With the end of third-party cookies approaching, the importance of first-party cookies is growing. Amplifying your first-party data using marketing automation will be a key driver in future-proofing your marketing.
Since we published this article in April 2021, there have been changes announced by Google that will impact marketers and their digital strategy in relation to 1st & 3rd party cookies. We’ve not made any edits to the language of our original post. However, we have included links to updated content from a range of sources we trust. These will be added to over time as we become aware of them. Scroll to the bottom of this post for those resources.
Last updated: 6th June 2023
What’s happening to third-party cookies?
In recent years, web browsers like Safari (2017) & Firefox (2019) removed third-party cookies. But the big daddy Google Chrome (accountable for 60% of web browsing) was the one that got everyone worried after they announced that third-party cookies would become obsolete by the end of 2021.
For those that have marketing operations in the EU, this is reminiscent of challenges when GDPR was introduced back in 2018, in that marketers need to be thinking about how it will impact their organisation and begin planning for a new era of marketing.
Why are things changing?
The digital era has democratised information, but what people didn’t sign up for was the abuse and misuse of personal data and unfortunately the abusers were sometimes marketers.
Data privacy abuse, sometimes using third-party cookies, created a race to understand more and more about individuals’ online behaviours, to in turn drive more personalised and targeted ads.
Third-party cookies in and of themselves weren’t the problem, but the way advertisers used them were. Eventually, public sentiment swung and we decided they were too invasive and open to misuse.
Public sentiment on consumer privacy is leading a digital evolution and third-party cookies are next in the firing line.
Consumers want to know what of their personal data is being used and how it’s being used. We’re now in an era of consent-driven marketing.
First-party cookies vs. third-party cookies
Code that gets generated and stored on a visitor’s device when they visit your website and landing pages. With a first-party cookie you can learn what a user did whilst engaging with your digital assets.
Tracking codes that are placed on a visitor’s device after being generated by another website other than your own. When someone visits your site and other sites, the third-party cookie tracks this information and sends it to the third-party who created the cookie. An example is Facebook’s cookie (also known as the Facebook pixel) and it allows them to learn about your overall online behaviors, such as websites you frequently visit, purchases, and interests.
How will things change for marketers as a result of the death of third-party cookies?
A critical aspect of creating a great Customer Experience (CX) is personalisation and to be able to deliver a personalised experience, you need audience data. Data will be increasingly important, but the means of collecting data is evolving.
The death of the third-party cookie only reinforces something marketers have known for years; your audience and ownership of data around your audience has always been essential for sustained marketing success. If you’re relying on a third party for that, you risk all your marketing efforts. Facebook marketers run into this frequently when ad accounts are suspended, sometimes accidentally by Facebook.
Growing your database and amplifying the data of your contacts is central to sustained marketing and business success.
What can marketers do to prepare for the end of third-party cookies?
What are your options as a marketer to meet this change head on, be ahead of the curve and turn a challenge into an opportunity?
We have a few strategic options to consider:
The digital age has led to an obsession with performance marketing, attribution and ROI. Of course these are great weapons for marketers but many have neglected brand building and brand awareness because they are more difficult to measure and not immediate silver bullets. Ultimately, the more people that know about your brand the better. SEO, mass marketing and all tactics associated with brand awareness can help limit the impact associated with you no longer being able to deliver hyper-personalised ads to unknown contacts simply because more people already know about your brand when their need arises.
Alternative identity tracking solutions
There had been speculation in the marketing community that an individual identity tracking alternative to third-party cookies would be developed, either by Google or someone else, that protected the privacy of users but still allowed individually targeted ads. However, a Google blog post in March 2021 made it clear that they won’t just replace third-party cookies with something similar. In the blog post, Google stated that it “will not build alternate identifiers to track individuals as they browse across the web” after the third-party cookies are discontinued.
Deep levels of personalisation are still possible using first-party data. A strategic approach to learning more about your audience through engagement with your digital assets will empower marketers to improve CX for known and unknown contacts. Owning your data rather than relying on a third-party will future-proof your marketing and provide a competitive advantage, but the key is to start early and build out your database.
A strategic approach to first-party data
Amplifying your organisation’s first-party data through strategic planning and technology is an essential part of sustained marketing success.
Owning your data removes the reliance on any third-parties and safeguards your organisation from future regulatory changes or third-party data breaches.
Marketing leaders need to accelerate their investment and double down on their collection and amplification of first-party data.
Oracle Marketing CX Eloqua customers must enable first-party cookies
Are you an Eloqua customer? First-party cookies are not enabled by default. This must be done by an Eloqua admin. If you need support with this, reach out to us for assistance.
Using marketing automation to unlock the power of first-party data
Through a combination of strategic planning and technology, organisations can start taking steps to prepare for the end of third-party cookies by taking full advantage of first-party data.
A marketing automation platform like Oracle Eloqua is the foundational technology that empowers marketers to capture, unify and act on first-party data. Not all data has to be pulled into your automation platform. Undertake an analysis of what data marketers need. Consider questions like:
- How does your automation platform fit into your tech stack?
- How is it integrated with your CRM and other platforms such as a CDP or DMP?
- What data should be passed to your automation platform? What is needed to empower marketers?
Marketers know the importance of being a brand people can trust. Top of mind for consumers is how organisations use their personal data so be a brand people can trust with their data. A robust consent management process ensures compliance with regulations like GDPR and CCPA. Outside of these regions, other regulations apply but regardless you will want to make sure you’re only sending relevant comms to your audience that they have opted in to receive.
Obtaining consent at scale and managing subscriptions and preferences requires a powerful platform like Oracle Eloqua.
The first-party data you capture is only useful if you can get it into the hands of the right people; marketers planning, building and deploying campaigns. At the same time, marketers should not be taking the role of data scientists and should only be given data to empower their day-to-day marketing. In fact, data that is stored but not used is a liability because the risks of data breaches and costs of storage aren’t offset by potential benefits.
Speak with your team. Uncover what profile and engagement data could be used to increase personalisation and improve CX.
A marketing automation platform like Oracle Eloqua is the foundational technology that empowers marketers to capture, unify and act on first-party data.
Grow your contact database in terms of number of contacts and depth of data on each contact through a combination of lead generation and data capture during lead nurturing.
When an unknown contact becomes a known contact via a form submission, you should limit the number of questions you ask to avoid form abandonment. However, you will likely have data capture minimum requirements for new contacts e.g. First name, Last name, Email address, and Company name.
Lead nurturing is a great opportunity to not only provide useful, engaging and educational content to your contacts, but also to learn more about them by capturing profile and engagement data.
Build a picture of your audience over time by asking additional form questions in exchange for content. Use Eloqua’s progressive profiling so you’re only asking questions you don’t already have data for.
First-party data isn’t necessarily exclusively used to improve experiences for existing contacts. Use your first-party data to create lookalike audiences and suppression lists on ad platforms to target net-new contacts with improved targeting. Oracle’s DMP enables marketers to personalise ad campaigns with richer and more actionable information about targeted audiences.
The continued capture of data on each contact will empower your marketing team to drive deep personalisation and improve CX.
The end of third-party cookies for tracking behaviours will accelerate the trend towards organisations building out their first-party data. Businesses that start planning now and double down on first-party data will have a competitive advantage in the years to come.
Utilising a powerful marketing automation platform like Eloqua, organisations can turn their first-party data into a competitive advantage by: