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What Advertisers Should Do To Prepare For The Loss Of Third-Party Cookies

advertisers-loss-of-third-party-cookies

If you haven’t yet heard, third-party cookies are going away.

Google has announced that they plan on phasing out the third-party cookie by the year 2022. You may have also heard about Facebook versus Apple. These are a YIKES moment, y’all.

Marketers have been using third-party cookies for years. These cookies are how we

  • Remarketing with advertising
  • Perform data tracking
  • Get to personalization

For consumers, this is a huge step towards data privacy. However, if you’re a small or medium-sized business that relies on advertising for much of your revenue, this could spell disaster.

Apple Versus Facebook

I want to touch on Apple versus Facebook for a moment. If you haven’t already, you’ll be seeing your Facebook ads throw errors on your ads.

Here’s what one looks like, courtesy of our friends over at Trust Insights.

facebook-ad-errors-ios-update

As you can see, if you’re using Facebook’s Pixel or running your own pixel like Trust Insights is, your ads will be flagged. If you don’t make these changes your ads will be paused.

Most importantly, you’ll want to verify your domain with Facebook. Instructions for doing that can be found here.

Secondly, follow Facebook’s instructions for re-setting up your conversion events. Truthfully, they made this very easy to do.

And finally, the biggest hurdle I see some larger brands facing is that the iOS 14 update only allows for eight (8) conversion events to be set up per domain. If you have more than one domain, this could become very complicated very quickly!

How Do Third-Party Cookies Work?

First, some technical teaching. Third-party cookies usually come from advertisers. They are little snippets of code that live on a website, a landing page, or on banners (ads) on websites.

When you encounter a third-party cookie, it gives your web address a unique ID. Then, it stores information about you with that ID. Depending on your privacy settings, this can be things like

  • Your location
  • The types of items you shop for
  • “Interests” based on the sites you visit
  • Your email address

For instance, think about a time you searched for something on Google. And then next thing you knew, you saw ads for that exact thing on Facebook or Instagram. That’s what we call retargeting, which can also use third-party cookies.

Again, while this may seem like privacy bliss for some consumers, others worry that this is a play for Google to outmaneuver other advertising giants, like Facebook.

What This Means For Small Businesses & Advertisers

Subsequently, the removal of third-party cookies paints a bleak picture for some small businesses and advertisers.

The absence of third-party cookies also means that marketers/advertisers need to rethink their attribution models. Additionally, we need to reconfigure our analytics stacks to effectively measure the customer journey and maintain accurate reporting.

Third-party cookies have made advertising effective and affordable. With this change, small businesses you probably know and love may be completely crippled.

  • Your local mom & pop shop
  • Someone owning an Etsy Shop
  • App developers (and free apps)
  • Any small site that provides free content
  • Publishers

Much of the internet is free because of third-party cookies. We use personalized ads to target our intended, specific audience in the hopes that they will sign up or buy.

Moving forward, small business will likely be forced to charge users for things that were once free. For example, you may have to pay for content.

The heart of the matter is this: Google and Apple’s decisions are more about profit than privacy. Mark my words. They aren’t making these changes out of their concern for the consumer.

The Importance Of First-Party Data

The end of third-party cookies doesn’t necessarily mean the demise of all advertisers. Focusing on first-party data means more transparency with digital advertising.

Above all, you need to know what first-party data is. First-party data is the information you collect directly from your marketing and sales efforts. For example, the name and email address you collect when someone signs up for your newsletter.

First-party data can be data about your audience or customers. It includes things like

  • Click behaviors
  • Actions taken on your forms or website (like submitting an email)
  • Downloading your app(s)
  • Data that your CRM collects based on lead scoring or other marketing/sales activities

With first-party cookies, you can see what a user did while visiting your website. You can see return visits, and other basic website analytics. This means marketers can still use first-party data to think of creative marketing strategies.

However, data around a visitor’s behavior on other websites won’t be available anymore. Think “interests” when you think of the gravity of what that means. Targeting on “interests” means being able to see data across the web, not just on your domain.

Now the good news: While Google will be banning third-party cookies which store data at an individual level, it will still be investing in alternatives. The tech giant isn’t necessarily leaving us high and dry just yet.

My hope is that advertising and privacy can coexist. Someday.

What First-Party Data Means For Advertisers

To clarify, first-party data is extremely accurate. Whereas third-party data comes from outside sources, first-party data represents actual customer behavior from your owned channels.

Besides being more accurate, first-party data also carves a path for…

  • Complete, more accurate, customer data
  • Better return on ad spend (ROAS)
  • Easier data management

Additionally, you can leverage your first-party data to retarget known customers. “Lookalike” targeting on platforms like Google, Facebook, Snapchat, or Pinterest will also be big ways in which you can use your first-party data.

How To Collect First-Party Data

Moreover, if you aren’t already, you need to start collecting first-party data. These are areas that will help tremendously when third-party cookies disappear.

Email Lists

For starters, if you have a giant, active email list of people who willingly signed up to receive marketing materials from you — like your newsletter — you can breathe.

And if you don’t have a big email list? Get started on building one ASAP!

Click Behaviors

There are certain tools that allow you to capture first-party information based on where a user clicks. Most ESPs (email service providers) offer this. For example, if a subscriber reads your email and clicks on a link about an upcoming webinar on Customer Care, you can tag that user with “Customer Care Interest.”

Later, when you have a Customer Care ebook or other interesting new data on this service, you can segment out all of your subscribers with “Customer Care Interest” and likely see greater engagement.

Social Data

Are you analyzing the followers you have on social? How about the conversations that take place there?

Guess what you’ll get if you do those things?! Interest information! By assessing your audience’s social profiles and the native (or your tool’s) analytics dashboards, you can learn about your audience’s interests, behaviors, and preferences. BAM!

Customer Feedback

You can collect first-party data by analyzing direct customer feedback. We also LOVE to tie this in with Customer Care and Social Listening (and, ahem, social data) at B Squared Media. Sentiment, or the positive, neutral, and negative feedback you get about your brand or company is critical for success.

CRM

Finally, you should also be using customer information stored in your CRM. Places to start: demographics, career and education details, the number of purchases the customer has made, the number of times they’ve visited your website, etc.

Advertising Solutions (That Don’t Require Third-Party Cookies)

To future-proof your business, you need to take control of your own data. We can no longer be reliant on third-party cookies. Here’s how you can do that.

Email Lists

Remember that list we talked about building a few minutes ago? Using lists like these and uploading them to sites like Facebook as a “Custom Audience” is great for advertising. You can advertise to your current list (who may or may not be a customer), as well as create “Lookalike Audiences” based on these lists.

Website Pixels

You’re probably already collecting first-party with your website. By adding snippets of code, or pixels, to your website, product, or social media profiles, you can gather information on users behaviors and actions. When a visitor lands on your website, clicks on your social posts, or looks at your product/service pages, that data can be collected and analyzed.

Facebook, Google, Twitter, marketing automation software … these all provide website pixels for collecting data.

DSP & Programmatic Advertising

First, some terms.

  • Demand Side Platform (DSP) is an automated advertising buying platform where you purchase digital ad inventory.
  • Programmatic Advertising: Technology that automates digital media buying. Includes things like: automating rate negotiation and campaign set up to optimizations and actualizations.

Secondly, DSPs and programmatic advertising uses artificial intelligence. Without it, we use humans for the entire process of media buying. This can be complicated and time consuming. In other words, ADVERTISING IS NOT EASY.

As a result, by the end of this year, 88% of digital display marketing in the US is projected to be done via programmatic advertising.

Let’s unpack more on this below.

Context, So Hot Right Now!

Above all, one area we’re putting a lot of stock into at B Squared Media is contextual advertising.

Contextual advertising is the practice of placing ads on web pages based on content published on those pages. For example, this could be ads for a coffee maker on a news article about coffee.

StackAdapt-PageContextAi-contextual-advertising

[Source]

This is done through contextual targeting on an ad network, which is simply segmenting ads based on “rules” like keywords.

We’re testing contextual ads on the StackAdapt platform with their patent-pending AI technology, Page Context AI.

Using contextual advertising can help you

  • Protect User Privacy: For example, Page Context AI—which does not depend on cookies or other identifiers—is an effective and ethical way to reach relevant consumers without the need for personal information.
  • Maximize Performance: Expand targeting to include relevant phrases related to the context.
  • Target Niche Audiences: Targeting customizable keywords/content will be essential to marketers, especially those who require specific or niche targeting.

In short, contextual advertising is not new. However, using new tools that combine the power of AI and contextual ads will be a unique way to test ads that don’t require third-party cookies.

Final Thoughts About The Loss Of Third-Party Cookies

Finally, whether you’re a small business, publisher, or advertiser, you need to start thinking about the post-third-party cookie world. How will you get people to choose to participate?

Certainly, we will all have to do some major revamping around data collection. Many will fail. But most don’t have to.

The ban on third-party cookies means that most advertisers will have to modify entire strategies. Are you ready? If not, consider finding out how B Squared Media can help!

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Brooke B. Sellas is the in-the-trenches Founder & CEO of @HelloBSquared, an award-winning social media, advertising, and customer care agency. She's also the Co-host of The Marketing Companion podcast with Mark Schaefer, where they discuss jaw-dropping marketing trends. Brooke's marketing mantra is “Think Conversation, Not Campaign” so be sure to give her a shout!
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