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The demise of 3rd party Cookies: using Google’s ‘gift of time’ to minimise risk and get ahead of your competition

Marcus Hemsley

August 19, 2021   Announcements & Updates, DEV, Digital Strategy, Strategy

Whether you’ve read many articles about the upcoming changes to third-party cookies, or you’re just aware of the topic on the periphery, the truth is you have a series of decisions on how you prepare for the changes coming at the start of 2022 and fully taking place in 2023. As we’ll outline in this article, there are a lot of complex choices to make and the quality of those decisions will directly impact the performance of your Digital Marketing and business growth.

 

Amidst a huge amount of speculation, the things we know for certain at this current time are:

1. By mid 2023, Google Chrome will have joined other browsers to block third-party cookies.

2. This change will affect the performance and reporting of your digital marketing campaigns.

 

Since the start of 2020, when Google announced the upcoming change to cookies in Chrome, our team has conducted in-depth research. The overarching theme they’ve observed from the noise online is a resounding lack of consensus: from claims that it’s all hype and that the disruption will be minimal, to conclusions that digital marketing as we know it is over forever. Given the news on the 25th June 2021 that the date for the changes to fully take effect has been pushed by to 2023, it appears we’ve been given the ‘gift of time’ to get ready. The question is will you use it to get ahead?

Over the last few months it seems many marketers are on the wild ride of the Dunning Kruger effect – where everyone wants to say something quickly, but with no evidence to back it up. Many seem to be making a bold statement – based on little research – and hoping it comes true. It is reminiscent of headlines you may have seen over the years such as ‘SEO is dead!’.

We’d caution against this approach, because we know that this hyperbole is simplistic and ultimately counterproductive.

While the date may have been pushed back by Google, our approach remains the same.  It has three main pillars:

 

Minimise Risk

We have compiled a risk assessment and action plan. Every single client has a different campaign, with specific goals – their situation needs to be assessed and a unique plan drawn up, based on the best information available.

We weigh up the likelihood of disruption to different marketing activities and the impact on their performance. The aim here is not only to identify where the impact will be – with so many questions still unanswered, the aim is also to have a living document that can be updated as new information comes to light, making sure that the action plans aren’t based on yesterday’s news.

 

Minimise Disruption by considering 2nd order consequences

We’ve set up a working group who are tasked with looking at the 2nd order consequences of removing 3rd party cookies. A 2nd order consequence is a knock on effect.

For example, many articles on dealing with 3rd party cookies advise doubling-down on email marketing. The 2nd order consequence of this is if everyone follows this advice, we will all be hounded to opt in to more lists and there will be a flood of news emails clogging up inboxes – impacting the effectiveness of your mailers.

Equally, if more advertisers head towards paid search and rather than display, could the knock-on effect for our clients be increased competition for keywords, leading to higher costs-per-click?

On social media platforms, will advertisers see a double whammy of higher costs and less exposure as media spend is diverted from programmatic solutions?

 

Where there’s disruption, there’s opportunity

Every change brings an opportunity to gain a competitive edge. While your competitors are badgering their prospects with email opt-ins, and are left reeling from higher cost-per-clicks, you can get ahead by not only having prepared for these but by returning to First Principles of business growth.

While of course you need to be collecting more First Party Data towards the top of the funnel, and investing time in testing strategies to do this, the fastest way to grow a business is to optimise each stage of the sales and marketing funnel – digitally nurturing leads to increase sales conversion rate, and maximising the life-time value (LTV) of existing customers.

Crunching the numbers on optimising your entire funnel will pay off – if your sales conversion rate is 25%, increasing it to 30% is the equivalent of acquiring 20% more leads. Now is the perfect time to assess whether you’re focusing your marketing spend in the right place.

We know that not all customers are created equal, yet most Digital Marketing campaigns we come across target them equally.  By analysing your CRM data, you can prioritise your campaigns to bring the most profitable and highest LTV customers into your funnel.

Finally, is your content shared by your target audience?  In a world that’s drowning in content, we recommend putting out less, but making it significantly better by solving the most painful problems experienced by your target audience. The graphic below by viral blogger Michael Simmons, sums this up perfectly.

From our analysis, most content that ‘goes viral’ has many hours of research behind it (often hundreds), original ideas based on that research, and a very powerful headline that compels readers to click.

 

Actions we recommend taking

 

1. Conduct a 3rd party cookie risk assessment

A 3rd party cookie risk assessment and impact report should be created and regularly updated as and when developments/changes are announced. This should:

  • Identify and document all 3rd party cookies.
  • Understand how losing a specific cookie will impact tracking, targeting or measurement.
  • Mitigation – identify measures you can take to reduce reliance upon the data identified as severe or mission critical.

 

2. Set up a working group to consider 2nd order consequences of the demise of 3rd party cookies.

This group should review all your marketing activities, looking at the effect of large numbers of people moving media spend and switching strategies en masse.

 

3. Complete a Gap Analysis for your First Party Data collection methods

Set up a team to look at how you are currently collecting first party data to compare it with all the possible ways you could be doing this. As third party data and marketing methods risk becoming increasingly obsolete, first party data is more valuable than ever. Make sure your CRM is a true reflection of your customers and that you are capturing what data you can, with consent, to build a clear picture of your market.

 

4. Assess your CRM data to understand who your most profitable customers are based on LTV

Ask your team to assess your first party data and outline who your most profitable customers are based on LTV, and which campaigns have brought them in.  This will empower you to prioritise your optimisation efforts moving forward.

 

5. Set up Full Funnel optimisation

Many businesses invest the majority of their marketing spend in driving traffic to their websites. By investing in increasing website conversion rate, sales conversion rate, and Digitally upselling to existing customers, you can offset disruption to the top of the funnel from changes to 3rd party cookies.

The aim is to set up positive feedback loops at each stage of your sales and marketing funnel.  

 

6. Do a content audit

Marketing is about selling the next step. Engaging content should increase conversion rates at each stage of the funnel. We recommend going through your existing marketing content and ask the following questions:

  • Will people share and spread this information on social media?
  • Will they talk to their colleagues about it?
  • Will they search for it?

Is the content more about…

    • A: the reader, their challenges, and how they can solve them?
    • B: your business and what you want to say?

Be ruthless in your assessment here, and put together a team who can create content that your customers and target audience find so valuable they will share.

Got a specific growth challenge?

Tell us what you are looking to achieve so that we can help you find your way there.