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What a Cookieless Future Means For Data-Driven Marketing

Check out new data-driven marketing strategies for personalization and measurement as browsers phase out the third-party cookie.

Illustration showing computer and cookies
For too long, marketers have relied on third parties to tell them who their customers are. Marketers now realize that they need a personal approach, which involves collecting as much first-party data as possible. [Inspriring / Shutterstock]

One of the most popular tools online marketers use to learn about customers is disappearing, leaving the industry searching for new ways to fill the data-driven marketing void.

Browsers have begun phasing out cookies — the small identifiers that track user behavior across websites — in response to privacy and regulatory concerns. Apple’s Safari and other browsers already block cookies, and Google is planning similar action in 2023 for its market-dominating Chrome browser. These moves are upending business models for online marketers who have traditionally used cookies to personalize their advertising and measure its effectiveness.

Third-party cookies will be most impacted by these changes. Those are loaded onto websites from third-party servers for advertising and tracking purposes, and aren’t part of the main website a user is visiting. 

First-party cookies are still safe. Those are directly tied to the website you visit, and help the browser remember key pieces of information, such as which items you add to shopping carts, your username and password, and language preferences.

So what are the ramifications for data-driven marketing?

We asked marketers across various industries how they think these changes will affect their marketing measurement strategies. Here’s what they had to say.

First-party data will become more important

For too long, marketers have relied on third parties to tell them who their customers are. Marketers now realize that they need a personal approach, which involves collecting as much first-party data as possible. This can include emails, phone numbers, addresses, purchase history, and cookies with customer consent.

With the planned phase out of third-party cookies, first-party data has become more important than ever.

Allison urffer, senior marketing and research analyst, Geisinger

“With the planned phase out of third-party cookies, first-party data has become more important than ever,” said Allison Urffer, senior marketing and research analyst at Geisinger, a hospital and healthcare company. “But some of the same challenges, like siloed data, still exist.”

Geisinger uses Datorama to join various sources to understand cross-channel marketing performance. “Using first-party data in Datorama gives us the tools necessary to develop relevant landing page personalization, more targeted segmenting and messaging, and the creation of engaging lead-nurturing journeys,” Urffer said. “These data-informed tactics help connect Geisinger directly to the consumer in a way that allows the consumer to feel known, heard, and valued.”

New methods of measurement will prevail

The way we measure marketing effectiveness has changed. Old practices like multi-touch attribution are no longer viable in a cookie-less world.

For example, Hughes Federal Credit Union, a Salesforce customer, has explored other ways of measuring advertising impact.

HFCU continues to use first-party data when reaching existing members with new offers. It is also relying more heavily on vendors that are aggregating data based not on pixels or cookies, but on alternate sources such as device IDs, IP addresses, and specific geographic locations. 

The HFCU team then compares the data before and after each campaign and ties account openings (their first-party data) to vendors’ data in order to create matches between new accounts and specific ads shown to devices or geographic locations.

Transparency is imperative in data-driven marketing

Calls for data transparency have increased and nearly three-quarters of marketers say their key stakeholders can’t access the right data and insights. 

Transparency is imperative to not only grow our business, but to give our clients the best experience possible.

Christy LeRoy, director of analytics and research, digital hyve

“Transparency is imperative to not only grow our business, but to give our clients the best experience possible,” said Christy LeRoy, Director of Analytics and Research at Digital Hyve. LeRoy said the company now spends an average of 25% less time each week writing reports, freeing at least six hours each week for higher priority tasks, including strategy.

“This transparency, more importantly, has benefited our clients,” LeRoy said “Clients are able to access campaign results in real time, arming them with the information to make strategic decisions alongside Digital Hyve. This improves both our businesses and grows our partnerships.”

Opting in is the new requirement

With Apple’s upcoming App Tracking Transparency feature, consumers have the ability to dictate which apps get access to their data for ad-targeting purposes. As consumers start to opt out of data sharing, marketers may need to change their measurement and targeting strategies. 

We caught up with Asha Gourinath of Grab, a superapp based in Southeast Asia, to discuss how this opt-in approach will shift Grab’s marketing measurement strategy.

“While it might make measuring success harder, it just emphasizes our need to lean into a tailored measurement strategy,” said Gourinath, who leads digital marketing and CRM at Grab. “And that’s why we see Datorama as such an important part of our stack – it gives us transparency into our marketing impact that was previously unattainable.”

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