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This is not a drill: The loss of third-party cookies is bigger than GDPR and CCPA

If developing a strategy to wean your media plans and martech stack off third-party (3P) cookies hasn’t been top priority, it should be now.

Let’s start with the basics: 3P cookies are text files that store data about web experiences across different websites, and help inform companies about the people who visit their own websites.

In March 2021, Google announced that its ad tools would no longer support individual tracking of users across websites starting in 2023. Combine that with last year’s similar announcement of plans to stop supporting 3P cookies, these changes make it even more difficult for marketers to deliver the personalized experiences, relevant content, and trusted human connections that our customers want.

In the realm of omnichannel marketing, trust is a two-way street. Marketers need a verifiable view of customers, and in turn, customers want to know they’re dealing with a company that knows who they are and what they want, respects their privacy, and can deliver consistently great experiences with the least friction possible.

With the rise of GDPR and CCPA compliance, two major pieces of privacy legislation, marketers have become very skilled at balancing the seemingly opposing forces of personalization and privacy. However, this new world without 3P cookies is even more transformational. In fact, a recent Epsilon study of US marketers found that 69% of marketers across industries say the elimination of 3P cookies will have an even greater impact than GDPR and CCPA.

While we’ll certainly miss the heyday of 3P cookies and their wealth of behavioral data, we can use this tectonic shift as an opportunity to accelerate digital transformation through a blend of innovative and time-tested marketing strategies.

Here are some things your team can do now to set yourself up for success.

Understand your reliance on 3P cookies

About 80% of marketers in the Epsilon survey said they depend on 3P cookies, which are used for more than just serving ads. When they are gone, it could disrupt key components of your digital marketing ecosystem, such as:

  • Personalization: Behavioral and browsing data will be limited, making it harder for marketers who depend on 3P cookies to personalize ads.
  • Campaign Management: Basic capabilities like A/B testing and frequency capping could be more challenging for marketers who depend on 3P cookies.
  • Performance Marketing: Analytics and attribution based on 3P cookies could be much less effective.

Regardless if you are just getting started or well down the path of implementing your strategy, make sure you clearly understand the extent of your organization’s reliance on 3P cookies by asking these important questions:

  • Do you connect with people based on 3P cookies or device IDs?
  • If you have an identity solution, does it use multiple identifiers or just one?
  • Do you use 3P cookies to gather signals and data about people so you can serve them relevant ads?
  • Does your third-party data targeting use 3P cookies?
  • How will losing 3P cookies affect your attribution measurement?

Answering these questions might feel intimidating and that’s okay. As you work through the details you’ll be empowered with the insights you need to create a present-day—and future— roadmap for where to focus for the rest of 2021 and beyond.

Make first-party data your #1 priority

Going forward, first-party (1P) data will be a common way to target and retarget advertising. Having the best possible historical data to work from can help provide insights in 2022 when it will form the backbone of your advertising strategy. Set yourself up for success by encouraging visitors to authenticate and give consent to 1P data collection. A trove of context-rich data will help your marketing team improve conversion rates on your owned channels and deliver a better customer experience. As part of this, you may want to invest in a Customer Data Platform (CDP), which makes it easier to aggregate a single view of your customers and take action on those insights in real time.

Double-down on time-tested marketing channels that deliver the highest ROI

Understanding the performance of all your marketing channels is critical to driving conversions, pipeline, growth, and customer engagement. Time-tested channels, like email marketing, deliver an ROI of $36:1, making it one of the most effective, high-performing marketing channels in your marketing toolbox today, and a proven customer engagement strategy that drives conversions. By opting into your communications, your email subscribers have invited you into their inboxes and given you explicit permission to connect on relevant content and offers. As you evaluate your omnichannel strategy, consider putting email first in your marketing mix to create personalized experiences, increase engagement with your campaigns, and improve performance of your overall marketing mix. And rest assured, I don’t just recommend this because I work at Litmus.

2021 already is proving to be a year of change, transformation, acceleration, and new beginnings on so many levels. As 3P cookies slowly fade away, marketing leaders need to focus on driving performance over the next 12 months, while simultaneously building a long-term customer strategy that will carry their companies through the next five years.

What are you doing to inform your future omnichannel strategy?

Originally published on April 6, 2021. Last updated on July 16, 2021.

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