Third-party cookies are a half-baked idea. The data is often far from perfect and that can cloud the strategies that are executed based on their insight. But the marketing and advertising industry has relied on them for decades, as the go-to tool for tracking activity across digital real estate, trying to better understand their customers and to respond to their demands for more tailored and personal experiences.
In fact, third-party cookies have almost completely crumbled, with both Apple and Mozilla having blocked that tracking on their browsers, and Google planning to follow suit soon. It’s a big change and an enormous challenge – for marketers, for CMOs and for the entire C-suite – because in the digital economy, understanding your customers and delivering compelling experiences have everything to do with growing your business, attracting new customers and increasing lifetime value of your existing customers.
If business is all about the customer, then their experience is everyone’s business
Every part of a business touches or draws on the customer experience (CX) now in some way – from sales to support, finance, IT, legal and compliance, supply and many more. So understanding how that experience is built and measured is paramount to everyone.
That extends across the C-suite, who already review and report on CX metrics. Strategies to secure and maintain the necessary permissions from customers for their data will need to be built out in collaboration with the entire business, to ensure compliance, transparency and effectiveness.
But the unfortunate reality is that most organisations simply aren’t ready. In fact, we recently conducted a survey of more than 13,000 marketing decision makers and technologists, and found that only 37% of businesses are ‘very prepared’ for a cookieless future. Instead, many are taking a ‘wait-and-see’ approach, which will inevitably result in kneejerk reactions and last-minute fixes, rather than carefully planned, long-term strategies. That opens a tremendous opportunity for decisive brands to act now and secure long-term advantage over slow-to-act rivals.
Moving from third- to first-party data – it’s going to be a team effort
The key to adapting to a post-cookie world is a shift to first-party data collection. These strategies are based on direct relationships with consumers, building customer profiles based on a variety of data sources, across a growing range of channels, while enforcing preferences every step of the way.
Critically, this data must be collected with user permission, so a central element is to encourage unknown visitors to authenticate or log in across websites or apps. As consumers become more cognisant of the worth of their personal information, they will be incentivised by value-adds – for example, through exclusive content or offers, time-saving personalisation, or recommending new relevant products.
CMOs can’t deliver this change alone
This isn’t a transition that can be driven by one person in an organisation. In fact, that mindset is a key factor in why so many businesses haven’t been able to prepare properly for a cookieless world. CIOs, CTOs, chief digital officers and even heads of commerce, legal, security and privacy all need to collaborate to identify the right technology solutions, implement them, rethink organisational structures and, finally, deliver compelling brand experiences, all while rethinking and rewiring the underlying processes that optimise insight and knowledge about customers.
Only when you break down these long-held silos can you truly unlock the potential of first-party customer data – combining CRM data with other sources such as web analytics and email engagement, offline and customer service data. Taking it a step further, by making these connections, you can adopt a real-time framework, continuously refreshing data on each customer profile with information from across the entire business. Suddenly, marketing, sales, operations and support teams can use common data sets to gain broader and deeper insight into their customers – and deliver better customer experiences that meet their ever-rising expectations.
At Adobe, we recently announced the next generation of Adobe Real-time Customer Data Platform (CDP), for first-party data-driven customer acquisition and engagement. It helps brands activate known and unknown customer data to manage their entire customer profile and journey seamlessly in one system, without the need for third-party cookies.
A sweeter future
We are faced with two inescapable truths: we are operating in a digital-first world where customers expect both more relevant experiences, and higher standards of data privacy and transparency. It’s a world where third-party cookies no longer have a place. Those brands that can strike the right balance will prosper for years to come.
It can be done. And what’s clear is that robust first-party data strategies, and arming teams across the business with the tools to execute them, will be at the centre of that success. Only then can we truly embrace a future of digital-first business practices and a more open customer relationship built on trust.
Matt Skinner is senior manager of product marketing at Adobe.