What will targeting look like without third-party cookies?
The death of third-party cookies is drawing near, marking the end of a
popular online marketing tool. In this article, we’ll take a look at some
alternative targeting methods, some of which are still in development as we
speak. Others are already commonplace.
Third-party cookies have already been blocked on Firefox, Safari and other
browsers. Chrome plans to follow suit in 2024. This development has caused
notable apprehension, particularly in the online marketing industry. In this
industry, these small files perform a number of major jobs: from finding the right audience for an ad, capping the number of times an ad is played to each user (frequency capping) and retargeting people who are yet to complete a purchase.
The big question: Which alternatives are out there and what do they achieve?
Google Privacy Sandbox
One thing that is somewhat easier to predict is a return to first-party data.
Everything website operators stand to learn about their users themselves won’t be affected by the upcoming changes.
This includes information from web analytics, data from orders and queries along with additional information voluntarily provided by customers and users.
All this data needs to be collected and processed in compliance with data protection regulations. In addition, users need to be clearly told which data is collected, how it’s protected against unauthorised access and which purposes it serves.
Another challenge lies in encouraging users to provide more information. Typical ways to achieve this include competitions, gated content, newsletters and events.
Customer Data Platforms and Data Clean Rooms
The next step involves the meaningful analysis of this data. This requires the use of a customer data platform (CDP) to merge and process information from different sources.
In turn, data clean rooms help to aggregate data, making sure data is no longer assigned to individual people, but cohorts. It can then be shared and collated with data from other providers in this form for a lookalike audience, for example.
Reviving classic targeting methods
Proven methods are making a comeback. Contextual targeting is back on the scene, whereby ads are aligned with the content of a page. Google Ads has successfully followed this approach for a number of years.
Affinities offer another approach. Instead of revolving around matching keywords, they focus on general interests and characteristics. For example: Someone researching racing bikes is likely to also be interested in healthy nutrition. Other data such as age group can also be derived subject to certain limits depending on the website.
Conventional advertising methods also cover universal IDs such as Unified ID 2.0. With universal IDs, the sole focus lies in motivating users to register on a website. In this way, they voluntarily identify themselves. In return, they can configure their ad settings, which automatically apply to any site using the ID provider. However, some analysts claim only around 20% of users can be reached in this way.
To be well-prepared for a future without third-party cookies, companies need to be acutely aware of the needs of their target group, what motivates these customers and which websites, platforms and channels are best for reaching them. As mentioned above, first-party data plays a key role in this.
If tools like retargeting disappear, companies may benefit from acknowledging the renewed importance to asking questions about their own websites: What is causing visitors to leave our website? How can this be avoided from the outset?
All this will require more work by everyone involved over the coming years. That being said, their efforts will likely pay off several times over when companies are able to collect their own data, gain a better understanding of their customers and optimise their services in line with customer expectations.
Kai Vorhölter is the founder and managing partner of the port-neo Group. The aim of his
work is to comprehensively optimise the customer experience of his customers. To do so, he
relies on his global perspective gained from several stints working abroad for years at a time.