Facing a cookie-less future, marketers who rely heavily on third-party trackers must find alternative ways to gain customer insights and communicate messages to their target audiences. The data privacy movement scored big victories in the last three years, with the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) in 2018 and the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) in 2020 regulating data collection and consent. Meanwhile, Apple, which accounts for half of the U.S. phone market, has been dialing back what trackers are allowed on iPhones since 2017. Even Google, the largest internet ad company, is now limiting cookies on Chrome [Sloane].
However, the argument for consumer-consented primary data goes beyond compliance. Investing in first-party data confers a competitive advantage because its unique to your business and customer base. As effective marketers understand, it’s not about reaching everyone but reaching the right people, at the right time, with the right message. Thus, Brands that invest in opt-in data practices not only shield themselves from liability in cybersecurity lawsuits but benefit from a core customer group that wants to engage.
How to obtain and maintain first-party data:
- Experiment with information-gathering tactics: If BuzzFeed’s success proves anything, it’s that people love taking quizzes. Brands can incorporate quizzes into new customer onboarding to make personalized recommendations. For example, Winc, a wine subscription club, makes wine exploration fun and easy with its one-minute “Palate Profile Quiz.” After taking the quiz (and supplying the company with your email and taste preferences), Winc emails you tailored recommendations. Another brand to employ this tactic is thredUp with tools like its Fashion Footprint Calculator that determines your closet’s carbon footprint (while also demonstrating a core brand value and establishing lines of communication.)
- 80/20 Rule: Once users have consented to receive communications from your brand, such as a weekly newsletter, adhere to the 80/20 rule when planning content. In this framework, 80 percent of content should be useful, engaging content that’s not trying to sell anything or get the reader to take a desired action, while the other 20 percent can be more brand-specific and promotional in nature.
- Be mindful of graymail: Graymail is solicited bulk email messages that don’t count as spam because recipients opted in to receive them, but they go unread. Brands can limit how many of their communications fall into this wasteland by 1) being intentional about the frequency and content of communications (see 80/20 rule above) and 2) occasionally purging lists. I appreciate when brands send “do you still want to hear from us” messages because I haven’t opened their emails in a while. Occasionally, I realize I actually found value in their communications and become an engaged recipient again, or when I don’t, I may provide feedback as to why I’m unsubscribing.
Sloane, Garett. “Cookies and Ad Ids-Everything Marketers Need to Know about Killing Cookies.” Ad Age, 30 Sept. 2021, https://adage.com/article/digital-marketing-ad-tech-news/everything-marketers-need-know-about-death-cookie/2369541.
Rowles, Daniel. Mobile Marketing. 2nd Edition ed., Kogan Page, 2017.