Turning Dreams to Reality:

Today, cookies play an important role in personalizing advertisements. The end user-specific data that cookies provide to the organizations, has helped in revenue growth and customer experience enhancement for a long time now. Data providers, by using third-party cookies, put together pieces of information from a customer’s digital footprint to make a complete picture of them, without them even knowing about it. A Customer’s digital footprint includes every website visited, every product review read, and every ad that the customer has interacted with. This aggregated information helps organizations put forward personalized suggestions thus enhancing the propensity of clicking through.

The Backdrop:

In August 2019, Google started an initiative for enhancing privacy on the web, “Privacy Sandbox”. Under this initiative, in January 2021 Google announced that it would be scrapping off support for third-party cookies. They also confirmed that they will not implement alternative user-level identifiers to replace third-party cookies. “Today, we’re making explicit that once third-party cookies are phased out, we will not build alternate identifiers to track individuals as they browse across the web, nor will we use them in our products,” said David Temkin, Google’s director of product management for ads privacy and trust.

Targeting Customers in a Cookie-Less Environment:

Cutting off cookies can surely be disheartening but let’s understand the fact that:

The end of third-party cookies does not mean the end of tracking.

Every technology that offers to save data from the browser to the customer’s PC, can serve the same purpose as third-party cookies. These alternatives can include WebSQL, Local storage, IndexedDB, and others. But there is an exponential growth in the demand of privacy and thus, extensive measures that are strengthening over time regarding the same. Thus, investment in these alternatives might not be a great choice.

Is there a solution?

Yes, the solution is for organizations to now look back at a more reliable and consented data: first-party data.

First-party data is the consented data, which the organizations collect directly from their audience through surveys, feedbacks, and reviews.

For effective implementation, organizations should use intelligent data-capturing techniques to have a granular level look at the input data. This data gives an advantage of directly coming from the customers, thus can be used as a trustworthy foundation for decision-making.

But, if this was such a reliable choice, why did organizations move to third-party data in the first place? That is because the third-party data was easily accessible and they got it without having to invest time in preparing specific surveys and questionnaires themselves. But now, since first-party data would be a major choice left, organizations should move towards the customer loyalty programs, wherein the customer would be rewarded with offers, discounts, and deals in exchange for their ‘data’, cooperation, and loyalty towards the brand.

Customer loyalty programs work on finding a healthy way to organically retain customers by offering them with personalized service in exchange for their loyalty towards the brand.

  • Apart from this Google offered its users a proposal which was ‘Trust Tokens’. Unlike third-party cookies, trust tokens aim to connect users across websites without revealing information about them. Trust tokens are thus expected to bring third-party cookies back to their original purpose – information collection and eradicate the abuse of that information by third parties.
  • Another alternative offered by Google is Federated Learning of Cohorts (FLoC). This method is an interest-based approach of targeting cohorts (group of people with similar characteristics) of customers by analysing their onscreen behaviour. In simpler terms, Google intends to have all the behavioural data of the customers, group the similar ones into one category, and finally provide the end result to organizations – in opposition to the previous practice of revealing information that could potentially have led to unwilling identification of the customer.
  • Moreover, data would now be scarce and the data collected earlier may also become redundant in the face of new policies. Organizations should thus focus on the integration of data scattered throughout various departments and have one unified point of data – customer data platform (CDP). A CDP carves out a sculpture of personalized customer profile from scattered rocks of customer data. With this in hand, organizations would have a better chance at personalizing both products and services, in the absence of third-party cookies.
  • Keywords were always an essential tool, but with the cookie-less era drawing closer, they’ll be gems. Eradication of third-party cookies would lead to an absence of demographic customer data, which will in turn make it difficult to target customers. But with keywords tracking organizations can track what their customers want and what keywords they’re using to find the products.
  • Unified ID 2.0 (UID 2.0) is an identity framework initiative taken up by TradeDesk which aims to provide a cookie-free open-source platform with the same capabilities as third-party cookies but with stricter rules. It would ask for the customer’s consent once at the time of signup. After that, all the publishers using the UID 2.0 platform can use the consent and email information for targeted and personalized ads.
  • Contextual and conversational marketing methods have significantly proved to increased engagement, loyalty, and customer experience. Contextual marketing is when the content of a website is analyzed and a relevant advertisement is placed on the website. This increases the propensity of clicking through by the customer. It uses technologies like computer vision and natural language processing (NLP) to provide targeting precision. Conversational marketing is when organizations provide live support through chatbots, virtual customer assistants (VCA), and one to one support, wherein value is provided through conversations to customers.
  • In light of the new framework and policies, customer-facing processes can become a bit tedious. Organizations should now move their focus from customer acquisition to ‘acquisition and retention‘. While enhancing engagement, it is imperative to have consented information. When a customer opts in for a subscription, he/she is willing to hear from the organization and thus gives in information like a personal email willingly. This is when the organization will have maximum chances of opened emails, better engagement, and thus improved retention.

Conclusion:

The reins of data are being handed back to the customers. Organizations should thus adhere to leading technologies like Artificial Intelligence, Machine learning, and Predictive Analytics while staying in constant compliance with the GDPR rules. These technologies use intelligent algorithms to suggest what would work effectively in real-time through advertisements.

However, Loyalty programs still top the list of priorities as first-party data becomes the single source of data. Again, the end of third-party cookies does not mean the end of targeting! So organizations should now seek out alternatives for enhancing engagement, some of which may include the ones mentioned above.