Life beyond cookies – is there one, and if so, what does it look like?

Life beyond cookies – is there one, and if so, what does it look like?

As technology evolves, we adapt. From sliced bread and sat nav to facial recognition and email automation, we no longer need to spend time and energy on tasks that tech can do for us. But what if we become over-reliant on these shortcuts? Would we cope without them, if they were taken away?

Cookies are a case in point.

A marketer’s dream, these tiny computer files came into their own back in the noughties, when the user-tracking they enabled made it easier for digital marketers to target their audience than ever before. Techniques like remarketing – advertising online to users who had already visited your website – were simple ways to home in on engaged users and generate conversions.

But times are changing, and with a shift in mindset comes increased concern and awareness among digital audiences about user privacy. Opt-outs, ad blockers, search engines like DuckDuckGo and Apple’s recent iOS 14 software update are all coming together to sound the death knell for the golden age of cookies.

Not only do today’s users find it intrusive and ‘creepy’ to be followed around the internet, but the practice is becoming less effective as the audience allowing cookies to be placed on their devices shrinks.

So with all this in mind, the challenge is to find new and creative ways to reach users, gather data and better understand the results of your campaigns.

Take ownership of your data

It can be said that there are as many as 16 different marketing touchpoints for customers – from online ads to physical interactions – before a sale is made. And although cookies have enabled us to sidestep or fast-track many of these, the good news is that there are a number of ways to target the right person in the right place at the right time.

First-hand data capture is key: instead of following the funnel on the left, it’s now vital to gather information about your prospects at the point of engagement.

Ultimately, marketers need effective CRM tools to capture, collate and organise gathered data to target a GDPR-compliant audience – all without a cookie in sight.

Putting your ads in context

Contextual and behavioural advertising puts an understanding of customer profiles and customer journeys above all else. If you know where your prospects are likely to be, you can target them with tools such as banner ads and YouTube advertising (which is based on keyword targeting) – without the need for cookies. By understanding your customer personas, it’s possible to get your ads seen by people who are at the right place in the funnel – such as those who are actively searching for the product or service that you offer.

Looking to the future

Cookies may have made us lazy, but as we move into a post-cookie age, there are plenty of techniques you can adopt for efficient and effective targeted digital marketing. And with Google proposing to categorise users by their behaviours (a move that’s likely to be at least 95% as effective as cookie-based advertising, in terms of ROI), there’s plenty of hope for tailored advertising in the future – but we need to be ready for a change in tack before it’s too late.