Exploring Alternatives to Third-Party Cookies in Digital Marketing

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If you’ve been relying on third-party cookies for your advertising, it may feel daunting to switch to other alternatives. In fact, when asked about the upcoming removal of third-party cookies, 41% of marketers believe their biggest challenge will be their inability to track the right data. In a world where privacy is becoming king and 72% of Americans say they feel anxious about being tracked online and what’s done with their information, you’ll need new trustworthy ways to satisfy your customers’ needs for protection and meet your marketing goals. But don’t panic! There are a variety of possibilities available that can help you reach new audiences. Let’s walk through them.

Leveraging Zero-Party and First-Party Data for Marketing Success

The first option is to take advantage of zero-party data. Zero-party data is data that a customer shares with a brand voluntarily, by filling out a survey or answering a quiz. This allows consumers to make informed decisions about their information by knowing who has it and how the company will handle it. For example, with quizzes, you can turn the dry process of zero-party data collection into more of a game. By asking the user a collection of specific questions, you can target your product ad specifically to their needs and collect personal information such as emails or phone numbers, but also details relating to habits, lifestyle, or purchasing interests.

For example, Proven skincare has a quiz that allows customers to get a personalized skincare regimen formulated for them based on their skin type, life, and environment. Users answer questions that not only help the brand help them with their skin care, but also help the brand discover customer interests. At the end of the quiz, users receive a response including the type of skincare regimen that’s best for them, along with an ad for aproduct subscription.

With quizzes, users are giving marketers all the information they need to push them personalized o ers and convert them into paying customers. Check out the resources section for five survey templates you can use to brainstorm quiz ideas.

Next you’ll want to tap into your first-party data options. First-party cookies aren’t going away. With a first-party cookie, you can learn about what a user did while visiting your website, see how often they visit it, and gain other basic analytics that can help you develop or automate an e ective marketing strategy around them. However, you can’t see data related to your visitor’s behavior on other websites that aren’t a liated with your domain.

Ever wonder how Amazon always remembers your login information, the language you speak, the items in your cart , and other key things that make your user experience so smooth? This is because Amazon uses first-party cookies to track your behavior across its site and to remember these basic details.

Here’s Matthew Felser, head of global advertising partnerships, business engineering at Meta to share more.

Matthew Felser :

First party cookies have many benefits to advertisers. They allow businesses to analyze actions taken on their website which can help provide a deeper understanding of audience behavior, needs, and preferences. This knowledge can help you deliver more personalized ads with improved brand messaging and stronger calls-to-action.

First party data can be used in conjunction with advertising on platforms such as Facebook, where you can upload your data to target users. You can gather this type of data by building your email list, and running lead generation ads on TikTok, LinkedIn, Facebook, and Instagram.

With this type of data, you can target look-alike audiences on those channels to reach a wider audience.

Next is second-party data . Second party data is information you didn’t collect yourself — in other words; you’re using it secondhand. Businesses often get it by working with a trusted partner that shares audience insights in a mutually beneficial relationship. For example, a software company working with an agency partner to re-sell its products might share its first party data with the agency to use as second party data to target and attract new clients. However, while it’s certainly faster than collecting it yourself, it’s riskier, as you can quickly spend a lot of money on data that may ultimately prove to not be useful.

First and second party data are used in the same way: to create ads, nurture leads, and remove friction within the sale process.

The di erence is that second party data can o er you a new perspective on your customers. You may uncover trends or patterns you overlooked or didn’t include in your own search, helping you spot customer needs or interests that you can further incorporate into your business processes and products.

The most common way to use second party data is through contextual advertising. This method involves displaying ads based on the site’s content. For example, you might place an ad for running shoes to appear on YouTube videos related to running, or on TikTok and Instagram posts with running-specific hashtags. Contextual targeting works by assuming someone looking for information about running will probably be interested in buying running shoes. Contextual ads can be highly e ective. In fact, Research by neuro analytics company, SPARK Neuro, found that contextually relevant ads generated 43% more engagement and two times more ad recall.

Let’s learn more about this from Molly Mitchell, product marketing manager at LinkedIn.

Molly Mitchell:

Contextual advertising is a form of targeting that is driven by the placement of an ad, typically targeting adjacent to content that resonates with the brand or the brand’s target audience. Now, contextual advertising is not a new solution, but it has certainly seen a resurgence and importance as part of a targeting mix, and for a simple reason. As individually addressable audiences become harder to find in both scale and quality, contextual and other non-audience-based solutions are going to become increasingly important to leverage. For example, LinkedIn is ground zero for professionals, and rooted in a professional context, making it an important place to be for B2B brands. You want to interact with those who are sharing and engaging in a professional capacity.

Maximizing Audience Targeting and Real-Time Marketing on Social Media

You can also continue to rely on audience targeting across your social channels. Audience targeting is a method of separating consumers into segments based on interests or demographic data. Fortunately, most social media sites have access to this data to help you best target an audience on the platform. You can use audience targeting to formulate campaigns that will align directly with consumers’ lifestyles.

Helpful demographics to consider are age, average income, interests, location, and gender. Other considerations that can be helpful are psychographics —values and motivations that impact a consumer’s buyer’s journey.

Audience targeting ensures you’re using your marketing resources and time in the right places, and for the right people. Another benefit? You won’t have to waste ad spend on audiences that won’t deliver high ROI.

Real-time marketing is another option. This is when you match your ads to current events that your customers may be interested in. For example, if you sell a form of business software, you might want to run social media ads on hashtags during a time that corresponds to a specific industry trade show your customers and prospects might attend.

Geotargeting is another option that’s suitable for social media advertising. Most of the social platforms o er the ability to target users based on their location. You can potentially target individuals that live or work near a certain location, who were recently visiting or living in a location, or who may be within a certain distance from the location. For example, a news station may use geotargeting to serve ads on Instagram to individuals that live in the same town where the station is located. For example, this particular ad for The Moth was shown to me by news station WBUR because I live in the area, and I’m a user who is interested in literature and the arts.

Matthew Fesler:

Geotargeting leverages location data to deliver ads based on a person’s country, city, language, weather, and more. This type of targeting allows you to provide personalized content to a targeted audience without needing to access or transfer personal information.

As you can see, there are a number of great options for reaching your customers without relying on third-party cookies, many of which may provide you a better return on your investment through targeting options more specific to your customer. Best of all, most of these targeting options require you to keep your buyer persona in mind. When your customer is the heart of targeted ads and content, your marketing materials will have a better chance of driving a high ROI for your business.

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