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By now, we've all heard about Google's decision to delay removing third-party cookies from the Chrome browser until late 2023. The delay, which gives businesses two more years to prepare their first-party data strategies, is a relief for most marketers.

So, what should brands do with this time to ensure they can achieve contextually relevant personalization come 2023—regardless of Google's plans?

1. Focus on fully using first-party customer data

First-party data is collected from the organic interactions with customers across brands' own channels and devices.

Begin your planning with an in-depth assessment of your first-party needs:

  • Identify data gaps that will be exposed from a customer, channel, and behavior perspective that may not be able to be filled by first-party data sources.
  • Question whether your first-party data sources can be replaced with other data sources—such as zero-party data, second-party data, or even purchased third-party data.
  • Start evaluating technologies and techniques to help advance the collection and management of customer-level first-party data. That includes granular data collection technologies, as well as identity management and resolution processes.

As brands focus on first-party data and related tools, they will undoubtedly deal with more pure-play advertising methods to gain new customers (unknown users)—the work previously done by third-party data tools. Brands that maintain their ad delivery and analytics tools will have more control over where their advertising dollars are spent, which will lead to improved digital trust.

2. Apply analytics to first-party data to create growth

To gain necessary insight from first-party data, brands should start applying analytics now to their data so that by 2023 they have intelligence that can be used.

Start working to understand important customer metrics, including customer lifetime value (CLV or CLTV), Net Promoter Score (NPS), and other propensity-related metrics based on first-party data sources.

Also, consider how you can adopt what McKinsey refers to as the "growth triple play"—combining the use of creativity, analytics, and purpose to drive growth.

Organizations that apply analytics with purpose to spark creativity grow considerably faster than those that don't, McKinsey states. Applying analytics with purpose involves understanding various analytics types in more detail, knowing what type of data is needed to support those analytical types, and then preparing for the downstream steps of activation and automation.

3. Quit current bad data practices

The discontinuation of the third-party cookie will likely be a blessing in disguise for brands in the long-term. Why? Third-party cookies today are responsible for collecting user data on behalf of brands for the main purpose of behaviorally targeted advertising. Collecting such data allows brands to essentially "follow" you around the Internet.

But the data isn't always collected with the express permission of the user. Brand reliance on third-party cookies has led to poor marketing practices. Just because you can follow your visitors across digital domains doesn't mean you should.

Start considering now what the future of behavioral targeting looks like in your organization.

At first, replacing third-party data with first-party data may be a hassle from a data integration and security perspective. But it will ultimately benefit both brand and consumer if done correctly.

Plan data model creation, data movement, and other data processes with future first-party data needs in mind.

4. Establish and improve digital trust

Digital trust—the confidence that customers have in a brand's people, processes, and technology to create a secure digital world—is a hot topic today. Big tech brands are making the news for data breaches, and consumers have become very wary as to how they share their personal data.

As third-party cookies go away and brands are forced to rely on other data collection methods, a well-communicated "first-party data first" strategy will undoubtedly result in an increased level of digital trust between brand and consumer.

Brands must communicate a clear value exchange for the collection of first-party data. That means customers must understand what advantages they will gain by sharing their personal data—such as preferred access, options, and discounts. That exchange is much better for both brand and customer than the typical impermissible collection exercises of cross-domain behavioral tracking applications.

When you explain to customers the change to first-party data, the value exchange that will result, and the ways your brand will adapt to the change, they will understand that their privacy is being respected.

5. Activate and automate data processes for the future

Once brands have made the shift to deriving insights from a comprehensive data platform, they'll be ready to activate those insights.

Activation often includes disseminating information to groups and departments within the organization to educate them and thus improve the overall experience a customer has with your brand. However, activation also includes customer engagement, providing the means for omnichannel journey orchestration, the real-time sending and receiving of event information, and integration with other marketing technologies.

Once the process of moving from data to insight to activation is set up and thoroughly tested, you can make it repeatable with common process automation tools.

* * *

The best strategy for handling the demise of the third-party cookie is to plan on making the move to first-party data. That will include performing a first-party data assessment, applying analytics to your first-party data for useful insights, and then activating and automating those insights for business growth—all while removing bad data practices and communicating your new approach.

As you work through the progression, you may not miss those third-party cookies as much as you thought you would.

More Resources on First-Party Data

How Marketers Can Generate Their Own First-Party Intent Data

Why the Internet's Most Valuable Commodity Is First-Party Data

Chin up, Marketers: The Demise of Third-Party Cookies Isn't All Bad

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image of Jonathan Moran

Jonathan Moran is a global product marketing manager at SAS, with a focus on customer experience and marketing technologies. He has 20+ years of marketing and analytics industry experience.

Twitter: @jmmoran12

LinkedIn: Jonathan Moran