By the end of 2024, third-party cookies will officially be phased out. Though the timeline for the “cookie crumble” has been consistently bumped, it’s going to happen. With this in mind, forward-leaning leaders are working on strategies to make sure their companies don’t lose lead-generation traction when the curtain finally falls on cookie production.
With that being said, some leaders are still looking the other way. An Adobe study indicates that around three-quarters of marketers are still leaning into—rather than away from—third-party cookies in 2023. Sixty-four percent even told researchers they were going to spend more this year than last on third-party cookie-reliant campaigns. While this isn’t necessarily a bad thing since third-party cookies are still available, it begs a big question: Are they hoping against hope for yet another “cookie death” delay?
Avoiding the inevitable isn’t a smart way to run a railroad—or a modern business. Though you can certainly still engage in third-party cookie activations, you owe it to your company to seek out alternative ways to stay competitive in a cookie-less universe. Below are some methods that other entrepreneurs, CEOs, and executives are putting into motion to get ahead of their peers.
1. They’re prioritizing first-party data.
When third-party cookies go by the wayside, you’ll have to rely on first-party data to learn more about your target audience and customers. First-party data can only be gathered if people agree to give you their information. And luckily, 80% of consumers said they’d hand over some of their private data to brands, according to a Sailthru and Coresight Research survey. The only caveat? They wanted the exchange to net them some type of value.
As noted by Kristina Prokop in a Wired article, this type of exchange can only happen after a high degree of trust is established between the brand and the buyer. Says Prokop, who serves as general manager for Dun & Bradstreet, “The evolution we’re moving toward is a world that’s focused on direct interaction with consumers… The [first-party] data can be used in its entirety to learn about your customers, build segments of who you want to reach, and figure out how to communicate with them.”
If you haven’t yet come up with a plan to engage audiences on a deeper level so they’re willing to give you first-party data, do it now. Also, make sure you have a centralized place to store and retrieve the data you capture. That way, you can make the most of it.
2. They’re being more transparent.
Remember the days when you didn’t realize that websites were collecting information on you? Today, it’s becoming increasingly common for businesses to offer privacy setting pop-ups. Not only does this make sense from a regulatory perspective, but it puts more control in users’ hands. People appreciate it when brands are transparent about their practices. By upping your transparency factor, you can fuel more honest, meaningful interactions with target markets.
This isn’t just anecdotal. Research is showing that transparent companies are poised to have stronger bonds with their customer base. One study from Cassie found that 82% of consumers said they’d be more apt to share personal information with a transparent brand. Consequently, it only makes sense to revamp and rework your website to ensure people that you’re putting their privacy first.
As a side note, you can bet your bottom dollar that we’re going to see more privacy laws develop. The sooner you position your company as being on the side of the consumer, the better off you’ll be in the long run when you’re asking for first-party data.
3. They’re experimenting with incentivization.
“Why?” That’s the leading question you need to ask yourself when developing strategies to acquire consumer data. Why would someone want to give you their information? Why would they see this as a valid exchange? Why do some people opt out while others opt in to your requests for their name, email, or another identifier?
Resist the temptation to overlook the importance of asking and answering these questions. As Diane Keng, CEO and co-founder of Breinify, writes for a VentureBeat piece, “This is valuable information, and consumers know it. You must give something to get something—and I’m not talking about a weekly email with a few coupons. The incentive must be of real value to consumers.”
What will motivate your target audiences? The best way to find out is through a series of tests. Just make sure you’re measuring each test to figure out what’s working well. Doing this now will give you a leg up by the time cookies fall out of vogue. You may also want to consider partnering with others in and outside of your industry who are doing likewise. This could include media agencies, tech entities, or even startups. Allowing your company to be a testing ground for an innovative startup venture could be a winning move.
4. They’re spotlighting new ways to evaluate data.
Knowing that first-party data will soon be the only data that matters, many companies are exploring ways to use it as effectively as possible. This includes Michael Hamburger, co-founder and CEO of digital marketing agency Ezzey. His company has made data collection and analysis shifts based on the evolution of the importance of first-party data.
For instance, Hamburger is doubling down on utilizing first-party data to drive decision-making. “Harnessing the power of data is our top priority,” he notes. “It will guide us in our strategic direction, enabling informed decisions and insights into customer behavior, market trends, and business performance.” As such, he and his team are investing in emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence and machine learning to enhance data analytics, automation, and personalized marketing—and foster an adaptable culture of innovation and continuous improvement.
You can be sure that there are going to be more and more tools and solutions that pop up to help companies make the most of their first-party data and drive engagement and loyalty. Make the transition more frictionless by familiarizing yourself with the latest innovations to land in the marketplace.
Third-party cookies may be retiring, but data collection will never go out of style. To succeed, make changes this year so you don’t feel like you’re being forced to undergo any “dietary restrictions” when cookies are no longer available.