How leaders are preparing for a future without cookies

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By the end of 2024, third-party cookies will be officially phased out. Although the timeline for the “cookie crumblehas been consistently bumped, it’s going to happen. With this in mind, forward-thinking leaders are working on strategies to ensure their companies don’t lose control of lead generation when the curtain finally falls on cookie production.

That said, some leaders still look the other way. A Adobe study indicates that about three-quarters of marketers will still be leaning toward — rather than away from — third-party cookies in 2023. In fact, sixty-four percent told researchers they would spend more this year than last year on campaigns that rely on third-party cookies. While this isn’t necessarily a bad thing since third-party cookies are still out there, it begs a big question: Are they hoping against their better judgment for yet another “cookie death” delay?

Avoiding the inevitable is not a smart way to run a railroad or a modern business. While you can certainly still enable third-party cookies, you owe it to your company to find alternative ways to stay competitive in a cookie-free universe. Below are some methods that other entrepreneurs, CEOs and executives are putting into motion to get ahead of their peers.

1. They prioritize first-hand data.

When third-party cookies fall by the wayside, you need to rely on first-hand data to learn more about your audience and customers. First-hand data can only be collected if people agree to give you their information. And luckily, 80% of consumers said they would hand over some of their private data to brands, according to one Research from Sailthru and Coresight Research. The only caveat? They wanted the exchange to bring them some sort of value.

As noted by Kristina Prokop in a Wired article, this type of exchange can only take place after a high level of trust has been established between the brand and the buyer. Prokop, general manager of Dun & Bradstreet, says: “The evolution we are moving into is a world focused on direct interaction with consumers… The [first-party] data in its entirety can be used to learn more about your customers, build segments of who you want to reach and figure out how to communicate with them.”

If you haven’t yet come up with a plan to engage the audience on a deeper level so they’re willing to give you first-hand data, do it now. Also, make sure you have a centralized place to store and retrieve the data you capture. That way you can make the most of it.

2. They are more transparent.

Remember the days when you didn’t realize websites were collecting information about you? Today, it is becoming more and more common for companies to offer pop-ups for privacy settings. Not only does this make sense from a regulatory perspective, but it also gives users more control. People appreciate when brands are transparent about their practices. Increasing your transparency factor can help drive fairer, more meaningful interactions with target markets.

This is not just anecdotal. Research shows that transparent companies are poised to have a stronger connection with their customer base. A study of Cassie found that 82% of consumers said they would be more likely to share personal information with a transparent brand. Therefore, it only makes sense to refresh and rework your website to ensure people put their privacy first.

As a side note, rest assured we’ll see more privacy laws develop. The sooner you position your business as on the consumer side, the better off you’ll be in the long run asking for first-hand data.

3. They experiment with incentives.

“Why?” That’s the guiding question to ask yourself when developing consumer data collection strategies. Why would anyone want to give you their details? Why would they see this as a valid trade? Why do some people choose and others choose your requests for their name, email address or other identifier?

Resist the temptation to overlook the importance of asking and answering these questions. As Diane Keng, CEO and co-founder of Breinify, writes for a VentureBeat piece, “This is valuable information and consumers know it. You have to give to get something – and I’m not talking about a weekly email with a few coupons. The incentive must be of real value to the consumer.”

What will motivate your target audience? The best way to find out is through a series of tests. Be sure to measure each test to find out what works well. Doing this now will give you a head start by the time cookies go out of style. You may also consider collaborating with others inside and outside your industry who are doing the same. These can be media agencies, tech entities or even startups. Letting your company be a testing ground for an innovative startup can be a winning move.

4. They highlight new ways of evaluating data.

Knowing that first-party data will soon be the only data that matters, many companies are exploring ways to use it most effectively. This includes Michael Hamburger, co-founder and CEO of digital marketing agency Ezzey. His company has made shifts in data collection and analysis based on the evolution of the importance of first-party data.

Hamburger, for example, doubles down on using first-hand data to drive decision-making. “Harnessing the power of data is our top priority,” he notes. “It will guide us in our strategic direction, enabling informed decisions and insights into customer behavior, market trends and business performance.” As such, he and his team invest in emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence and machine learning to enhance data analytics, automation and personalized marketing and foster an adaptable culture of innovation and continuous improvement.

Rest assured that more and more tools and solutions will emerge to help companies get the most out of their first-party data and drive engagement and loyalty. Make the transition smoother by becoming familiar with the latest innovations to hit the market.

Third-party cookies may be retired, but data collection will never go out of style. To succeed, make changes this year so you don’t feel like you’re being forced to go through “dietary restrictions” when cookies are no longer available.