Last month this column dealt with Apple’s allowing consumers to opt out of being tracked by app’s downloaded from the Apple Store. This month, we look at a different privacy initiative, this time from Google. Its plan – recently postponed until 2023 – is to remove third-party cookies from its Chrome browser. As a result, brands accustomed to leveraging the wealth of consumer data available to drive sales are worried about what this means for their businesses in the future. With this change, first-party data will become more important than ever before, and brands need to learn how to navigate this shift.
Vivek Sharma, co-founder and CEO of Movable Ink, has some suggestions. He describes his product as marketing personalization software. Sharma founded Movable Ink in 2010 and has led the company through rapid growth serving more than 700 brands, including many major airlines.
Movable Ink, said Sharma, is now focused on:
Google’s actions, according to Sharma, are partly a result of not wanting to be “out-privacy ’ed” by Apple and avoiding the perception that Chrome is less private. Cookies began as a benign tool to allow shopping carts to work for ecommerce. Over the years, data leakage resulted in negative impacts on privacy.
Still, that data was useful for marketers who might feel frustration with its loss. However, said Sharma, there are better ways to approach developing relationships with consumers. Ideally, if a customer has bought something from you in the past and shared their preferences, this provides an opportunity to deepen the relationship by taking that first-party and zero-party data (the things a customer has told you) and personalize your marketing content around that. Example: If a traveler has been to the Caribbean, Expedia can use that knowledge to market similar destinations rather than simply guessing.
There is a fine balance between privacy and personalization. A big part of third-party cookie data has been customer acquisition. However, that data did not make it easy to personalize because not enough was known about any individual. It’s far better to have earned an email address via a purchase or opt-in.
In fact, said Sharma, the emphasis for the last few years has been on earning relationships -- and if anything, this cookie transition has put the spotlight on marketing based on a relationship rather than on learning things about consumers gained without their consent.
Beyond Google and cookies, privacy laws in Europe and California show that “the writing is on the wall” for that kind of data collection, and “marketers have their heads in the sand if they are not thinking about this actively,” said Sharma.
One high-performing tool is good old email, which he calls one of the most productive channels because the medium is tied to a person’s actual identity. If someone provides an email, you have the right to contact them because it’s not a “walled garden,” as is the case with social media platforms like Facebook.
While Google’s cookie postponement now extends to 2023, said Sharma, it doesn’t change the overall trends impacting the marketing industry. Consumer privacy, he said, will continue to reign supreme and the way in which brands communicate with consumers will need to evolve to fit this new mold.
The delay, said Sharma, is meant to give publishers, advertisers/marketers and regulators time to adjust to Google’s new technologies, enabling targeted ads after cookies are phased out. However, it is imperative, that marketers make the necessary changes to their technology stack quickly “to start creatively activating first-party data and identifying the right way to generate powerful and memorable customer experiences in this new, cookieless world."