While some think that Google giving marketers two more years to prepare for the depreciation of third-party cookies will lead to complacency, I hope brands maintain the momentum of recent months. Without a doubt, this change across the entire online advertising industry is causing a major shift in digital advertising targeting and identity management. Every marketer would be wise to use this extra time to collect alternative IDs and more zero- and first-party data assets so they can continue to create effective ad campaigns.
Email marketing will have a role to play in addressing both of those needs.
Let’s look at five ways that email marketing’s role will grow as priorities shift to cope with the sunsetting of third-party cookies:
Using Email Addresses as Identifiers
Along with phone numbers, email addresses are one of the identity data signals that brands will rely on more going forward. Currently, Facebook, Twitter, Snap and all of the other walled gardens use a hashed email address as a way to target known customers on their platforms. Proposals for consented ID networks like Unified ID 2.0 are also built off a form of an email address.
It’s these non-cookie–based identifiers that allow adtech providers to onboard an advertiser’s first-party data and to help them maximize the reach of their advertising campaigns.
Related Article: Google Gave Us a Reprieve on Cookies. My Advice? Don't Take It
Pushing to Increase Subscriber Acquisition
Given the importance of email addresses as an identifier, expect to see more brands intensifying their subscriber acquisition efforts. Companies will not only be looking to add new subscriber acquisition sources, they’ll also be analyzing their existing sources and trying to optimize their signup forms to boost completion rates, as well as trying to turn email addresses on file into promotional email opt-ins.
When testing and optimizing your subscriber acquisition sources, some fruitful tests to consider include:
- Strengthening the signup appeal messaging, making it clear what the person will gain by subscribing
- Providing greater incentives for signing up
- Simplifying forms by eliminating non-critical fields, even optional ones
- Adding auto-completion, auto-fill and auto-capitalization to all your signup forms, and providing a matching keyboard for your forms on mobile devices
- Experimenting with different CTA wording
- Building more catered signup modals based factors like geolocation, observed preferences, and visitor affinity modeling.
"We are seeing more and more brands shifting KPIs for their advertising campaigns into programs that are designed to bolster their CRM files," said my colleague Tim Carr, head of activation product marketing, Oracle Advertising. "They are using third-party audiences now to build up first-party audiences for the future. However, brands have also told us that they don’t see first-party audiences replacing third-party ones because they need the scale and will always need to acquire new customers."
But the goal isn’t just to collect more email addresses from customers and prospects. Brands will also want to build up a rich profile of each contact using zero- and first-party data.
Gathering More First-Party Data via Email
Forty-two percent of companies state they will increase spending on use of first-party data due to changes to third-party cookies and identifiers, according to IAB’s State of Data 2021 report. Currently, only 41% of companies say they’re collecting consumer preferences and only 36% say they’re collecting behavior data.
Email marketing provides numerous opportunities for brands to collect information about a subscriber’s interests and preferences to use not only for email segmentation, personalization and automation, but also for ad targeting (with consent). For example, while email signup forms are an awful place to ask for nice-to-have information, the signup confirmation page is a great place to ask for additional information.
Other ways to collect additional demographic, psychographic and other information is by using your emails to drive subscribers to your preference center or the person’s profile page. While those are good methods of collecting data that’s unlikely to change soon, if at all, progressive profiling is great at collecting short-term preferences. For example, you can use a poll to determine a person’s yard and garden priorities for the spring, or a lifestyle quiz to determine destinations or activities at the top of a person’s winter travel wishlist.
And, of course, the email click behavior and the resulting web and app sessions and purchases also generate valuable data. Because subscribers generate more first-party data the longer they’re subscribed and engaged, brands will also try to increase subscriber retention.
Related Article: 7 Factors That Determine Email Deliverability
Focusing on Subscriber Retention
In addition to increasing subscriber lifetime value, brands will put an increased emphasis on reducing subscriber churn to maximize data gathering. It’s a multifaceted problem, so companies will need to implement changes and solutions that address different aspects of the issue.
Three particular points of emphasis right now are:
- Reducing email fatigue by sending messages at the right frequency so subscribers aren’t overwhelmed and opt out
- Reengaging inactive subscribers before they become so inactive that you have to suppress them from all of your mailings in order to protect your deliverability
- Launching or improving loyalty programs, which has also been spurred on by the pandemic.
"COVID has put us on an accelerated path toward change," said Emily Rudin, senior director of loyalty product strategy and growth for Oracle CrowdTwist. "If you have a spend-to-get program, it’s time to rethink that program. First, younger generations aren’t motivated by price in the way that older generations were. Second, copycat programs of competitors don’t work anymore, so be unique to your brand. Third, customers want to be surrounded by brands who get them and who understand where they are. And fourth, there is a huge investment in loyalty programs right now not just for retention, but for acquisition — which you do by not only turning a good customer into one of your best customers, but by inspiring them to bring in someone else who also becomes one of your best customers.”
Centralizing and Sharing Data
The final key ingredient in making the shift from third-party cookies to first-party data is centralizing data so you can easily share it across your organization. That means email marketing and website experience teams, which have historically worked in silos, will have to collaborate and share data with each other.
Some businesses have already recognized this need, as 35% of companies state they will centralize all CRM data into one repository, according to IAB’s State of Data 2021 report.
The depreciation of third-party cookies will require companies to make significant adjustments. Building out your email marketing program, as well as your SMS, mobile push, and browser push programs, can help you successfully make the transition into a more privacy-aware world where zero- and first-party data are king.