tests and trials.

Identity & Data Sharing

Third party cookies gave us a currency to recognise and stitch together a user across various domains. Unfortunately, in a post cookie world, there will not be a universal currency that enables us to recognise and match users across the web.

Building a rich 1st party data asset is important but for many brands putting this data to use will be the biggest challenge they face. Brands serious about activating their first party data and measuring performance will need to grapple with identity resolution and leveraging IDs to share data in a privacy protected way to activate. At the most basic level, identity resolution is the process of bringing together “unique identifiers” for a customer that is email addresses, phone numbers, 1st party cookie data, transactions, into a single identity. A number of universal identity solutions and identity resolution platforms are emerging that enable brands to not only onboard data for matching purposes but to build out their own identity graphs to stitch together 1st party data.

Measurement & Attribution

When it comes to measurement, there are equally some big challenges that brands need to grapple with and that your strategy will need to address.

As Chrome will effectively block third party sites from tracking user behaviour, which will impact your ability to measure and close loop on performance, the logical starting point for brands is to audit their site and establish which tags are triggered by a 3rd party cookie.

When it comes to conversion tracking, many ad platforms rely on 3rd party cookies to help to close the loop on performance and that includes the likes of Google & Facebook. To help brands to adapt, Google have introduced its new global java-script tag framework and API that allows you to send event data to Google Ads, Campaign Manager, Display & Video 360, Search Ads 360, and Google Analytics. Whilst Facebook is recommending brands to implement a conversion API to enable brands to close loop on performance.

Brands who have built or developed multi-touch attribution models also stand to be impacted. Many multi-touch attribution models rely on leveraging third-party cookies to track users across different channels. With 3rd party cookie changes + apple iOS15 the majority of browsing behaviour may soon be anonymous, which may render multi-touch attribution models useless.

Even platforms like Google analytics that drop a 1st party cookie are likely to be impacted by the changes. As consumers start to have more control over what data is collected and utilised by marketers, we will need to find ways to fill the gaps to have a 360-degree view of performance.

Do you need help building a plan so your organisation is prepared for cookie-less future? Talk to us to find out how we are helping leading brands build a holistic plan and clear path forward.


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