New privacy laws and industry changes could transform digital marketing.
As Google prepares to eliminate third-party cookies, how can businesses thrive in the cookieless landscape?
This article will explore the key drivers of change in digital marketing strategy and provide five tips to help your company grow in the cookieless future.
What’s driving change in Digital Marketing?
Here’s a brief overview of the main factors steering the internet towards a cookieless future:
1. Increasingly strict privacy regulation
Privacy laws in the US and worldwide are clamping down on targeted advertising and cookies.
- Five US state privacy laws take effect throughout 2023. They all govern how businesses track people online. Some require websites to recognise “global opt-out” browser and device mechanisms.
- The EU General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) impacts cookie consent. While the GDPR is not new, European regulators are taking an increasingly strict interpretation of the law—and are making significant progress on enforcement.
- Other laws, such as the EU’s Digital Markets Act, also have implications for how large platforms use data.
- According to the UN, nearly three-quarters of countries now have comprehensive privacy and data protection laws, and many are working on new or updated draft legislation.
Partly because of these laws, consumer attitudes are shifting. Research suggests that people are increasingly concerned about online privacy and tracking.
2. Industry developments
For decades, businesses have monitored people’s online activities. This could soon change in two broad ways.
- Online privacy could improve. Big tech companies are increasingly aware of people’s concerns over their data and are spending billions on improving privacy in their products.
- Large platforms could continue to build “walled gardens”. The changing data landscape might improve privacy, but it also impacts competition. Preventing data-sharing can reinforce big platforms’ market positions.
Two “big tech” initiatives are particularly significant in this regard.
Apple’s App Tracking Transparency (ATT) framework has significantly impacted how businesses collect data about iPhone users, to the frustration of data-hungry companies such as Meta.
And Google’s announced Privacy Sandbox will (eventually) eliminate cookies in Chrome—the world’s most popular web browser.
Many businesses are not prepared for this change. A 2021 study found that 83% of business leaders saw cookies as either “very” or “somewhat” important to their data operations.
Let’s consider how you can leverage opportunities in this new online environment.
Data strategies in the new online landscape
Cookies and other trackers are not the only way to understand your customers. Here are four ways to stay connected with customers in the new digital marketing landscape.
1. Focus on first-party data
With the demise of third-party cookies, it may be harder to learn customers based on their “cross-site” behavior (i.e. activity that occurs off-site).
As such, some businesses are focusing on first-party data—information obtained directly from users via a company’s own platforms, like preferences, names, email addresses and more.
There are many strategies for gathering first-party data, including:
- Loyalty schemes
- Direct marketing
- CRM data
There are still legal and ethical considerations when dealing with these types of data collected. But first-party data can be of a higher quality and can be collected in a less intrusive way, making for a better user experience overall.
Google’s Privacy Sandbox also includes a plan for “first-party sets”, which would allow some limited tracking across a company’s various online properties. Some startups are developing new universal IDs that they claim are compatible with the new restrictions.
Remember, though, that EU law still requires consent for many first-party cookies—or any non-essential code that stores or accesses information on a device.
2. Establish new partnerships
Even a high-quality first-party dataset can be improved by working with other companies.
Exchanging data with other parties can help you augment and supplement your first-party data. Companies operating in different contexts in the same industry might benefit from sharing complementary insights into the market.
But proceed with caution. Buying and selling data is tightly regulated, and making the wrong move can damage your company’s reputation.
When sharing data with another company, be sure to act with transparency and to get consent from customers when required. If you’re buying data, conduct due diligence on the supplier and make sure you comply with applicable laws and regulations.
3. Explore contextual ads
Many companies are exploring other online advertising approaches that do not rely on cookie data, such as contextual advertising. At the moment, online advertising heavily relies on third-party cookies to store information like user behavior and shopping cart preferences to serve related ads.
Back in the internet’s early days, virtually all online marketing was “contextual”. Fishing websites displayed ads for fishing rods, regardless of who was visiting the website.
Some companies are reappraising the value of contextual ads now that cross-site tracking is getting tougher.
New techniques could increase the effectiveness of contextual ads. For example, video streaming site Dailymotion claims its deep learning technology can interpret audio, video, and text signals to help advertisers contextually target ads and target users.
4. Consider embracing Google’s changes
Google’s Topics API could become an important advertising method once the Privacy Sandbox proposals are fully implemented.
Websites integrating the Topics API will have some access to information on users’ interests.
Google will still provide insights into users based on their online activity. But the company claims that Topics will be better for privacy because of how it retains data on the user’s device and groups websites into around 350 broad “topics”.
However, there is still a lot of uncertainty around the effectiveness and legality of this new form of “interest-based advertising”.
To get ahead in the new digital advertising landscape, relying on the whims of large platforms might not be sensible. But as we’ve explored above, there are many ways to reach and understand your customers.
5. Cassie Identity Service
Cassie’s Cookie Management module proactively finds solutions even before they are needed. Even if a visitor has previously given consent for first-party cookies to be stored but later deletes them, or if the browser automatically removes them, Cassie can still recognize the visitor. By storing important information such as the cookie name, value, and consent expiry date in the Cassie Identity Service, previous visitors can be accurately identified and their cookies, including analytics identifiers, can be restored to their individual user profile.
As a result, you can consistently and clearly identify and comprehend the identity of visitors to your website, thus strengthening relationships with your current customers.