Tips for Marketing in a Cookie-less World

It’s been almost a year since Google announced its plan to begin phasing out third-party cookies at some time within the next 24 months. Ever the competitor, Apple one-upped their rival by revealing their own plan to block third-party cookies in the near future as well.

Let’s start from the top. Cookies have been a staple of the online experience since the internet started showing up in homes across the world  (meaning 1994), and have served a number of truly useful functions for advertisers and alike. Essentially bit-sized bundles of data that shed light on your browsing habits, cookies have come under scrutiny for revealing a little too much.

Much of the digital advertising industry is cookie-dependent, and the uncertain future has some marketers concerned about the future. The silver lining? Everyone will be dealing the same issue.

In this article, I’ll go over 5 tips for digital marketing strategies in a world without cookies.


1. First-Party Data

Cookies are great for finding new customers who may be interested in your brand’s products or services. But first-party data still takes the cake (no pun intended).

If you’re unfamiliar with the term, first-party data refers to the information your company has compiled directly from your audience. This includes site visitors, social media followers, and of course, customers.

First-party data can be collected by placing a pixel to your website which captures the important customer actions and online behaviors on your site and social media profiles. It can also be obtained through form submissions, such as a newsletter or email subscription.

The primary use of this information is to build retargeting campaigns that keep first-time customers coming back for more. Additionally, you can use it to learn more about the profile of your ideal customer (think age and gender demographics, location, etc.), and market those users who share characteristics with your customers.

If you know how to compile and leverage the first-party data available to your business, you can dramatically minimize the impact of cookies going away.


2. Make Content That Users Want to See

This sounds so obvious that it’s not worth mentioning. But, in a cookie-less future, businesses that are able to capture the attention of audiences without needing to seek them out will have a tremendous advantage.

Don’t just post without taking SEO into consideration either. You can have the best information on the internet, but if people can’t find you, it’s going to go to waste.

Remember the importance of obtaining first-party data? Driving traffic to your site is the best way to do that. Additionally, if your business sells products online, website traffic can turn into dollars quickly.


3. Focus on Social Media

This won’t come as a surprise to anyone in the industry, but social media advertising has become an absolute necessity. Traditional web browsing has slowed down significantly as mobile users are spending the bulk of their time on various applications and social media platforms that are catered to their viewing experience.

Leverage your following to learn more about the types of people who are most interested in your brand. Social media can be a great place to hear customer feedback and engage in a two-way conversation that turns first-time buyers into customers for life.

If you know how to execute them effectively, social media ad campaigns can almost single-handedly provide you the audience you need to be successful.


4. Look Out for New User-ID Capabilities

Just because cookies as we know them might be going away, that doesn’t mean all forms of browsing identification will be lost. It’s too early to say what the future of online user identification and categorization will look like, but Google’s ‘Privacy Sandbox‘ gives us some insight into what it could be moving forward.

The specifics of how this feature would function are yet to be fully ironed out, but the general idea is that it would place users anonymously in a specific subset of data to be used for behavioral tracking. In theory, it would be the best of both worlds: the privacy of users would be respected, and advertisers would still have some forms of useful data.

It’s still too early to say if this idea will come to life. Google has been mentioning it for a couple of years without much progress, which has led to some industry experts believing that it may never come to life as they’ve described. Regardless, this model of anonymous data is the most likely solution for targeted ads when cookies disappear.


5. Diversify and Test

The best way to make sure you’re covering all your marketing bases is by getting your brand exposure on as many platforms as possible. Believe it or not, this won’t come at a huge cost, and you can gain valuable insights about your customers to use in the future.

One of the most common mistakes seen across the board in digital marketing is a reluctance to test and adjust strategies. Even the most proficient marketers can’t always predict which campaigns will be successful. By setting up multi-channel marketing campaigns with slight variations in creative, targeting, and objectives, you can see what is working and then optimize campaigns with that information in mind.

There’s no question that the removal of cookies is going to force marketers to think outside the box. Those who refuse to adapt to the modern online environment are going to get left behind.


Wrapping Up

Perhaps the most challenging aspect of the cookie-less future is that there’s still so much uncertainty. Though tech giants like Google and Apple have pledged to do away with third-party tracking data, until it actually happens, nobody knows exactly what it will look like.

It’s entirely possible that we’re in the beginning stages of a digital marketing sea change that won’t resemble anything like what we’ve come to expect in the past. As concerning as that thought might be, it’s also an opportunity for innovation.

We’ll continue to update you as more information becomes available regarding this topic.