Entrepreneurs

The Cookiepocolypse Is Here. How to Get Back to Basics So You Don’t Miss a Beat

After 20 years of relying on third-party cookies for internet advertising, the cookiepocolypse is here.

This March, Google confirmed that it would end third-party cookies by 2022, with no alternative to the marketing technology, which tracks users’ movements across the internet. Apple, last spring, blocked third-party cookies on Safari.

Though the end of third-party cookie tracking is a big win for consumer privacy, companies that have been reliant on the marketing technology are in for a big adjustment. The transition will be even harder for small companies, which tend to have fewer resources to weather shocks. But there is hope. For companies that can pivot into the collection of first-party data–that is, information collected directly from consumers–the end of third-party cookies won’t be as tough to stomach.

Gone are the days of just being able to ply one potentially interested consumer with ads wherever they go online, says Grayson Lafrenz, CEO and founder of marketing consultancy Power Digital. Now, companies will need to build out and better utilize their own customer lists and amp up their customer service efforts. They may also need to invest in good old-fashioned advertising again.

Ultimately, surviving the end of cookies will require focusing on customer relationships and experience unlike ever before. These recommendations will get you started.

Perfect your first impression

Now that you won’t be able to use cookies to track consumers who abandon their carts or browse their sites, you have to get it right, right away. “We need to be more effective as advertisers on our first touch with a prospect,” Lafrenz says. “And the best way to do that is to have incredibly compelling creative that sells the product.” 

First-party data depends on motivating consumers to share their identities on that first interaction, and the same methods won’t work for everyone. Deniz Ibrahim, vice president of marketing at retail technology company Bluecore, suggests enticing visitors with unique welcome messages and various signup or stay-in-touch banners or visuals. Alina Clark, co-founder of PDF editor Cocodoc, shares that offering free, time-based incentives, including a product trial, increased Cocodoc signups by up to 80 percent.

Digital marketing platform Listrak provides ”tap-to-join’ text marketing technology, which allows consumers to consent and join text or mobile alerts without even typing in their phone numbers. Once you get contact information, you can bring the customer back to the online store without spending money on Facebook or Google, says Listrak’s CEO and founder Ross Kramer. Clark also points to content strategy–such as solid SEO and guest blogging–as an alternative to cookies for driving traffic back to your site.

Customize and personalize

The best first-party data comes from dedicated consumers. “There is that emotional connection from the start,” says Thom Vest, founder of consultancy Studio Seven. “If someone stops and leans into your brand or your product or your service long enough to give you their information and answer questions, that is a far cry from what third-party information has ever been able to do.”

Having consumers see different products and content on the landing page will be the future with first-party data, says Justin Anovick, chief product officer at Optimizely, a digital experience platform. This personalization relies on capturing activity such as what the consumer purchased or added to their cart, what the consumer viewed, and how they navigated the site. And, the more progressive the preferences you can add to the website, such as product type filters or preference quizzes, the more information you gather for segmentation and personalization upon visitors’ return, Kramer advises.

Personalization and customization should apply to all outreach. “Think of your email marketing as a bank or an ATM: you need to make more deposits than you make withdrawals,” Lafrenz says. With a consumer-data platform, a collection of software that organizes and synthesizes first-party data across digital and in-person interactions, you can create consumer profiles from your data to support customized direct marketing techniques, Anovick adds. Clark, for example, uses what she calls “identity graphs” to cross-connect data from web and mobile for specific customers. 

Nurture your networks

Without cookies, you lose the ability to re-target and nurture customers who visited your site. Because of this, Vest predicts referral networks will grow in popularity. “We’re in an age now where everyone is an influencer to some degree, and there is power in sharing and talking about things they are passionate about,” he says. For example, you can create codes that individual users share with their networks for rewards upon use. With these codes, you can also track referral pipelines to further develop consumer profiles, Vest says.

Vest also recommends devising a subscription service. It adds a source of income and provides a steady communication stream to ask direct questions to customers. He even suggests creating subscription boxes in collaboration with other companies that have similar customers or products, which will allow you to reach their audiences and collect more data.

“Community and collaboration are the king of content creation because when you get multiple people together that are inspired and that are interested in the same thing, that’s where the magic happens,” Vest says. Lafrenz agrees that cross-promoting with companies that provide adjacent products will help flesh out your first-party data lists with relevant and new consumers and insights.

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