How the Cookie Crumbles: What is the Future State of the Cookie?

By Jennifer Choo

KEY TAKEAWAY

The reign of first-party data is imminent and many companies need to shift their focus to first-party data collection. But transitioning and leveraging first-party data is about much more than creating your own cookies, initiating new forms, and establishing a robust database. How can marketing teams remain agile and adapt to the changes arising from the depreciation of the third-party cookie to ensure success?

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The digital marketing industry is built upon the rise and fall of trends and evolving strategies. Year after year, new methodologies evolve and take hold of the market, enabling marketing teams to do their jobs in more effective and efficient ways. The third-party cookie was a trend that revolutionized the world of marketing, giving teams deeper insights into customer preferences and allowing deeper forms of personalization to emerge.  
Over the past three years, we have seen the slow decline of the once-beloved third-party cookie as consumers begin to fully grasp data collection methodologies and question how their data is being utilized. The age of first-party data is upon us, and that means more transparent marketing practices, higher levels of compliance, and providing consumers with full control of when and where their data is captured and used. 
Rather than hyper-focusing on when and how the third-party cookie will take its final bow, marketing teams must look forward and plan rather than panic. Pivoting strategies on a dime is a skill many savvy marketers take pride in. Thankfully, marketing teams have time to adapt as plenty of notice has been given regarding the first-party data shift. 
 
So let’s explore what this fully transparent, first-party data-driven future has in store and what marketing teams can do or continue to scale to ensure success.

Leverage Fragmented Data

The current digital era is a fragmented one. With the ability to access information and shop anytime and anywhere, consumers interact with brands across a host of devices and platforms, creating fragmented data points. At first glancethis seems like it would be a roadblock, but that is not the case.

Fragmented interactions and data are the new normal, and that is not changing any time soon. Marketers must evolve to use these multichannel interactions to their advantage by collecting first-party data where they can and aggregating that data into a robust platform. In other words, it’s critical to engage customers, requesting that they share their data in smaller increments across a multitude of channels and bring that data back into one system, thus creating a full data profile.   

Many astute marketing teams began leveraging fragmented data years ago when engagement with longer form data collection methods dropped. This methodology leverages omnichannel marketing strategies to build first-party data profiles across a consumer base that has a very short attention span.

Keep Customers In the Know

With consumers calling for more transparency and large players like Apple and Google evolving their data collection methodologies to be completely first-party centric, marketing teams have no choice but to follow suit. Although it may seem intimidating, this is not a bad thing. In fact, marketers across the industry should view this as an opportunity to evolve and optimize their data with user-driven insights guaranteed to enhance their customer engagement and personalization strategies.

The future of first-party cookies and the data-driven economy gives consumers full control of their personal data; when it is collected, who has access to it, and what it can be utilized for. This means allowing customers to consensually provide their data and indicate what brands they would like to have access to it. Marketing teams that fully understand this, pivoting their strategies to make this a reality sooner rather than later, are the ones who will succeed. 

Focus on Quality not Quantity

Marketing is a numbers game. Number of marketing qualified leads (MQLs) and sales qualified leads (SQLS), number of views, number of clicks, number of conversions the list of measurable quantities goes on and on. In all of the KPI frenzy that is marketing reporting, quality can sometimes get cast aside for quantity. But this is never a good or sustainable practice.

Shrewd marketing teams know that quality eclipses quantity every time. The truth is that the sheer number of names in your database means nothing if they bear no quality in terms of relevance or interest in your brand’s products or services. While it may mean an initial dip in volume, this new age of first-party cookies requires a focus on quality. In other words, marketing teams must ensure the capture and utilization of quality consumer data to leverage in their strategies. Higher quality data means higher quality leads and all marketers know that qualified leads turn into higher ROI for their organizations. 

Stay Ahead of Compliance

Transitioning and leveraging first-party data is much more than creating your own cookies, initiating new forms, and establishing a robust database. It also involves adapting to ever-evolving data compliance and privacy laws which is more complicated than it seems. While data compliance is a newer concept, marketing teams have been adapting their strategies to align with emerging privacy laws for years.

Adapting to CAN-SPAM and general data protection regulation (GDPR) were heavy lifts for marketing teams, but these adaptations were preparation for the emerging data privacy laws and compliancy regulations of today and the future. The fact of the matter is, data regulations and privacy laws will keep evolving to appease the consumer call for more transparency and control over their digital property. The marketing teams that stay ahead of these new laws and regulations and adapt their strategies to be fully compliant will succeed in the long term. 

In Short

The slow demise of the third-party cookie is not a catastrophe for the marketing industry. In fact, it’s an opportunity for marketing teams to build out a strategy that will not only appease their consumers but it will also ensure optimization of their data quality, customer engagement, and personalization strategies.  
 
First-party data is the future of marketing. Marketing teams that remain agile and adapt to the ever-evolving changes are the ones who will solidify growth and ensure success.
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