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February 16, 2022

Google is Getting Rid of Cookies: 3 Steps to Creating an Intelligent, First-Party Data Marketing Strategy

Sometime in 2023, third party cookies on the world’s most popular web browser are going away.

But for some reason, I don’t see the marketers of the world making a big deal out of this. Why?

Frankly, I don’t think they get it.

Without third party cookies, digital marketing teams at thousands of major companies will have to alter their entire marketing strategies, tactics, budgets, and operations from top to bottom.

The cookie-filled world of micro-targeting vast audiences of highly niche consumers across every corner of the internet, is over.

What marketing teams are doing right now will no longer work one year from now.

First-Party Data

I whole-heartedly believe in a cookie-less, privacy-first internet. Not only is cookie-less browsing better for people as a whole, it also forces marketing organizations to adopt not only new, but smarter, and more customer-friendly tactics.

Fortunately, most companies are sitting on mountains of first-party data. This is data generated by individuals who have opted-in to have information about them collected by your organization. The benefits of first-party data are two-fold:

1. This is data customers provided (hopefully) willingly. Which means it is data that is far more trust-worthy than the data Google used to be willing to provide you behind the scenes (when Google controls the data, they can define an audience any way they want).

2. This is data that your organization has control over. With some technical help, you can determine how, where, and why it gets leveraged in much more dynamic ways.

If those are the benefits, what are the problems?

1. Most organizations first-party data is either a) highly unorganized or b) highly inaccessible – or both.

2. Most organizations, especially marketing teams within those organizations, don’t know how to properly leverage first-party data as part of a cookie-less marketing strategy.

First-Party Data Strategy: 3 Steps To Success

If you already understood the benefits and challenges of first party data, or you’re just now learning in this article, how can you actually take the steps to forming a complete strategy?

Here are three specific suggestions to get you started:

1) Identify the systems that have valuable first-party data

Every marketer I know is obsessed with personalization–but doesn’t quite know how to actually achieve it. Most marketing teams don’t have anywhere near enough access or understanding of data to be able to support an intelligent personalization strategy.

Before you can even begin to discuss personalization, you need to create a map of all the systems your customers use and the data points (or potential data points) collected by those systems.

Examples of systems where data is gathered on your customers:

  • Your website
  • Your app
  • Your CRM
  • Your CDP
  • Email
  • Text
  • Call Center
  • VoC platforms

This can be as simple as a spreadsheet that contains a list of every system on the left in each row, and across the top a list of potential data points. Then check marks to indicate which data points might exist where.

Create this document before meeting with a technical consultant or anyone from a ‘Big Data’ team.

2) Create your ideal plan for how you want to leverage the data

Once you’ve mapped out the data that you want and the systems it comes from, you need a plan for how to leverage it.

This is the place where Google or Facebook used to do most of the heavy lifting. It used to be as simple as picking an objective, writing the copy, and then telling your ad-platform of choice the type of audience you wanted to target.

Not anymore.

Marketers have to have a clear vision of the tactics they want to use in conjunction with the array of data points that are available to them.

Here’s an example:

Let’s assume a retail eCommerce marketing team wants to create a campaign that sends messaging to customers across devices and channels based on a specific category of product they’ve looked at in another channel.

What are the data points you would need to accomplish this?

  • A unique first-party ID that can tie a customer between one channel/device and another.
  • The name/category/other meta data of the product they viewed in at least one channel.
  • The timestamp of when the user looked at the product in the channel.

What does the marketing team need to support the specific tactic?

  • An automated way to bucket and then message a user based on the above data points.
  • Distinct messaging to support each variety of product or category.
  • Distinct creative to support each variety of product or category.
  • A system that can seamlessly manage and provide analytics on the three prior points.

As you can see from this example, things can start to get complicated rather quickly.

Unfortunately, the array of tactics that most marketing teams can employ in a first-party data environment are hamstrung by whatever marTech tools they were using in the third-party cookie world.

Which brings me to …

3) Identify and fill the technology gaps that will allow you to achieve the plan created in #2

Assuming you completed steps #1 and #2, you will be well prepared to evaluate the technology you will need to create an intelligent first-party data based marketing strategy.

In my observation, most marketers skip #1 and #2 altogether and go straight to marTech companies to solve their problems. This inevitably leads to disappointing results and disillusionment.

Most marTech companies will tell you that their tool can do anything and everything under the sun–but this is almost always far from the truth.

The reality is you will not only need an array of tools and systems to accomplish your goals, you’ll also need tools that can help those systems speak to each other.

Navigating the wide array of tech that you will need to seamlessly work together can be a challenge, but doing so is essential to making sure you can operate unhindered in a cookie-less world.

Stay Ahead of the Curve

In case I wasn’t clear before, I’ll repeat: what marketing teams are doing right now will no longer work one year from now.

In this article I’ve provided three clear steps to make sure that your team stays ahead of the curve.

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