In my fourth and final column of the 2021 trends series, we’re going to examine life after the cookie. Third-party cookies are data registered in a user’s browsing history. Everything we do on the web leaves traces, especially information about our activity when visiting websites. For marketers, this data is of great value as it shows users’ habits on the web.

For years, digital marketing has been using this information to identify and create audience sets and target better campaigns, with the ability to follow these prospects wherever they may roam on the web.
Marketers have been using the third-party cookie to:

  • Customize experiences when the user visits a website.
  • Follow activity on a website to gauge interest in specific content.
  • Learn which pages on the website are getting the most traffic.
  • Collect information to build a re-marketing approach.
  • Create ads on the Google Display Network.

It’s because cookies are such a powerful tool and can accurately record and track a person’s movements, decisions and interests that every time we visit a website, we’re asked to accept the cookies.

In early January of 2020, Google announced that this data would no longer be available to companies. It is a phase-out process that will be completed in 2022. Google is phasing out the cross-website tracking on its Chrome browser. Firefox and Safari already have done so. This is a significant change that we all need to be ready to tackle.

Think context and content: Contextual advertising simply means that the ads on the page correspond with the content on that page. If you’re looking at a fishing blog, the ads will be for lures or guided fishing trips. This will be easier for you to do inside your own website than it will be for the advertisers and publishers to get their act together and coordinate topics.

But there are tools inside Google AdSense right now that will help you place an image, video and text ads on-page at participating sites based on contextual keywords.

People-based targeting: Cookies were all about targeting web users based on their behaviors. You have all the tools you need to do that on your own, but in a much more targeted and more effective way. This is about using customer relationship management technology to track and identify website visitors, email subscribers, and social media followers. You can even use cookies! The ban on cookies is really the ban on third-party cookies. But any code that gets generated and stored on your website visitor’s computer when they visit your site will still remain intact.

Get personal: Personalization has gotten much more manageable, thanks to CRM and other technologies. The tools are incredibly sophisticated.  Unfortunately, most companies don’t take advantage of a fraction of what their CRM can do. Most only use it to send newsletters and track potential leads.
When you create custom experiences and communications based on the customer’s unique journey, it can be very compelling, and no two people can have precisely the same communications flow with you.

Build your own data set: The most effective way to survive and thrive in a cookie-free world is to build your own data on prospects and customers.  The value of this is twofold.

The data will be more accurate, and you have to get to know your prospects and customers better to make it happen. As you get to know them better, your marketing gets better too.

The good news is that this change is going to affect everyone. The challenging news is that you want to have some well-thought-out solutions before your competitors get the jump on you. Now is the time to figure out how you’re going to leverage data in this new, cookieless world.