The Cookie-pocalypse: Understanding the Implications for Digital Marketing and Customer Experience

How is your company preparing for the coming cookie-pocalypse? Though we’ve started to see ripples as Firefox and Safari have limited or stopped supporting third-party cookies, the game-changer will be when Chrome, the most-used browser worldwide, stops supporting third-party cookies. Chrome has announced third-party cookies will be phased out by 2022. If you’re not preparing to shift your strategy now, there’s no time to waste.

The end of third-party cookies will fundamentally change digital marketing strategies across industries and have major implications for delivering a great customer experience.

What is “The Cookie-pocalypse?”

Before diving into what your organization can do now, let’s review a few basics about cookies. Cookies have been around for 25 years and have been the default way to track user web behavior across the Internet. First-party cookies are placed by the domain you are visiting, and can help optimize your visit by loading pages more quickly, supporting shopping cart functionality and enabling user preferences. First-party cookies can only be accessed by the domain that created it (the one you’re browsing).

Third-party cookies are placed by other domains rather than the one you’re visiting. These cookies allow websites to serve ads based on your past browsing behavior, but third-party cookies also can enable social sharing or chatbot functionality. As more browsers block third-party cookies ,remarketing and cross-site tracking will both be especially hard hit by the deprecation of third-party cookies.

3 Ways to Prepare Now, and 3 Things to Watch For

How to Prep…

1. Collect Data at Every Stage of the Buying Journey

Now is the time to start collecting data (if you haven’t already). Companies with first-party data (email addresses, phone numbers, or mailing addresses) can choose from a number of platforms that will match the uploaded data to digital customers online. Google and Facebook are two obvious options, but credit reporting agencies, list brokers and other companies also provide offline-to-online data matching services. Companies with more data collected from past and current customers as well as prospects will be less impacted by the elimination of third-party cookies. If your database also includes past web behavior (blog articles viewed, past purchases, past emails clicked) you’ll even be able to tailor your offers to deliver on a better customer experience.

Don’t have the data? Offer valuable content to collect email addresses and other data from prospects. Reengage past customers with relevant offers. Map out your buyer journeys and ensure you’re able to collect useful data at every stage that will allow for continued engagement, including data that identifies what stage a prospect or customer is in and when that changes.

2. Test Out In-App Advertising

iOS and Android devices already have a persistent way to identify individuals. If your company isn’t already testing mobile app advertising, now is the time to learn where your prospects and customers are and what offers entice them to act. There are more than 2 million apps available for smartphones, but not all are created equal. Which apps offer advertising that your audience will engage with, and which apps have intrusive advertising that hurts your brand?

3. Develop Emotionally Resonant Brand Advertisements

Speaking of brand, as it becomes more difficult for companies to target prospects and customers with hyper-specific advertisements, we may see an increase in brand advertisements that appeal to a broader population. Developing emotionally resonant messages that can be leveraged across a broad spectrum of advertising platforms (mobile, desktop, in-app) would be well worth your time now.

Be Wary Of…

1. More Difficult Marketing Attribution

As third-party cookies are phased out in Chrome, companies will have an increasingly difficult time with digital attribution for multi-touch conversions. This is already a problem for consumers using Firefox and Safari. Advertisers can see which campaigns lead to purchases, but have difficulty seeing which users clicked or purchased.

Google, due to its dependency on ad revenue, may be developing other ways to track and attribute user behavior. If successful, a reliable attribution mechanism would make Google advertising more appealing.

Barring that, companies will need to develop other ways to track and attribute behavior or rely on other KPIs. Our on-demand webinar covers our method of measuring and optimizing ALL of your marketing channels – even direct response and broad reach – so it’s no longer a guessing game on which channels drive demand.

2. Rise in Personalized Experience Expectations (despite the new increase in privacy controls)

According to Accenture Interactive’s Personalization Pulse Check report, 91% of consumers are more likely to shop with brands who recognize, remember, and provide relevant offers and recommendations specific to them. While many applaud additional privacy controls, consumers may not realize the implications of this major shift in digital advertising. Companies that can deliver a personalized customer experience despite the shift will win—both loyalty and new business.

3. 2020 Pandemic Implications

We’d be remiss if we didn’t address the pandemic happening now. COVID-19 has fundamentally shifted societal behaviors. Consumers are inundated by messages from every company they’ve encountered explaining how each is addressing the pandemic, but brands that are cutting through the clutter are few and far between.

Successful brands are empathetic and speak to both our shared current experience and how the future has changed. Though media consumption has increased during the pandemic, many consumers are experiencing financial hardship and company budgets may be frozen. Companies that can drive engagement, are aware of changing buyer behavior, and increase brand affinity now will see success in the long term.

The Key Amidst These Changes: A Customer Experience Lens

Though the deprecation of third-party cookies will be a major shift, digital is just one aspect of a company’s overall customer experience. Companies that focus on understanding their customer or buyer journeys and delivering great customer experience at every stage (regardless of channel) will continue seeing success.