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Marketing measurement in the Cookieless future

As we come closer to the end of third-party cookies, marketers will have to adapt and change the way they set up, analyse and measure the success of their marketing activities.

January 26, 2022

For the past decades, marketers have been relying on cookies to set up, analyse and measure the success of their marketing activities. In this way, they were able to calculate and enjoy a bigger Return On Investment.

However, at the same time that the digital marketing industry was striving to deliver relevant ads and messages to consumers, global privacy organisations, as well as the European Union, started advocating on safeguarding the usage of personal data. This concern as well as some initial legislations that became effective in 2009 led the big search browsers to prioritise data privacy and transparency over personalisation by blocking third-party cookies and moving towards a Cookieless future.

How everything started

Already in 2009, the European Union implemented a new legislation with the purpose of protecting personal data. This meant that websites, companies and service providers were required to always provide information to users on what they were allowed to do with their private digital data. However, the legislation was too vague and data was still harvested. Later, on the 25th of May 2018, the EU adopted the General Data Protection Regulation which had the biggest impact on websites. In order to strengthen individuals’ protection rights in the digital space, they restricted the use of ‘personal identifiable information’ by further restricting the use of cookies and creating the legal framework to enforce these laws.

As a consequence, in January 2020 Google, Chrome, Safari, and other big browsers announced that they will proceed to further changes to remove third-party cookies and increase their users’ privacy. In fact, browsers such as Safari already announced that their new update to its ITP engine can block cookies and prevent advertisers from gathering data from consumers’ habits.

Third-party cookies vs First-Party cookies

Before going any further on the consequences of the cookieless reality to marketing measurements, let’s make sure to highlight the difference between first- and third-party cookies. These two different types of cookies provide different information and data on the users and it’s essential to comprehend what each of these consists of to understand their impact.

First-party cookies are created by the host domain – the exact domain the user is visiting. These types of cookies are created in order to generate a user-friendly experience in the browser and hence, they are not considered as invading users’ privacy. The browsers save information about your username, passwords, items you add to your shopping cart, and your language preferences.

On the other hand, third-party cookies are predominantly focused on user behaviour and they track users across sites. They are created by domains that you are not visiting directly and they provide sensitive and private details about your age, gender, and location. What’s more, these cookies give elaborative insights on your entire online journey such as : visited websites and subpages, time spent on every page and subpage you visited etc. To be more specific, the main reason why this data is so important is that it can be used for cross-site tracking, retargeting, ad-serving, or even live chats.

But how are third-party cookies connected to marketing measurements? Should everyone start preparing for this new reality before it’s too late?

How will this affect marketing professionals?

To begin with, advertisers will lose the ability to track website visitors. This means they will no longer have access to the online behavior of consumers, such as website visits, interests, and purchases. When all major browsers stop supporting third-party cookies, it will become impossible to set up audience targeting and frequency capping making it impossible to micro-target advertising. A benefit is that advertisers can downsize their ad-tech stack considerably by cutting out middlemen and -women increasing the investment in actual media.

Another difficulty will be towards measuring the impact of their marketing activities and the attribution models they use. With consumers opting out for personalized advertising and browsers limiting tracking options, Multi-touch attribution (MTA) will slowly decrease in accuracy over time. One thought is that advertisers might need to go back using traditional measurement models such as Marketing Mix Models, Cross-Channel attribution, or conversion tracking based on each platform. All these models definitely have their merits, but the current digital landscape requires a model where all these aforementioned measurement models can be combined in one place.

Our approach

From our perspective, there isn’t one single answer to the changing cookie environment. The cookie kill reflects permanent changes in the fundamentals of marketing, affecting different parts of the marketing funnel and requiring an updated measurement approach across this funnel.

The good news is that Objective Platform is ready to adjust to this new world of marketing measurements. The fact that we write our own models incorporated in the software we develop in-house, allows us to stay one step ahead of the cookie ban. In fact, our Strategic and Tactical Models use aggregated data sources which means the following:

  • No use of any first- or third-party cookie data is required.
  • We include more detailed media data than MMM and provide insights at the channel, campaign, and product level.
  • Fast implementation.
  • Granular insights into the effect of every channel modelling all the way down to the touchpoint level.
  • We give insights to make tactical decisions.
  • We provide you with daily updates & recommendations depending on data availability.

Want to know more on how you can deal with major challenges in marketing measurement after the ban of third-party cookies?

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