As Google ends its support for third-party cookies in 2023 — if the company doesn’t delay its plans again — marketers are challenged with the ability to target customers and prospects.

Google has already delayed the sunsetting of third-party cookies as they experiment with alternate solutions. As a result, marketers have used the additional time to plan how to best collect first-party data that doesn’t rely on cookies. Still, marketers are likely to find the post-cookie world challenging.

Research from Boston Consulting Group and Google shows that while two-thirds of consumers want relevant ads, nearly half of them are uncomfortable sharing their data for personalization.

Below are five recommendations for establishing effective targeting in a post-cookie world.

1. Test Processes That Lack Third-Party Data

Forrester recommends that brands should determine if a new targeting approach is necessary to meet their goals. If so, identify and audit the data, technology and partners that you currently use for customer and prospect targeting, determining what data comes from third-party cookies. Next, test the new approach and analyze the results.

Marketers need to set realistic expectations for new targeting efforts, said Forrester analyst Tina Moffett. There is no single, consistent targeting approach that works for every use case.

Focus on the audience effectiveness of reach and any new targeting method compared to prior targeting methods to determine the true efficacy, Moffett added.

Related Article: Is Too Much Data Hurting Your Marketing Strategy? Here's What Experts Say

2. Offer Benefits for Sharing First-Party Data

“From the data we’ve collected, consumers are getting wary of sharing their personal data,” said Tom Caporaso, Clarus Commerce CEO.

From 2018 to 2021, the percentage of consumers willing to share email addresses alone dropped from 93% to 60%, Caporaso told CMSWire. “The demise of online cookies and the possible inaccuracy of third-party data collection make zero-party and first-party data a must-have for brands moving forward.”

The right data strategy can help retailers embrace emerging consumer trends, increase relevance through personalization and targeted communication, grow market share and stay ahead of the competition, Caporaso said. “The key here is to provide consumers with some sort of incentive for their data.”

Convincing consumers to consent to providing first-party data is difficult, agreed NetElixir founder and CEO Udayan Bose. “Online users are becoming more empowered in terms of controlling how their data would be collected and used by the brands, and advertisers and regulatory bodies will come up with laws that will be in favor of consumers, not brands or marketers.”

To overcome the data consent challenge, Bose said brands need to provide long-term value in the exchange of first-party data. He recommended exploring rewards such as special promos, benefits and personalized offers.

The Boston Consulting Group/Google report, however, cautioned: “While many companies are quick to offer all consumers discounts in exchange for their data, optimizing the value exchange by consumer segment can be more effective.

“For example, Gen Z consumers and new parents will share their email addresses for relatively low-value incentives, whereas wealthy and retired people are not tempted by most incentives.”

Learning Opportunities

3. Improve the Walled Garden

Get over legacy tagging and engage in industry developments, Bose said. “Start using the most advanced tagging solutions to set the ground for first-party data collection. The big players in the industry are still navigating the space. So not all solutions are perfect. Based on the marketing priority, start using and contributing to walled garden solutions across funnel stages.”

Bose recommended examining numerous tagging solutions, including:

  • Trade Desk’s Unified ID 2.0
  • Live Ramp’s RampID
  • Google’s Privacy Sandbox
  • Neustar’s Fabrick ID
  • Yahoo ContentID

“Other solutions are working in silos and are not sustainable in nature. The industry needs to be consolidated in nature to come up with solutions catering to the needs of a range of marketers.”

Related Article: How Legacy Systems Impede the Rise of the Informed Digital Workplace

4. Use a Data Management Platform

“A great way to collect first-party data is by using a data management platform, which handles your data the way you want it,” said marketing consultant Claire Jarrett.

“The most common type of data management platforms is those that involve data segmentation and collection. Most companies would be most interested in segmenting their data by demographics so that they can get a general idea of who their customers are.”

5. Offer Immersive Experiences

This is an opportunity to rethink and restructure our data ownership and usage, said Josh Koenig, Pantheon chief strategy officer.

“Marketers must figure out when, where and how to extract…market data. It’s frankly irresponsible to try and ‘track everything,’ as was the default assumption for much of the past decade. Data now carries real liabilities, so hoovering it up without intentionality is risky.”

Beyond that, actionable data of the future will increasingly come through owned-and-operated platforms, like websites and apps, according to Koenig. “Create compelling, engaging and immersive digital experiences, which drive traffic and interaction to your platforms, and you’ll be at an advantage in collecting first-party data.”

Related Article: Immersive Commerce Comes of Age in 2022

Coming Soon: The Post-Cookie World

We don’t know if Google will push the third-party cookie phaseout any further. But what we do know is that it will happen eventually. Brands that prepare a first-party data strategy now, before the switch occurs, will be better positioned to succeed.