CEO, Founder at KeyMedia Solutions. We are curious problem solvers helping SMBs achieve success through online advertising.
I love cookies. Chocolate chip, peanut butter, shortbread, white chocolate, monster—there is rarely a cookie I can do without. While I understand they are not good for me, they sure make my life better—in my foodie-loving life and in my marketing career. But as a digital marketer with a love for good data, I also understand that the time of traditional third-party cookies (the digital ones, at least) is coming to an end.
Cookies, the tasty morsels of data that help us understand and target our customers, have raised privacy concerns. As a result, regulations now require users to explicitly give permission before their data is collected through cookies (you’ve likely seen those pop-up consent forms on every website you visit).
The good news is there are alternative strategies to continue running effective marketing campaigns without relying heavily on cookies. Over the last several years, my agency has been exploring and testing various solutions for improving personalized marketing, preparing our company and clients for this shift in the status quo. In this article, I’ll walk you through six of the curated approaches we have tested with clients in hopes they will help your business thrive in this new era.
Use consent and customer data portals.
While this sounds like a complicated solution, chances are good that you experience this on a regular basis and have one in place on your own website. A consent management solution provides a little banner on a website asking new users to opt into the brand’s use of data collected during the visit. When the visitor clicks “accept,” they agree to the brand’s use of their data for marketing, messaging and other terms outlined in the fine print.
If you run an online store, consider using a consent and customer data portal to gain permission to gather and apply information. This allows you to collect and manage customer information with their permission while staying within the rules. You can still personalize their experience based on their preferences, just like cookies used to do, by applying insights from products viewed, pages visited, search activity, and items added to carts but not purchased.
Make the most of your own data.
Utilize your own customer data with their consent. Break down data silos within your organization to get a better overall picture. This can help you send personalized emails or recommend products based on past behavior.
Partner with trusted sources.
Collaborate with associations, partners, respected websites, or event organizers to access their customer data (with permission). For instance, if you sell fitness products, partnering with fitness magazines or fitness influencers can give you access to a relevant audience for targeted marketing.
Before jumping in headfirst, look for credible organizations that closely align with your best customers. Look for partnerships that provide a win-win outcome for your brand, the association, and its members. Reputable associations will not openly “sell” their member information; being an active member will add credibility to your request and build trust in the partnership. Most will offer paid advertising options, but I try to seek out agreements that go beyond an email sponsorship or paid ad placement.
Use AI for better insights.
AI tools can help you create models for predicting customer behavior. If you run a travel agency, for example, AI can help analyze your clients’ past travel patterns to suggest personalized vacation packages. This reduces the need for cookie data to make recommendations.
Tap identity resolution providers.
Identity resolution services are emerging to help brands map user identities across different devices and channels. The software uses technology to create individual identities that are able to identify unique user profiles across different devices (computer, phone, tablet, or connected television) and compile the data into one place for analysis.
While it’s a new field, some businesses in finance are using this to ensure a seamless customer experience without relying on cookies. With a more accurate, holistic view of their clients, banks are able to more accurately predict when an existing client may be in need of a home improvement loan. This allows them to provide information on their service for home equity lines of credit earlier in the process, making a better experience for their customer.
Leverage the walled gardens.
Big tech companies like Google, Meta and Amazon have tons of data. They’re willing to share some of it with those who advertise on their platforms. For example, Amazon is one of the few ad platforms that can provide direct sales data for advertisers. Similarly, Google runs the most-used search engines in the world, gathering insights into what each individual user is seeking in real time. If you run a retail business, you can use Google’s powerful targeting tools to reach specific customer groups that are in the market (currently looking for your product or service).
In conclusion, as cookies become less reliable, it’s crucial for business owners and marketing professionals to embrace these alternative strategies. The future of marketing lies in respecting user privacy while still delivering personalized and effective campaigns. By adopting these approaches and staying ahead of the curve, your business can succeed in a cookieless world without having to sacrifice the effectiveness of your marketing efforts.