What Does Google’s Decision to Postpone Cookie-Cutting Mean for Multi-Location Brands?

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Multi-location brand marketers got a big break last month, when Google announced its decision to postpone deprecating third-party cookies until at least 2024. The temporary respite gives marketers additional time to consider the changing landscape, especially when it comes to targeting customers online.

How should marketers navigate the transition, and what steps should they be taking today to bolster their strategies for the future, when Google’s plan to replace cookies finally does come to fruition? 

It’s a question Alicia Mickelsen has been tasked with answering for thousands of clients at ​​Data Axle, a provider of data, technology and marketing services for businesses and marketers.

“When Google delayed blocking third-party cookies, I think all of us marketers had a collective sigh of relief. Marketers are still struggling to understand how to handle the sunset of the third-party cookie, so this gives us a little more time to prepare,” Mickelsen says. 

Cookies are just small pieces of code that stick around a user’s browser as the user visits various websites across the web. However, they’ve become so ubiquitous that many brands are unsure of how to track users across multiple sites without them — and targeting ads without cookies has come to feel like a momentous task. 

While the current trend is toward replacing third-party cookies with first-party data, there is concern about what will happen to brands that don’t have first-party data readily available. With third-party cookies on the way out, and first-party data not accessible for some marketers, what other alternatives are available? What tactics should brands use to ensure the continued success of their existing campaigns?

There’s not a moment to waste for brands that don’t already have high-quality first-party data at their disposal. Mickelsen says now is the time to start gathering that data, not next month or the month after.

“Now is the time to shore up your first-party data,” she says. “Any first-party data is better than nothing.”

What’s the best way to go about collecting first-party data? It’s OK to start out simple. Mickelsen suggests that brands jump in by offering a value to their customers, or clients, in exchange for their email addresses. For example, a food and beverage company could offer a recipe book or discounts that will only be sent over email.

First-party data can be enhanced with rich attributes, and Mickelsen says brands should run AI-assisted modeling to uncover patterns that they may not have already known about — such as pet ownership or sports affinities. This could help predict which prospects are most likely to become customers. 

“If this is too much of a lift, know that you can still leverage third-party data in cookie resilient channels, including CTV,” Mickelsen says. “Targeting isn’t going away, we’ll just adjust how we execute the targeting.”

Mickelsen also suggests that brands consider combining third-party data with advanced modeling to create specialized target profiles. This would allow brands to continue reaching their target audiences while they work to populate their own, specialized databases.

The most effective tactics capture data on prospects and customers by having them opt-in to a brand’s network.

“Once cookies are sunset in Chrome, email marketing will become far more valuable and give you a direct channel to connect with your prospects and customers,” Mickelsen says. “Strong first-party data allows marketers to increase their reach on other channels, such as CTV, to accurately target their audience in compelling new ways.”

Another, more advanced option, involves using large consumer data pools to give marketers the added ability of identifying micro-segments and creating in-depth blueprints of who is engaging with their content online. 

“Brands can either enrich their first-party data with third-party data or, if they don’t have existing first-party data, they can leverage third-party data to uncover insights and develop target audiences,” Mickelsen says. “The more data you have access to and the more learnings you can gather, you’ll start to more effectively reach and connect with your audience — delivering better results.”

Stephanie Miles is a journalist who covers personal finance, technology, and real estate. As Street Fight’s senior editor, she is particularly interested in how local merchants and national brands are utilizing hyperlocal technology to reach consumers. She has written for FHM, the Daily News, Working World, Gawker, Cityfile, and Recessionwire.
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