Customer relationships will always win over lazy shortcuts in a post-cookie world
Marketers who lean on the fundamentals of customer relationships and loyalty will succeed no matter what the technology.
Earlier in 2020, Google announced its intention to “kill the cookie.” Over the next two years, the search engine giant will phase out support for third-party cookies in its Chrome browser, joining other browsers including Firefox and Safari that have already limited their support. Coming on the heels of increasingly stringent privacy regulations like CCPA and GDPR, these changes have many marketers who lean heavily on third-party cookies running scared.
Unlike many of the headlines, this isn’t the digital marketing apocalypse. At least, it won’t be for smart marketers who’ve already prioritize building deep customer relationships over lazy shortcuts and workarounds. By using rich, first-party data for identity resolution and running efficient, hyper-targeted campaigns, these marketers have already set themselves up for success in a post-cookie world.
Even if you aren’t this prepared, the death of the third-party cookie still doesn’t have to be the end of the world. There is an opportunity as you shift your marketing strategies across the customer lifecycle, and get smarter about how you target campaigns and build loyalty.
Acquisition will be the stage of the customer lifecycle most affected
Today you probably use third-party cookies to get an understanding of what your customers need before they’ve even interacted with you. Without those tools to rely on, you’ll be flying blind during acquisition — so you’ll need to get creative.
One of the easiest ways will be going back to leveraging contextual targeting. Instead of marketing to individuals based on their behaviors on other websites, contextual targeting markets to audiences based on the actual content they’re consuming.
Brands can target video metadata, page titles, meta descriptions, related keywords and more to ensure their ads are attached to the most relevant content. For example, a customer reading an article about tips for stress-free cooking might be interested in a slow cooker. Naturally they are served ads for discounted product option on the assumption that they’re looking for simple ways to prepare meals
The ad will tie closer to the actual content vs. today where products follow you around the web, much like digital ads in the past.
This will be a reverse shift for marketers as they’ll need to hone in optimization strategies to ensure they’re spending dollars properly. As contextual targeting regains in importance, platforms such as Pinterest that drive significant traffic from content before purchase will become particularly valuable for marketers on the web.
Retention requires a change of tactics
With the death of third-party cookies, brands will need to rely more heavily on first-party data in their retention strategies. Given that match rates with third-party cookies have never been that great anyway, shifting your focus to first-party data could actually yield richer, more accurate customer profiles — if you do it right.
First, it’s more critical than ever to develop a single sign-on (SSO) strategy for your website(s) and app(s) that allows you to track user identity across devices with first-party cookies. By giving each user a unique identifier, you can create a whole customer vision that paints a consistent picture of their journey with your brand. Offering benefits or incentives for signing in — such as the ability to save a wish list of wanted products or easy payment options — can encourage customers to get in the habit.
Marketers will need a greater focus on first-party data collection. Find fun or unique ways to ask customers about their preferences for communications and their main interests so you can target them with more relevant messages. Ultimately, all this still points to a greater need in investment of identity resolution and building a better direct relationship with the customer to take advantage of first-party data and reporting.
Loyalty will be more of a focus than before
Your loyalty program can also provide a source of valuable data about your most frequent customers. To stand out from the crowd, go above and beyond the classic punch-card points and discount models to deliver experiences that surprise and delight customers. For example, Foot Locker’s FLX loyalty program gives members early access to new sneaker launches. Premium credit card reward programs are another good model: Many allow customers to redeem points for unique experiences like private dinners and VIP concert tickets.
These special experiences not only build deeper customer relationships, they can also offer incentives for customers to share their personal data. For example, some retailers ask members to provide their birthdates to receive an annual birthday gift. Notifications about upcoming events or offers can also help bring the customer back to your website or app in more meaningful ways — especially if you’re losing money from one-time purchasers. Marketers must create their own future by building stronger relationships with customers, so customers are more willing to share their data and it’s easier for them to do so.
Marketers will survive and adapt
The next few years will see an evolution of marketing tactics. Lazy marketers who rely on third-party cookies to over-target high-spend campaigns will not thrive as they have in the past. The focus on privacy is rightfully growing and the digital landscape will evolve to however market leaders (Google and Apple today) choose. Just remember: Marketers who lean on the fundamentals of customer relationships and loyalty will succeed no matter what the technology.