While third-party cookies will disappear, third-party data is here to stay."

In June, when Google announced it would delay its plans to phase out support of third-party cookies, the primary method of understanding consumers’ online behavior across devices, advertisers gave a collective sigh at the reprieve.

The delay to 2023 has provided brands and retailers time to research alternatives for gleaning insights into consumers’ online behavior, including what websites a user frequently visits, what purchases they make and what interests they’ve shown on other websites.

With 69% of browser users selecting Google Chrome, Google is sure to be exploring other, more privacy-conscious approaches to measuring ad performance, delivering relevant ads and content, and detecting fraud. Still, advertising attribution, insights, segmentation, activation and retargeting are in for a big shake-up.

Brands that aren’t using these extra months to engage in test-and-learns to optimize non-cookie campaigns and shift to first-party-data strategies will fall behind in the perpetual need to improve the consumer experience. Those that rely heavily on programmatic advertising driven by data collected through cookies to serve up impressions more accurately will feel the biggest impact from the demise of third-party cookies.

Still, while third-party cookies will disappear, third-party data is here to stay. Consumer and shopper insights found through membership card and loyalty program data, email subscriber lists, social media use and retailer media platforms will be even more valuable.

While it’s too soon to say how the cost of third-party data in the future will compare to the current cost of cookies, it’s not the time for brands to take a “wait-and-see” approach. Instead, consumer goods marketers need to lean into and leverage partnerships with retailers and their robust first-party data collected through their digital platforms and loyalty programs. Delivering campaigns with relevant, valuable content in the form of highly targeted digital ads and promotions that help consumers discover products during key moments in the shopping journey is the primary goal. As brands invest more resources and sums into retail media, the ability to effectively reach desired consumers will be pivotal to maximizing return on investment.

Investing in CRM software and growing a first-party data set should also be a top priority for brands looking to thrive in a post-cookie reality. Companies that struggle to understand how to best leverage their first-party data to inform campaigns should consider engaging in partnerships with data connectivity platforms, such as LiveRamp, that enable brands to better use data to generate personalized and engaging campaigns.

Even so, a third-party-cookie-free environment means no single platform will be able to deliver everything brands need to reach and convert their target audience. Establishing strategic partnerships, whether with data-tech partners, retailers, logged-in user experiences like Pandora or Roku, or social media platforms, will enable brands to deliver shoppable experiences across channels and close the loop between shopper awareness and omnichannel conversion.

News of the devastating impact of the upcoming cookie apocalypse may have been premature (and overstated), but next year will be pivotal for both advertisers and advertising platforms as they innovate and transform in the face of a cookie-less future.

Anthony Vitro
Sage Tree LLC

Anthony Vitro has been a leader in the e-commerce space for more than a decade. He and Sage Tree's team of more than 200 associates address the growing need for integration between brands’ and retailers’ digital and brick-and-mortar teams.

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