For years, marketers have been using third-party cookies as a way to better understand and track their target audience. But all of that is about to change, thanks to the cookie blocking rules being implemented by major internet browsers including Google, Firefox, and Safari.

Consumers have grown tired of unknown entities tracking their behavior across the web without their knowledge or consent and, therefore, demands from consumers for more privacy surrounding the use of their personal data have grown stronger.  This has resulted in increased privacy regulation (GDPR, CCPA, etc.) which have forced the ad tech ecosystem to update their approach. While Firefox and Safari have already permanently blocked third-party cookies, the biggest blow to marketers came when Google announced it would also be phasing out third-party cookies and alternate identifiers on Google Chrome due to these privacy concerns. 

As a quick refresher, third-party cookies work by collecting data from website visitors which allows companies to track their behavior around the internet, even after they leave a website. These cookies have been critical to helping marketers understand their target audience behaviors and how to bring back their potential customers with targeted display advertising.

First-party data, on the other hand, is the data collected directly from visitors to your own website. It includes data volunteered by your prospects such as contact information like email, phone number and address (also referred to as zero party data). Consumer data given directly to the brand with consent is true marketing gold. While this first-party information is very valuable, it offers a narrower view of consumer behavior, tracking only visitor activity on the advertiser’s website, rather than across the web.

So, how can marketers plan for the loss of this behavioral data when Google fully blocks third-party cookies and alternate identifiers in 2022?

Since marketers will no longer be able to compile data via cookies from third-party sites – and considering that their retargeting efforts will also be considerably diminished by cookie blocking, marketers will have to uncover new strategies to learn about and re-engage their audience.

Marketers must embrace strategies that put the consumer in control of their data
The consumer privacy trends are pretty clear: Each new law grants consumers more control over their data. Ultimately, we’re all consumers, so we should respect that this is a good thing. As marketers, why fight it? We must get ahead of the trends and adopt strategies to succeed in this new environment.

Capturing first party data with explicit consumer consent will be the best way to engage prospects in the future.   

As Marnie Levan, Maybelline’s VP of Integrated Consumer Communications, recently said, “Personal data that somebody is opting to give us is better quality information than making assumptions based on who visits the website or goes to a makeup foundation page, and then we retarget them.”  Ideally, marketers only reach out to consumers who have given their prior express written consent to be contacted. There is no better quality of data than that which is voluntarily given with consent. We refer to this practice as “consent-based marketing”. 

Consent-based marketing respects the rights of consumers and fosters a closer one-to-one relationship between the advertiser and consumer — one that’s founded on trust and transparency. Creating direct relationships with consumers can also help advertisers learn and solicit information about customer preferences with accurate first party data – not inferred behavioral data. If done correctly, consent-based marketing can be a very cost-effective and scalable channel for pulling in new customers from across the web.

First-party data is great, but let’s face it: acquiring it at scale is really hard.

After all, your own website offers only a limited opportunity for collecting first-party data. For example, a consumer packaged good company might want to engage in a direct-to-consumer relationship with their customers utilizing first-party data. Companies often try to leverage loyalty programs for this purpose. However, their target customers typically have no reason to visit their website. Marketers must go to where these consumers are online to establish the initial relationship. 

Working with partners is essential for scaling consent-based marketing campaigns to capture first-party data.

As great as your site might be, it will never have the traffic of a media site. Face it: If you want to engage with consumers online, you have to meet them where they are, such as major ad platforms like Facebook and Google. Both Facebook and Google offer Lead Ad products that allow you to capture first-party data with consent from the consumer directly within these platforms. Other platforms like LinkedIn and TikTok also offer these types of ad units. These ad units are more cost-effective at capturing first-party data than trying to drive the consumer directly to your own website.

In addition to the major ad platforms, there are hundreds of specialized media companies that generate first-party data / opt-in leads for specific categories. Think LendingTree for mortgages, Everquote for insurance, and HomeAdvisor for home services as examples. The ActiveProspect platform allows marketers to directly access and integrate with these companies for real-time data capture. This makes it easy for advertisers to capture new opt-ins from any lead source across the web and deliver them directly into their marketing automation platform to take action on that data right away — no third-party cookies needed! 

How do we target potential audiences without cookies?

Lookalike Audiences are another key to the cookie-less future. Many great media partners that target consumers based on email address use lookalike audiences on Facebook to find prospects similar to their current customers and continue acquisition optimization. But without third-party cookies, targeting lookalike profiles will also be harder to create — unless you’re using a platform like ActiveProspect. 

With our Lookalike Audience solution, you can include the lifetime value of your clients or leads to create a value-based Lookalike Audience. That audience will then be made up of the people most similar to your highest value customers, while a regular Lookalike Audience can find people similar to all your clients/leads, enabling you to focus on an audience similar to the clients who spend more money in the long run.

Looking ahead to a future without third-party cookies can seem overwhelming to marketers, but this evolution is necessary for the increasing privacy demands from our consumers. By embracing first-party data, audience syncing, and new partnerships, marketers will be able to create more one-on-one relationships with their audience and, therefore, have the ability to remarket to them in a way that restores their privacy and gains new trust.