We are in the midst of a once-in-a-generation opportunity for the marketing and advertising industry. Despite a primarily alarmist narrative and a lot of uncertainty, the end of third-party cookies is also a cause for professionals across the industry to feel excited and optimistic.
Since its invention in 1994, advertisers have come to rely on, and even love, third-party cookies. For many, they can’t imagine how to live without it. But, it’s important to remember who is at the center of the shift: the consumer.
Individuals crave more transparency and control and struggle with a perceived lack of consent. Consumers don’t always appreciate hyper-targeted ads.
In fact, they can see them as invasive and concerning if they did not grant permission for access to their information, or were not told how the brand was to use the data they may have previously consented to share.
This can greatly impact a brand’s relationship with its customers. Deloitte research indicates that consumers look for trustworthiness (83%), integrity (79%) and honesty (77%) when they are selecting their favorite brands.
The end of third-party cookies is potentially the reset the industry needs to reconnect with its target consumers. When brands obtain permission and consent from consumers, they will be able to better address their needs and wants.
These new guardrails can inspire brands to find new and unique ways to connect with consumers – ideas that we have yet to even consider. We expect to see brands use these changes to their advantage, cultivating better online experiences and effective advertising while also strengthening the overall relationship with each consumer.
Consumers are demanding this shift already. By taking proactive steps to block ads and clear cookies, consumers are already impacting current marketing activities.
A power struggle may be underway and we’re just getting started. There is more change to come, and brands should think logically about how they move forward – beginning with their data collection processes.
There isn’t a universal answer for addressing this change, as every industry and company is a little bit different. However, when it comes to new data collection processes, brands should consider focusing on:
Almost every brand today can benefit from an investment in the ownership and mastery of their first-party customer data. It will not only address the immediate need sparked by the end of third-party cookies but can also help brands stay ahead of evolving privacy concerns.
Start by constructing a repository of customer data, with their consent. Doing so may require collaborating with a third-party, like Hux by Deloitte Digital, to help the business adopt a consent management solution or advanced customer data platform.
These technologies work together to provide a fully contextualized and connected understanding of customer data. Quality connected customer data can become a brand’s most important asset in making data actionable for elevating the human experience through personalization.
Ownership of first-party data can enable targeted, measured and advanced analytics within social media platforms and walled-gardens of the major search and ecommerce players.
These closed ecosystems are more progressive compared to ad tech platforms and publishers, serving as an example for consumer consent and data tracking for marketing.
What does this mean for brands? Closed ecosystems likely will remain relatively constant when third-party cookies are gone, which means brands can use them alongside their own first-party data systems – something many enterprises aren’t doing much of today.
Walled gardens also offer exceptionally strong machine learning algorithms for digital ad performance optimization. The level of personalization they provide, when vast stores of consumer data are layered alongside their own first-party data, is incomparable.
Once brands link their first and third-party data from within walled gardens, it creates more efficiencies and streamlines processes. It also helps provide a more holistic view of a brand’s consumer base, allowing them to deliver better experiences.
Without insight into targeting, media buying and analytics, brands lack transparency into how these processes and decisions connect back to consumers.
To make this possible, brands should start expanding their marketing teams to bring media strategy and buying in-house as leaving these in the hands of outside vendors or agencies may be an obstacle.
But there is no reason for agencies to be fearful: Brands should instead become better-informed about viable solutions and strategies, cleaning the house of the layers of intermediaries and poor technologies they do not need or that are inefficient.
Many brands are still assessing how the landscape is going to shift with the phase-out of third-party cookies and what matters for their business. Now is an optimal time to begin having these conversations and preparing for how to move forward.
Brands aren’t the only ones who can benefit, consumers can too. New digital marketing strategies can help create deeper bonds between brands and consumers, sparking rapid growth and consistent brand experiences.
Ken Nelson is managing director in Deloitte Investments LLC, and Ecosystem Lead in the Advertising, Marketing and Commerce Practice at Deloitte Digital. Alex Kelleher is managing director in Deloitte Consulting LLP and CMO of Hux by Deloitte Digital.
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