Each new innovation in digital marketing and CRM has allowed brands to gain additional insights into their customers. While some advancements have been more successful than others, one thing is certain: time marches forward. Marketing, customer experience and other professionals must keep up and adapt to the times.
As a marketing agency owner from before the age of social media marketing, through the advent of big data, and in the age of personalization, I’ve seen enough to know that change is truly the only constant.
The next big change that will fundamentally alter the way marketers and customer experience professionals track, reach and engage with their customers is coming soon. The end of third-party cookie support by browsers, which is the primary method of audience tracking and personalization for many, is coming soon, and the “post-cookie” world will require some changes in approaches and platforms. While the date when third-party cookies will no longer be supported by Google is not set in stone as evidenced by a few previous delays, it's currently expected to happen towards the end of 2023.
In this article, I will share three important things you and your teams can do to prepare for a post-cookie world.
1. Get Your Data House in Order
Third-party cookies made some things easy, but they were never the optimal solution for either brands or consumers. With cookies, brands don’t have a full picture of who their customers are without relying on often unreliable methods, and consumers are constantly tracked by innumerable sources with very little transparency on how the information collected will be used and by whom. This shift away from cookies is an opportunity to do things better. But it will require some work to set things up in the best way possible.
Investments in your CRM and integrations between your internal systems will become even more important. This can also increase the need for a stronger data governance model within your organization. Also, keep in mind that first-party data may be less robust than previous methods of data collection. This may require enriching this information with third-party data that conforms to the privacy and other guidelines and restrictions. The long-term benefits of these changes will be for you to build and maintain a fuller view of your customers within your own platforms, with less reliance on external providers.
While it is always the right time to ensure your data structure, flow and governance are serving your needs effectively, getting your data house in order has never been more important.
Related Article: Now You See Me, Now You Don't: Navigating the Cookie-less World
2. Rethink Your Platforms and Tactics
Any external shift that requires a major change in approaches raises both challenges and opportunities. Take the shift to a post-cookie environment as an opportunity to rethink your tactics and platforms to ensure you are set up to get the best picture of your customer, as well as how your organization can best serve them. It’s likely your current CX and marketing infrastructure and processes are built on legacy components and ways of thinking. The prospect of a post-cookie world can become the perfect impetus to take a step back and reevaluate your current set of processes and platforms.
Invest in first-party data sources with things such as customer data platforms (CDPs), and ensure your CRM is up to the task of building a fuller picture of your customers. If you haven’t already, now is also the time to find better ways to drive repeat engagement on your own platforms. This includes things like customer loyalty programs, which can be incredibly effective and provide value to consumers. Also consider using more contextual targeting, that is less invasive yet provides high relevance to audiences.
Additionally, your advertising may start relying less on individual targeting and more on predefined “cohorts” or interest groups. These cohorts are less prone to individual privacy violations, and still make it possible to show contextually relevant information based on customer interest areas. You would do well to start understanding how the major providers are constructing these interest groups so you can understand where your products or services fit in.
While your customer experience goals are unlikely to change in this post-cookie world, the way you approach your customer experience and marketing tactics will likely need to do so. Take the time now to prepare and ensure you have the right people, processes and platforms in place to make this transition.
Related Article: Google Gave Us a Reprieve on Cookies. My Advice? Don't Take It
3. Prepare for Delays to the Timetable and Other Hurdles
As mentioned earlier, the current date when Google plans to no longer support third-party cookies is late 2023, though the first part of its two-phase plan will begin at the end of 2022. Apple and Microsoft have already taken efforts to minimize use of third-party cookies, so clearly there is industry alignment on the need to make this happen, despite multiple approaches on how exactly it is achieved.
Google’s current timetable to eliminate all third-party cookie support was pushed back from a previously more aggressive timeline. While it is possible this may get pushed back yet again, potential further delays should not be cause for procrastination. Likewise, third-parties that rely on these third-party cookies may also have their own timelines delayed as they are reliant on the big players to formalize and standardize their approaches.
As I recommend to anyone I work with, you need to ensure you and your teams are set up to be agile enough to adapt to shifting priorities, timelines and external dependencies. We know there will be inevitable shifts in timing, product adoption and other unanticipated changes along the way to a post-cookie reality. Keeping your teams flexible ensures your CX and marketing efforts can maintain continuity, regardless of how external factors may interfere.
While we don’t know the exact timing of when the post-cookie world will be in full swing, there are several things you can do to prepare and anticipate it. First and foremost, make sure you are taking steps to ensure your customer experience doesn’t miss a beat throughout the shift. Following the steps above will help you achieve this.
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