TL, DR: Google put yet another nail in the coffin of third-party tracking and targeting last Wednesday which adds to their announcement last year they’d phase out third-party cookies by 2022. Marketers and analytics professionals will need to lean into a “first-party first” data strategy, be prepared to integrate their data in new ways and build value exchange driven relationships with their customers.
Last Wednesday, Google drew a line in the sand, when it said it wouldn’t build or support cross-site identifiers, rejecting the opportunity to throw its weight behind any third-party cookie replacements.
For the last few years, marketers have been playing whack-a-mole with the changes to how browsers handle first and third-party cookies that were once critical to the way ads were targeted and campaigns were measured. But 2022 more than likely marks a point-of-no-return. Marketers won’t have to give up on trying to understand customer signals and measuring the effectiveness of their campaigns, but they do need to think of new ways to go about it.
So what happens next? Here are five things analytics, customer experience and marketing teams should be paying attention to and how they should prepare.
Walled gardens will turn into a refuge in the short term
The “walled gardens” of the adtech world saw this coming and have adjusted to continue to re-identify users using similar data to what a cookie was based on, now collected in a first-party setting and sent to the server-side. We’ve seen Facebook enter this fray with their Conversions API product and you’ll likely see other advertising giants find similar approaches.
While third-party cookies begin to decay, and adtech attempts to adapt, advertisers will rush to a consistent experience and reporting methodology offered by big names who have been preparing for this eventuality for the past year.
What you should do: Get a proprietary first-party data set ready now! As some data opportunities close, others will open. Choice and flexibility in the ways in which you go about getting first-party data and integrating it with downstream advertisers will be crucial. You’ll want tools (like Tealium) that provide you options to move quickly, adapt, and work across your stack.
Data collection becomes more difficult but increasingly important
For the past decade, it was relatively simple for marketers to get enough data to fuel campaigns and measurement; now data collection gets tougher and needs to have a strategy. In a world without third-party cookies (or similar replacements) you’ll need not only the right tools for collection but also an understanding of how you want to collect it (server-side, client-side) and where you want to use that data.
What you should do: Scaling efforts around first-party data collection can be solved in a myriad of ways, but coding your way to success isn’t the fastest approach. Look for data collection tools that are flexible enough for developers but simple enough for business users to take advantage of. Whether it’s building new integrations, setting up a new event feed, or just ensuring tracking a new campaign landing page is working – these tools allow businesses to make data a team sport.
Adtech needs brands not only for revenue
Brands that begin to offer second-party data co-ops like FloC need brands more than they are willing to say. Without brands providing them with first-party data, and offline conversion data, adtech brands won’t be able to sustain and power their offering. The value will be more in what the brands are now bringing to the table versus the technology that adtech is able to provide. Expect this to adjust the margins brands are willing to contribute towards adtech’s bottom line when they begin to realize the value. Also, forget being able to leverage this data in other channels, at least in the short term.
What you should do: Reduce dependency on cookie-based targeting, and evolve ways of working to orchestrate across data sources.
Get executives comfortable with reporting changes
Dashboards, reporting, and attribution are all going to be in a continual state of shift over the course of the next 18 months as brands continue to adjust the way that they collect, purchase, and report in digital media. As the industry rolls out new offerings and brands test it out, expect large shifts as standards begin to be set.
What you should do: Start to build a data center of excellence. Bring internal and external teams together to continue to set expectations, and using actual sales as the main measure will be key over the short term. Quickly evaluating technology opportunities through trials and POCs will be needed to adjust. You can learn more about building the right teams around your data here.
Sharing data will get messy
Brands have been striving more than ever over the past five years to get their data set at the point of collection in a standard format for their organization (or Adobe/Google’s unique languages), and have built the ETL processes to sustain this internally.
We may be moving back to a world where brands begin to ‘share’ mass amounts of proprietary data with one another, that we are back to some of the basics of data scrubbing or data engineering spending large amounts of time to understand what has been provided to them.
What you should do: Companies need to understand what they are sharing and receiving, and the amount of time it will take to make it usable for them. Technology and partners that can help to support this will become increasingly more important to support internal data analysis/engineering teams.
Consent and privacy is solely a brand’s problem
Google has made the statement, relayed on Adweek‘s Town Hall, that they do not believe in probabilistic stitching of individuals (finger-printing and IP address look-ups), and will begin to block it in the browser. Pair this with the privacy push to have a first-party relationship with a client, and you have a consent/value exchange problem ahead for brands.
Without the ability to track someone anonymously around the internet, brands need to take an introspective look at themselves and understand what value they have to a consumer that engages with them that is worthy of getting that customer’s email address or phone number. Consumers will trend to a secure way of logging in/sharing their information IF the value exchange is there, so expect to see Google, Facebook, and Twitter as key options for SSO going forward, and don’t be surprised when Apple and Amazon enter the game (along with a slew of other providers with ‘open source’ options).
What you should do: Create value exchange for important identifiers. Enhance digital resources and content and provide a personalized experience. Current and future visitors will increase online authenticated visits through strong value exchange.
As with everything in adtech and martech, change is the only constant. The time for marketers to address the uncertainty is now. Learn more about a first-party data strategy in our ebook, “It’s Time to Change Your Data Strategy: Shifting to First-Party Data for a Better Customer Experience.”