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[VIDEO] Is your marketing team prepared for the death of third-party cookies?

For more than two decades marketers have relied on third-party cookies to help track and shape consumers’ buying habits.

Now however, with major browsers and large platforms phasing out third-party cookies, marketers face a worrying gap in their customer identification capabilities.


Speaking at eTail Connect Spring 2021 virtual conference, Elliott Clayton, SVP Media at Epsilon, explains how brands can deal with 3rd party cookies depreciation by leveraging and activating their 1rst party data.

Why have third-party cookies fallen from favour?

Some of the web’s biggest browsers – including Google Chrome, Firefox and Safari – are phasing out third-party cookies due to consumer privacy concerns. This will significantly undermine brands’ ability to target their reachable audience.

Fast fact: 67% of Epsilon’s marketing clients say the demise of third-party cookies will have a bigger impact than GDPR.

Let’s be honest, cookies weren’t a perfect solution anyway.

On average, cookies allow brands to reach only around 14% of their target audience. That’s because cookies identify devices rather than people – they are regularly deleted by consumers, they’re web-centric and it’s difficult to link cookies to first-party data.

Deeper dive: How will the death of third-party cookies’ impact marketing?

There are three main areas of marketing that will become significantly more challenging in the post-cookie era:

  • Display and social advertising. Businesses that use third-party cookies (in their retargeting campaigns, buy third-party data sets or use other platforms to run digital media or social) will find audience control, frequency control, and reach increasingly difficult.

  • Google Analytics and attribution tools will be less effective. If you can't track who you're talking to over time, measurement and customer targeting will be significantly more difficult.

  • Data management technologies will also suffer. This includes test to control modules, conversion rate optimisation, and other cookie-reliant systems.

What other identifiers are available?

Email is a strong contender to replace third-party cookies. This first-party identifier will allow marketers to communicate directly with customers across devices. Some other benefits of email:

          • Email is persistent compared to cookies, which can be easily deleted by customers.
          • Consumers may have several email addresses, but email is still more effective than the alternatives.
          • Email can be used across channels.
          • You can anchor email to your own business, and rescale.

In a nutshell

Here are three ways brands can continue to identify, track, measure and influence customer behaviour in a post-cookie world.

  1. Maximise your collection of first-party data…but in a privacy-compliant way. Loyalty programmes are a textbook way to do this. They create self-funding first-party data, which optimises incremental return. Loyalty programmes also come with built-in marketing consent.

  2. Improve omnichannel effectiveness and customer lifetime value with a customer data platform (CDP), which will consolidate all your customer data into one database. You can then use this single customer view to shift your focus from continuous customer acquisition to increasing lifetime value. CDP isn’t a replacement for a data management platform, however, and you won’t be able to speak to your customers without one.

  3. Work with partners that can help increase your audience reach in a privacy-compliant way.

The bottom line

Marketers are right to feel concerned about the phasing-out of third-party cookies, as this will introduce short-term challenges. In the medium term, however this is the perfect opportunity to adopt first-party data, which if handled correctly, will prove to be a significantly more effective customer identifier.