The end is nigh for targeting customers via Cookies ... are you ready?

The end is nigh for targeting customers via Cookies … are you ready?

If a website asks you to ‘accept’ its cookies, do you say yes? Cookies let sites track your activity – a disturbing thought for some people who value their online privacy, even though the intent may be benign. 

Cookies are a commonly used method to offer personalised browsing experiences through ads and content suggestions. However, data privacy concerns and Google’s move to eventually phase out cookies have essentially put this method on the proverbial death row. 

Cookie-based targeting is becoming obsolete, and marketers need to adapt to a cookieless future. Is your company prepared for this transition?

The looming threat: A cookieless future

Web cookies have been around since the internet’s youth and have been used by websites to track user activity, gathering relevant data for content personalisation and marketing. While data privacy laws like GDPR gave users the ability to refuse cookies, it was not until 2020 that Google initiated the extinction of cookie-based targeting, culminating in the gradual deactivation of cookies this year. 

Google will eventually phase out cookies in Chrome by 2025, but the UK digital marketing scene appears to be caught unprepared. A recent report by YouGov revealed that 26% of UK marketers depend on third-party cookies, and 56% of the same are not well acquainted with alternative ad targeting methods. These respondents believe that it may take anywhere from six months to a year to prepare, even as around 48% of their peers are uncertain about the future of ad targeting. 

The general lack of a transition strategy should be a cause of concern for many businesses. The loss of cookies will leave marketers near-blind to their audience’s behaviour. This can result in poorly targeted advertising and user experience, as well as costly scattergun approaches that bring in disappointing ROI. 

Getting ready for the future: Alternative solutions

The first step is to shift from third-party information to first-party data, which is data businesses directly collect from their potential customers. There are many ways to get your audience to willingly share the information you need, from engaging them with content to incentivising opt-ins. 

You will, however, need a solid strategy in place. Here’s where to start:

  1. Consider your customer’s objectives. Understanding your customer’s aims will help you come up with a plan to engage them in creative ways that address their needs.
  2. Invest in relevant tech. Customer relationship management (CRM) systems will be very useful in managing customer data in the coming cookieless era. Generative AI will also play a key role in the process, from creating deeply personalised messaging to smart automation.
  3. Offer value. Don’t just beg for your data; offer incentives like gift checks and discounts to encourage customers to hand over the information you need.
  4. Test and learn. Look at all the data you’ve collected and determine what’s most relevant to you. Test by incorporating them to your messaging and campaigns, with offering the best customer experience as your primary goal.
  5. Monitor relevant metrics to refine your method. Perform split testing methods to understand which data points convert, and improve your methods as you go.
  6. Prepare your digital marketing team. A world without cookies is an entirely different digital landscape, and upskilling your marketing team to new methods and technologies is necessary.

About Sam P

EnterpriseZone Staff Writer

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