Navigating a Cookie-Free Future: Harness the Power of First-Party Data

by | Target Marketing

Navigating a Cookie-Free Future: Harness the Power of First-Party Data

If first-party data isn’t one of your top priorities in your marketing strategy, it’s time to re-evaluate your plan. Consider this quote:

“The only people who care about advertising are the people who work in advertising.”

– George Parker

Your audience doesn’t care where you advertise or how often your ad runs. They don’t care about ad spend or your overall marketing budget. They care about one thing: what’s in it for them?

And that’s where first-person data wins.

Phasing Out Third-Party Cookies

Third-party data comes from data collected by an online platform that does not have a direct relationship with the user. The main source of third-party data is cookies. However, changes in online privacy are making the use of cookies obsolete.

Online consumers want to protect their online movement, and web browsers are listening by blocking third-party cookies. Apple started blocking all third-party cookies in 2020, with Google following suit in 2022. Chrome anticipates a total cookie phase-out starting in early 2025.

With all these upcoming changes, one thing is being made clear: marketers can no longer rely on cookies. Third-party cookie strategies must be phased out if they have any hopes of a strong future. This is where businesses are pulling back in and looking at their own existing audiences. First-party data has always been there; now it’s time to move it back into the spotlight.

Moving Toward First-Party Data

If you’ve been in business for any length of time, you have a mountain of first-party data ready and waiting. First-party data includes all your customer data:

  • Names
  • Email addresses
  • Locations
  • Demographics
  • Purchase histories
  • Interests
  • Occupations
  • Email activity
  • Surveys

It can also include the business data you’ve collected along the way, such as product information or category margins. If you’ve collected it directly from your audience, it’s about to become a critical asset. This data is more relevant and accurate and carries fewer privacy concerns. It’s gathered directly from users who have engaged with your brand, which makes it more relevant to your future plan.

Building Your First-Party Strategy

With a deeper understanding of what first-party data is, it’s time to ask yourself: are you currently collecting data strategically? If you hesitated, you need to rethink and rebuild your first-party data strategy. Below is an outline to get you started. Think of this as a time to engage your users more than you have in the past and get closer to who they are and what they really want.

Step One: Start Collecting

You can only figure out where you’re going once you determine where you’ve been. That means it’s time to dig in and find all the ways you’ve collected data in the past. Do you have a customer list you can draw from? An email list you’ve occasionally used to send announcements?

Don’t discount anything. Even if it’s old data you haven’t used much, it’s still usable as you set up your new marketing strategies. It can also point you in the direction of where to build.

Have an old email newsletter you’ve collected names for in the past? Even if you haven’t sent a newsletter in a long time, it gives you a starting point. How can you refresh it and rebuild it?

Step Two: Build Your Audience

It’s time to get to know your customers again. Your cookie approach might have alerted you to detailed information about them. Use that now as you build new strategies, segmenting your audience into categories that make sense for your business. You can use that as you develop new ways of reaching out.

A great starting question is: what do my customers really want? You can ask this at every stage because different touch points will ask for different things. A brand-new viewer may want how-to information. An existing customer might need detailed content.

Then, give them what they want at every stage. Email will be your friend here, and you can gather addresses at different points along the way. Social media may be another way to develop deeper relationships. It’s all about reaching the audience where they’re at and having fun in the process.

Step Three: Craft Your Customer Journey

This is as much about developing data you enjoy producing as it is about creating audiences that like what you have to say. Create audiences perfectly aligned to each channel and use them to personalize your message for highly targeted experiences.

This is where you can use your digital marketing funnel to create audiences along the journey. Drive conversions by using targeted ads to your first-party data sources. Or send trigger-based emails after cart abandonment. Speak to your customers where they are, and bring them back into the customer journey.

Step Four: Go Deep

There is no end to how deep you can go with this strategy. It’s about refinement, getting closer to your users, and delivering more of what they want. It will be more appreciated because you’re connecting with them at different points along the way. Research shows that almost half—43 percent—of online shoppers surveyed were willing to share their personal data for the sake of better-tailored marketing.

If you’ve only worked with external paid advertising in the past, it’s time to bring your marketing strategy full circle. Bring the customer back to your website again through internal experiences. From email to targeted ads to personalized user experiences, there’s never been a better time to get close to your customers.

What’s Your First-Party Data Plan?

We’re quickly moving to a privacy-first world online. Third-party cookies are phasing out, and we can expect greater privacy regulations as we move into the future. Data transparency will become critical.

But that isn’t a bad thing; instead, it can help you be stronger than before. First-party data is one of the most valuable assets a digital marketer can have in their toolkit, and growing it is more critical now than ever.

Who is your audience? How are you reaching them? It’s time to invest in your future. If you have any questions along the way, just reach out.

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