A Marketer’s Guide to Transitioning from Third-Party Cookies Street Fight

A Marketer’s Guide to Transitioning from Third-Party Cookies

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Third-party cookies are going away. Not tomorrow, maybe not next week, but in the months to come, marketers will come face-to-face with the reality of a new world of marketing measurement. Google appears to be committed to their complete blocking of third-party cookies in Chrome by the end of 2024, so marketers need to prepare now, or face the risk of their marketing being shaken up dramatically as they try to react to the new world of attribution and tracking.

In our work with many household-name brands in retail and CPG, we’ve built cross-channel marketing campaigns across affiliate, email, paid search, and paid social campaigns. To varying degrees, all of those channels rely on cookies to track customer behavior. Removing third-party cookies strips the ability to see, for instance, which affiliate content placement led directly to a user’s click on a product page, or how many conversions you can associate with a specific keyword on Google.

So how are our clients coping with the inevitable shift in measurement? Five main ways:

  • Optimizing CRM and email initiatives
  • Leaning into retail media channels
  • Using search marketing as an intent-based hedge
  • Engaging users through paid and organic social content
  • Deploying affiliate throughout the purchasing journey

I’ll dig into a little more detail for each.

Optimizing CRM and email

First-party data has always been important, but without cookie-based tracking, it’s absolutely critical. This means that CRM marketing – list acquisitions, first-party data capture, data cleanliness – should be in greater focus for marketers looking to build on their controllable data.

One of the most direct – and cost-effective – ways to deploy first-party data is through strategic email marketing campaigns, particularly those that effectively use personalization to tailor messaging to end users. CRM and email marketing are closely intertwined (email campaigns are only as strong as the CRM data underpinning them), which accounts for the surge in interest we’re seeing in those services from forward-thinking brands looking to get ahead of the cookie dissolution.

Leaning into retail media advertising

Speaking of controllable data, recent reports of advertising budgets moving away from Google and Facebook and toward Amazon make sense; Amazon has some of the strongest customer data available in its platform, and its power to drive revenue can’t be denied. Retail media channels – Walmart.com, Kroger’s, Target, etc. – offer a treasure trove of customer first-party data that doesn’t involve third-party cookies. Expect more retailers to move away from strict D2C and/or brick-and-mortar advertising and toward the cookie-proof power of retail media.

 Using search marketing as an intent-based hedge

Another channel close to the point of transaction – and useful for gathering data on user intent – is search marketing. Although the disappearance of third-party cookies will prevent marketers from tying specific actions to specific keywords and ads, the leap from intent to conversions is a relatively short one. Moreover, solutions like Google’s Enhanced Conversions can patch some of the data holes and keep advertisers in tune with what’s working and how to approach optimizations.

Engaging users through social content

Whether deployed through paid or organic channels, social content can be a good way to take the temperature of current trends and user behaviors while building user engagement.  Many platforms – TikTok Shops is the newest example – are also finding ways to keep users on the platform while delivering engagement and direct-response metrics within the UI, which removes the vulnerability of third-party tracking.

Deploying affiliate from awareness through conversion

Since tracking user movement through the purchase journey will be a lot more complicated without third-party cookies, any structure where team silos and fragmented reporting persist is going to make measurement exponentially harder. One channel that can excel at full-funnel performance under one umbrella, affiliate, is gaining steam (both at DMi and in general). The bonus of investing in affiliate, particularly when anticipating a period of measurement ambiguity as marketers put post-cookie solutions in place, is its range of options for cost structures, which can minimize risk and keep budget focused only where it’s proving to perform.

Wrapping up

Ultimately, the inevitable move away from third-party cookies is going to introduce many challenges to every digital marketer. My recommendation is to prioritize the solutions that will get you closer to your users and get momentum in implementing them as soon as possible. You might not anticipate every hurdle that’s coming your way, but staying a few steps ahead of competitors who are more reluctant to adapt can make a big difference in your bottom line.

Kevin Dugan is currently the VP of Analytics at DMi Partners. Kevin specializes in reporting and analytics, search engine marketing, media buying, email marketing, and digital media/sales funnel optimization.