Advertising Without The Cookie

For many years digital advertisers have relied on the cookie for audience targeting. But, at the beginning of the year Google announced that it was eliminating cookies completely over the next two years. This sent shockwaves through the industry. How will digital advertising survive without the cookie?

Marketers have been using cookies to track customer behavior for almost as long as digital advertising has existed. At one time, nearly all online advertising relied on cookies for targeting, retargeting, display advertising and behavioral marketing in general.

What Is A Cookie

Cookies are tracking code that is placed on your browser by websites when you visit them. The cookie then allows that website to learn about the other sites you’re visiting and builds a user profile around you. This enables brands and advertisers to generate and launch precise ads.

Google has announced that Chrome will no longer support that code. This process will occur gradually but be complete in two years. Apple’s Safari already limits the use of cookies and is in the process of eliminating them. Firefox automatically blocks third party tracking and other browsers are following suit.

While it is clear the industry is moving away from third party cookies the move by Google has put the nail in the coffin of cookies. Google Chrome accounts for approximately 60% of world-wide web traffic. Where will advertisers go from here?

First Party Data

Increasingly, brands will need to rely on their own first-party data. More than ever the subscription model will used. Not necessarily as a revenue generator but as a data source. With increased contact info companies will utilize email more than ever.

Email is still a profitable marketing channel. Email is a great way to generate new sales, develop a relationship, position your business, and maximize a client’s lifetime value to your business. With a well-structured email strategy, you are able to have segmented audiences who receive targeted communication. Personalized messaging to segmented audiences increases response rates and the bottom line.

Social Media

Social media is still a great place to operate highly targeted ad campaigns. Because of the immense amount of first party data collected by Facebook, Twitter etc. you can zero in on audience easily on their platforms. Ad campaigns will need to be constructed to capture more first-party data.

Brands can use their email lists to retarget to their own customers on social media platforms or search engines. The reach will not be as expansive as retargeting on third party cookie data, but it should still yield positive results. Email lists and other first party data owned by marketers can also be used to target look-alike audiences. The platform will look at the characteristics of the first party audience and match that to others on the web who mirror those profiles.

Phone Data

One area of untapped first-party data marketers should consider is phone calls. For service businesses and others for whom phone sales are important, the data in your call center could be surprisingly valuable. A good call tracking service will tell you how the caller came to pick up the phone. Then the conversations can be mined for information regarding their interest in buying. Using Artificial Intelligence lead scoring a company can determine if a conversion happened on a call, predict things like caller type (e.g. service call vs. sales call), as well as milestones on the path to conversion. And when you understand the nature of a call, you can optimize your media for higher ROI, which can be particularly helpful when you are figuring out the right keywords.

Of course, Google is not eliminating the cookie and then abandoning its customers. They are still an advertising company in the data business. With huge amounts of first-party data Google will be making that data available to advertisers through its Google Privacy Sandbox. Although Google has announced plans for the Privacy Sandbox no details on how it will work have been released.

Advertising Without The Cookie

Third party data and cookies were already being phased out before the Google announcement. The idea is to make the internet safer and maintain a level of privacy. So, while this change may be a shock to some we can adapt and learn new ways to use data online. The important lesson is to not rely on one technology or avenue of data collection and ad marketing. By continuing to find new methods of data collection and first party information gathering marketers will find they can be very successful advertising without the cookie.