The humble web browser cookie has been an ever-present feature of the internet since web browsers took off in the mid-nineties. Cookies have been integral to digital advertising and e-commerce ever since. But all that is about to change with Google revealing plans to block cookies in Google Chrome starting 2022, forcing companies to adapt their cookie-driven paid media and personalisation strategies.
So, what do browser cookies actually do and what’s changing?
Cookies have developed a bad rap recently due to high-profile legislation. US’s California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) and the EU’s Global Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) seek to protect user privacy and data security through regulations on cookies and data management. While these laws might suggest that all cookies are bad, it’s important to note that not all cookies are the same. First-party cookies can be helpful to the user—not just the business. They allow websites to “remember” your preferences, keep you logged in, and keep unpurchased items in your cart.
Third-party cookies, on the other hand, track user activity across the web, recording information about their browsing history and behaviour over an extended period of time. This type of cookie provides the foundation for programmatic advertising, ad targeting and retargeting by allowing companies to serve ads on other third-party sites that users visit. Popular paid media trends and adtech are all a result of third-party cookies and the data they capture.
While originally designed to improve ad personalisation, more recently, cookies have been adapted for questionable advertising techniques and, while most marketers still operate above board, a handful have abused this data, harming the credibility of the industry as a whole.
Legislators aren’t the only group taking note of the misuse of data. As users become more aware of these practices, they are taking a more active role in understanding and controlling how their data is used:
“Users are demanding greater privacy…and it’s clear the web ecosystem needs to evolve to meet these increasing demands,” said Justin Schuh, Google’s Director of Chrome Engineering.
In response to user concerns, Google announced in January 2020 that starting in 2022, third-party cookies will no longer be supported in the Chrome browser. Apple’s Safari and Mozilla’s Firefox have already adopted no-third-party cookie policies, but Google’s news will most certainly have a larger impact on marketers due to the browser’s massive market share—Chrome accounts for almost 70 percent of desktop traffic and 40 percent of mobile.
Without third-party data from cookies, ad targeting is going to fundamentally change. Today, DSPs and other adtech generally target based on:
- Interest and demographic targeting: Demographic and behavioural data aggregated from cookies and third-party data sources. Data includes age, gender, income, interests, search queries and websites visited.
Simply, without third-party cookies, demand generation is going to get a whole lot harder—this update is going to reduce first-touch targeting and retargeting. Come 2022, is digital marketing done for? Not so much. But we will need to make a shift, focusing on the visitors we do have and providing better experiences for them.
Sitecore to the rescue
While third-party cookies are about to go the way of the dodo, first-party cookies will remain alive and well. And, indeed, their value will increase, giving any brand that collects and truly utilizes their first-party data a big advantage in this new environment. Putting first-party data to work is where choosing the right martech comes in.
Sitecore, a Gartner Magic Quadrant leader for Digital Experience Platforms, empowers brands to leverage their first-party data to offer personalised web experiences, increase conversions and build stronger relationships with their customers and prospects.
1:1 Personalised experiences
An effective personalisation strategy delivers the right content to the right customer at the right time. 1:1 personalisation goes beyond basic demographic targeting, using behavioural and contextual insights to tailor hyper-specific experiences.
The Sitecore platform is engineered to deliver a personalised experience at scale in real-time across every channel—before, during and after a sale. To implement onsite personalisation on your website, you can adapt elements like images, copy and calls-to-action based on what you know about your user—who they are, where they live and whether they reached your site from a campaign-specific source.
As a customer navigates your site, Sitecore uses their past behaviour and other customer data to display personalised content and reinforce the messaging proven to connect with your audience segments. Offering more relevant and convenient experiences to your customers when they visit your site reduces your need for retargeting. When a user visits your site, they are giving your brand a shot to sell to them or help them solve a problem—don’t miss that opportunity.
Nudge visitors through the Customer Journey
As visitors engage with your site, Sitecore lets you show them sequential content to pull them through the Customer Journey via an easy-to-set-up engagement plan. For example, you could kick-start the journey by prompting visitors to watch a brand video. When the video ends, the video module might update to feature a form to sign-up for your email newsletter or to download an e-book or white paper. If a user watched a full video and went on to click through to an e-book or submit a form, they are signalling that they’re engaged with your brand, so your next step could be to open a chat bot asking the user if they’d like to connect with a representative for a demo. Using behavioural indicators, you’re able to provide an experience that matches their interest level.
Build a user profile over time
Offering a more personalised experience and nudging visitors through the Customer Journey will increase the chances of making a sale then-and-there. It will also make it more likely that your visitors will return to your site of their own accord once they leave. And when they do, you can use the data you’ve collected from past visits to build an ever-evolving profile—keeping the user profile up-to-date will ensure your content stays relevant as your customers’ needs and interests change.
Sitecore has a built-in maturity curve that showcases how users change over time. By assigning values to certain interactions—page views, interactive site elements, etc.—your platform can build and update personalised views of each prospect or customer. For example, if a visitor spends the lion’s share of their time on home insurance pages, Sitecore will assign them a higher likelihood of being a home insurance prospect. Consequently, the site will show them home insurance products to augment their browsing in the future. With retargeting becoming much more difficult in a cookie-less world, building a better, more personalised experience over the long-term will mean that you are less reliant on retargeting to keep customers coming back.
Measure for success
Data is power. But managing and measuring it can be a challenge. Sitecore empowers brands to get the most out of their data by giving them individual insights into each customer. Sitecore Experience Database (xDB), the cloud-ready, big data repository included in Sitecore Experience Platform, lets you gather cross-channel data in one place, so no more data silos, just an end-to-end perspective on customer interactions across every touchpoint with deep data insights. Use this data to fine-tune your personalisation tactics, optimize for conversions and generally make the most of the data you have on your customers.
It’s also important to remember that truly understanding your customers goes beyond the CMS. Sitecore Connect lets you quickly integrate with Salesforce Marketing cloud, so you can build a single view of your customers—extending the customer journey and profile to include data from any source and making it actionable.
Sitecore Connect also ensures Sitecore content and user data is also accessible within Salesforce Marketing Cloud, allowing marketers to trigger journeys and cater email experiences based on website behaviour. By connecting the leaders CMS and CRM platforms, you can deliver intelligent, omnichannel experiences at scale.
Future-proofing your business
In a cookie-less world, brands will be forced to change the way they communicate and interact with customers on digital channels. The tides are turning and brands that don’t adapt will be left behind. The good news is you have time to adjust.
If you’re not on a platform like Sitecore, it might be time to rethink your CMS. By harnessing the power of Sitecore, you’re equipped with everything you need to make the most of your first-party data. If you’re roadmapping how to adjust your digital strategy or considering the move from a standard CMS to Digital Experience Platform, we’d love to help. Get in touch with us today.