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Changes to Google’s Third-Party Cookie Policy Are Coming — Are You Ready for Them?

Google might continue to push back the date of its third-party cookie policy phaseout, but make no mistake — that day will come in the next few years. The company is just trying to come to a solution that addresses the needs of users, publishers, marketers, and advertisers alike.

Until then, it's important to get your ducks in a row and understand the difference between first-party versus third-party cookies, as well as how to mitigate the impact on your marketing strategies once Google finally removes third-party cookies.

First-Party Versus Third-Party Cookies

Third-party cookies come from outside domains. They're placed on a site via a script or tag to help brands observe consumers across other websites and collect their data. For the most part, data taken from third-party cookies is inferred data, meaning it's based on past consumer behavior. This, however, doesn't make the information any less valuable, as it can still be used to effectively serve the right ads to the right individuals at a good time (i.e., when they're most likely to convert).

In truth, third-party cookies aren't all they're cracked up to be. After all, data based on inference is never as good as data based on observation — which is one of the main benefits of using first-party cookies. You're getting the information firsthand, and not some third-party's interpretation of consumers.

Sure, third-party data can be more robust and can enhance your targeting capabilities, but challenges often open up opportunities for innovation. A third-party cookieless world could very well be a blessing in disguise, especially with other privacy regulations likely coming down the pipeline.

First-party cookies, on the other hand, allow marketers to observe consumers and collect data. However, the information derived from cookies is "owned" by the brand. A major benefit of first-party cookies is that they allow customers to more easily access their accounts, shopping carts, and other information that's important to them. This enhances the customer experience while still allowing you to market effectively to consumers.

Marketers who rely heavily on third-party data will naturally feel the most impact when it comes to Google's new third-party cookie policy. This, however, doesn't translate into a total loss of precision in consumer targeting efforts. In the absence of first-party data, new strategies (such as social media ads, retargeting campaigns, and targeted email marketing) can serve as viable and effective alternatives — and of course, first-party data collection can fill the gap.

Why First-Party Data Is Important in a Cookieless World

How can you best collect data for marketing once third-party cookies go away? And how can you best use the information once it's made available to you? Here's what the first-party data collection process — and subsequent targeting efforts — could look like for your business:

1. Incentivize data sharing.

First-party data collection can be done through a variety of sources: your website, social media, apps, and so on. Improving consumers' response rates to share their data is the ultimate goal.

With this in mind, incentivize consumers to opt in by providing an offer. A certain percentage off their first purchase, for example, can encourage people to subscribe to a newsletter or take a survey. When you offer something of value, surrendering some data becomes more attractive for consumers — especially if you use that first-party cookie data to offer them a better experience.

2. Leverage CRM platforms.

Your CRM can help analyze customer data, provide insights into segmentation opportunities, personalize correspondence, and nurture relationships with your consumer base. To add the level of precision targeting necessary for successful marketing, however, it all comes down to content interaction.

Let's say you run a lawn service company and a segment of your website visitors engaged with content about fall lawn aeration. Come August, target these folks with email messaging about this service. Other customers might benefit from email reminders of services they've used in the past. Always tailor marketing content to the individual to drive conversion rates.

3. Test, edit, and test again.

"Always be testing" is a clichéd statement these days, but one that holds water. Testing is the only means of arriving at an impactful campaign and ensuring you get the intended results. It might even put you a step ahead of the competition, as only 17% of marketers conduct A/B testing on landing pages to improve conversions. Additionally, A/B testing has been shown to deliver 37% higher email marketing returns. Test everything related to your campaigns: content, subject lines, design, graphics, color scheme, timing, and so on.

Use the death of third-party cookies as an opportunity to reimagine what first-party cookie tracking can do to enhance your relationship with customers and prospects. Start developing your first-party data collection strategy now before Google removes third-party cookies. Learn what technology can do to connect with an audience, and never stop improving each marketing campaign. Your business and your customers will be better for it.

Advantages of Email Campaigns

The thought of exploring a third-party cookieless world can chill almost any marketer to the bone. Here's the thing, though: Third-party cookies don't hold much sway over time-tested channels. An effective email marketing strategy, for one, can offer just as many advantages to marketers.

Consider the following:

· Using first-party cookie data means you're reaching an audience more likely to interact with your email content.

· Tracking and measuring performance can easily be done through a CRM platform and Google Analytics.

· Targeting existing contacts via email marketing has an average ROI of $36 to every $1 spent.

Here's the bottom line: Email marketing is persuasive, cost-effective, timely, and totally measurable. Just understand that the full benefits of email marketing, as with any marketing initiative, can only be felt with highly personalized messaging and experiences.

Personalization improves engagement and nurtures loyalty from your customer base. To get the most advantages out of your email campaigns, get to know your target audience; segment those in your database into groups; and craft relevant email messaging around their needs, interests, and behaviors.

Additional Ways to Use First-Party Cookies

Of course, an effective email marketing strategy will only get you so far in a crowded marketplace. There are a lot of consumers out there that might be interested in your products or services, and other channels will be necessary to reach them. Consider the following when you make a plan to use first-party versus third-party cookies:

· Contextual advertising: Third-party data has been essential for getting ads in front of consumers who match your personas or target audience profiles. Contextual advertising can provide similar results as you're placing PPC ads on websites that rank for keywords associated with your ads. If you're in the business of lawn maintenance, for instance, your PPC ad could show up on landscaping-related websites.

· Digital video: Opportunities abound for engaging consumers in more interactive ways when using first-party cookies. Posting quality videos across digital platforms can spark interest in products and services. The medium can also help humanize your brand, making it much easier to build a trusting relationship with consumers. Play around with content, channels, structure, and so on to find the right balance for your marketing strategy.

· User experience: With the loss of third-party cookies, user experience has become especially important. What that user experience looks like will depend largely on your customer base. Get in the mind of your target audience, and consider what they might expect from your website. Are they hoping to research your products? Do they want to watch how-to or brand videos? Do they want to leave or see feedback? Start shaping the navigation, content, design, and overall experience around your audience.

Each additional initiative you add to your overarching campaign can put your brand in a much better position when future data privacy rules, regulations, or governances affect the digital space. Keep brainstorming different ways to use first-party cookies, and you'll arrive at the right strategy for your company when Google inevitably removes third-party cookies.

A Replacement for Third-Party Cookies: Google's Privacy Sandbox Explained

Google's upcoming third-party cookie policy has led to uncertainties for marketers on the future of targeting. And unfortunately, the company has only added to this confusion with the slow, somewhat secretive rollout of its new secure environment. The question on everyone's mind is now this: What is Google's Privacy Sandbox?

Simply put, Google's Privacy Sandbox is a virtual space with a set of open web standards that allow for personalized marketing and advertising without compromising consumer data privacy. Marketers can still target and measure campaigns — but instead of using third-party cookie data, APIs will facilitate most of the process. You don't really "know" the consumers, only their basic characteristics.

Hypothetically, the only real difference marketers will experience with the Google Privacy Sandbox is around data. No specifics will exchange hands, just aggregated consumer data for targeting purposes. Consumers retain data privacy while still enjoying personalized marketing and advertising experiences.

Although third-party cookies are circling the drain, this isn't a time for alarm. It's an opportunity to innovate and rethink how you connect with customers. If you don't yet have a first-party data collection strategy, get started as soon as you can. As we now know, it's a much more reliable source of information and can ultimately lead to more conversions and better personalization.

Your company doesn't have to be left behind to sweep up the third-party cookie policy crumbs. Contact CMG Local Solutions to learn about how you can better flex your digital marketing muscles to attract more customers and retain their privacy.


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