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The approaching end of third-party cookies is top-of-mind for marketers, many of whom are wondering how they can pivot toward getting more first-party data.

How brands will make the most of that first-party data will redefine online marketing. The effort begins with gaining not only the attention of customers but also their trust—their belief that your brand's content, products, and experience are worth a piece of their privacy.

Without the tracking cookies and targeted advertising that have become so common across the Internet over the years, marketers will be exploring alternative strategies for collecting data and connecting with customers. One strategy will stand out: the creation of compelling digital experiences that encourage audiences to willingly share their data in return for the ability to engage with the content.

Brands need creative online content that strikes an emotional chord, that tells a story, that moves beyond transactional thinking to instead embrace the human experience. The brands that do that well will gain a new trove of valuable buyer information while also respecting customer privacy. Those that fail will be floundering amid the new digital marketing reality.

First-Party Data, Please

In hindsight, brands should have seen the "Cookiepocalypse" looming. They gorged on third-party cookies so greedily that their gluttonous cross-site ad targeting started freaking everyone out—privacy advocates, of course, but also typical consumers who were spooked about everyone on the Internet knowing everywhere they'd been.

So, Apple and Google are moving to restore a degree of online privacy by eliminating brands' ability to track user behavior across multiple websites—the end of third-party cookies.

What will emerge from such a monumental change for digital advertising and marketing is yet to become clear, but the value of first-party data—particularly the information customers choose to give you—will be front and center. Without it, marketing troubles lie ahead.

The publishing industry will have to replace up to $10 billion in ad revenue with a combination of first-party data, updated contextual targeting, and probabilistic audience modeling, a recent McKinsey analysis suggested.

How will brands get that first-party data? They will have to ask website visitors through required registrations (an email address) or an explicit request for personal information for access.

"After the loss of third-party cookies and identifiers," the McKinsey report said, "advertisers and publishers will find that the value of direct engagement with consumers will further increase. To create consumer connections, advertisers and publishers should create experiences that consumers consider worthwhile."

Read that last part again: Create experiences that consumers consider worthwhile.

Making Your Digital Experience a Great First Date

We know the digital experiences that consumers consider worthwhile. They're experiences that are not boring. They're not purely transactional, but rooted in the human experience. They are, in the true sense of the word, engaging.

They are creative, dynamic, and immersive, and they stand out amid a sea of lifeless, cookie-cutter static Web experiences. Interactive infographics, games and quizzes, landing pages, and presentations can take buyers on a journey to understand more about your products and brand.

They make visitors active, not passive, participants. They tell a story, which can touch people on an emotional level and hold their attention.

Your digital experience is your brand's introduction to a customer. How engaging and interactive it is plays two roles:

  1. Through first-party cookies, you can track your customers' journey on your website to better understand their interests, interactions, and behavior, as well as what is working on your website and what is steering people away.
  2. You're courting a relationship. In a digital universe without third-party cookies, think of your digital experience like online dating. Is your profile informative, clever, or humorous enough to get someone to reach out? After that initial conversation, have you demonstrated that you are worth giving an email address or phone number to? After a few dates, is what they see really what they get?

The end of third-party cookies will require brands to earn the trust of customers like never before. Your digital experience will imply or perhaps explicitly offer a trade: If you give us your email address or other first-party data such as where you work and where you live, we will provide content and more digital experiences you will find meaningful and worth your time. Perhaps that content is a newsletter or further insights. Perhaps that content is an online experience customized to the needs of the individual buyer.

But you won't be able to develop that relationship if your initial introduction doesn't go well. Avoid that awkward first date.

Marketers will need a bunch of first-party data to succeed in a third-party-cookieless world. The promise of creative, interactive content is how they will get it.

More Resources on First-Party Data

A Five-Point Plan for First-Party Data

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

How Marketers Can Generate Their Own First-Party Intent Data

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How Creative Digital Experiences Will Save Us When Third-Party Cookies Crumble

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image of Jamie Gier

Jamie Gier is the CMO at Ceros a content creation platform. She has extensive experience scaling and growing businesses by creating effective brands, designing revenue-generating go-to-market strategies, and leading high-performing teams across product marketing, corporate communications, public relations, digital marketing, and demand creation.

LinkedIn: Jamie Gier