Are you prepared for a future without cookies?

21 Jun 2024

Image: Rowan Struwig

Forget milk and cookies – EssenceMediacom’s Rowan Struwig explains why mixed market modelling should be your data snack of choice.

Imagine a world where every website forgets you the moment you leave. No personalised recommendations, no targeted ads – just a blank slate every time. This is the reality marketers and users face as third-party cookies become more restricted as privacy law develops. But amidst the drastic change, an opportunity emerges for a new era of transparency, trust and innovative marketing strategies.

Third-party cookies have been a fundamental part of the web and user tracking for almost thirty years, helping businesses and marketers gain insights on user behaviour. They are small pieces of text sent to your browser by a website you visit. They help that website remember information about your visit, making it easier to visit the site again and making the site more useful to you.

But the future of cookies is clearly up for question in a world where people are becoming more and more concerned about how companies are using their data. User privacy is no longer just an ethical requirement but a legal one as well. Up until now, cookies have been a massive source of data and insights, allowing businesses to track users browsing and purchasing behaviours throughout their digital properties by using Meta/TikTok Pixel integrations as well as Google Ads and programmatic tracking techniques.

Google had initially planned the phase-out of third-party cookies on Chrome for 2022, but this has been postponed a few times with a current deadline of early 2025. Google has already disabled third-party cookies for 1pc of Chrome users to analyse as a test group.

In a world without third-party cookies, what is the marketing industry doing to protect consumer rights while still being able to effectively judge the effectiveness of their campaigns?

In order to stay ahead of regulations, businesses, agencies and media owners need to focus on partnering closely to ensure that consent is obtained, data gathering is compliant and robust methods of measuring campaign performance are implemented and tested before the phase-out of third-party cookies. Such methods might include the implementation of server-side web analytics, conversion APIs across social platforms and enhanced conversions and server-side tagging for Google campaigns.

Mixed marketing modelling

The mixed marketing modelling (MMM) approach has emerged as a popular statistical approach for businesses preparing for the impending phase-out of third-party cookies. Evolving from traditional marketing analytics, MMM integrates various data sources to assess the effectiveness of marketing efforts across multiple channels and touchpoints without relying on third-party cookies.

Instead of tracking individual user data, MMM looks at different types of data collected from various sources to get a big-picture view of marketing performance, such as website analytics, CRM data, and sales and marketing data.

Here’s how it works in simple terms.

First-party data

This includes information that businesses collect directly from their customers. Examples are website analytics, CRM (customer relationship management) data, sales data and data from marketing campaigns.

Combining data sources

MMM combines first-party data with other data sources to analyse how different marketing channels (TV, online ads, social media etc) are performing. This helps businesses understand which channels are most effective and how they contribute to sales and other goals.

Statistical analysis

Using statistical methods such as multiple linear regression, MMM looks at patterns and trends in the data. It can show how different marketing efforts work together and how external factors (such as seasonality or economic conditions) impact marketing performance.

Holistic insights

MMM provides a comprehensive view of marketing effectiveness. It helps businesses see the big picture and make informed decisions about where to invest their marketing budget.

By using MMM, marketers can get valuable insights into their campaigns without depending on third-party cookies. This method allows them to measure the return on investment (ROI) and make data-driven decisions.

All of these changes require that the wider marketing industry puts more focus on building trust with its consumers and clearly demonstrating that their rights and their data are being protected. We must emphasise the need for clear consent mechanisms that allow users to decide how much of their data they are willing to share and what services their data can be utilised for. Here are some suggestions for how to do this.

  • Keep the consent process simple and clear. Make sure the Allow or Reject buttons for sharing data are super easy to understand. Additional sharing options can be highlighted under an additional option such as Advanced Settings.
  • Give users a reason to engage. Offer perks or rewards for folks who agree to share their information. Think discounts, coupon codes, or sneak peeks at exclusive content.
  • Spell out the perks of sharing. Let users know exactly what’s in it for them if they agree to share their data. Tell them how it will make their experience better.
  • Make it effortless to change their mind. Keep the exit door wide open. Make sure users can easily switch off data sharing whenever they want. This includes removing any of their existing data from your database.

If we educate consumers about their rights and data collection practices with complete transparency, this will build trust between businesses, brand owners and their customers.

By emphasising the user benefits of data collection such as personalised experiences, improved services and targeted recommendations, they are more likely to view data sharing as a mutually beneficial exchange rather than a one-sided transaction.

By Rowan Struwig

Rowan Struwig is a digital account director with EssenceMediacom, a media planning and buying agency in Ireland. He has developed digital marketing strategies for some of the world’s leading brands, with a particular focus on data analysis and reporting.

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