The prospect of running ad campaigns, remarketing and paid social promotions without the aid of tracking cookies for targeting and attribution is one that instils fear into many ecommerce businesses. They have been an essential for many years but, with major platforms such as Safari, Apple, Facebook and Google all phasing them out, it’s important to prepare now for a cookieless world – and embrace the new opportunities that this evolution offers.

Why now?

There are two key reasons marketing cookies are disappearing:

  • Privacy: modern consumers are less willing to allow brands to track their activity. Research conducted in 2019 found that 72% of Americans were concerned about online privacy. Worryingly, 80% of British consumers feel they have no control over their personal data and over half say they are more concerned about their online privacy in now than they were 12 months ago.

Apple has been one of the most recent companies to react to these concerns, with its iOS 14 update requiring apps to ask users for permission to track their online behaviour.

  • Effectiveness: The modern consumer conducts a large amount of research before deciding what to purchase. Inevitably, this means that multiple devices are used, including mobile. Tracking cookies don’t work across multiple devices, meaning their usefulness has been eroded by the increase in mobile commerce and multi-device trend.

What are the key areas of concern?

Ecommerce businesses will invariably use ad campaigns to drive targeted traffic to their product listings. Being able to identify those users via a tracking cookie can make targeting easier, enable campaign measurement and allow for attribution; all activities that facilitate smarter decision making and better business performance.

Removing the ability to identify individual users makes these vital tasks significantly more challenging. In the short term, it means previously well-performing campaigns could start to be less effective. This has a direct impact on sales and revenue, and could mean that it’s harder to determine how ad spend can best be allocated.

What’s the good news?

This might sound like it’s all doom-and-gloom but that doesn’t have to be the case. In periods of change, opportunities inevitably appear and for ecommerce businesses willing and able to embrace these challenges, there is the potential to steal a march on slower to move rivals.

So, how can you start to mitigate against the disappearance of cookies?

  1. Maximise your use of first-party data

As an ecommerce business dealing directly with the shopper, you’ll naturally have your own store of first party data. This means that you already have some of the information you need to survive (and thrive) without the use of cookies. Your purchase data for example could be used to segment your audience, perhaps according to category of item purchased or average order value. These segments then make targeted marketing messages that much easier to deliver, even without cookies.

  • Use available platform technologies

The phasing out of cookies isn’t just potentially problematic for advertisers; it’s also an issue for platforms such as Google and Facebook, as they rely on advertising dollars for revenue. It’s therefore in their own best interests to provide advertisers with tools which allow them to target their ads and drive the right kinds of shoppers to their online stores in order to facilitate a good return on investment.

Google for example has the Ads Data Hub which “Enables customized analysis that aligns with your specific business objectives, while respecting user privacy and upholding Google’s high standards of data security.” You can upload your own data to consider alongside Google’s as well as build and manage audiences across other Google products.

  • Explore additional targeting methods

Depending on the nature of your ecommerce business, other targeting options offered by ad platforms and social media networks could be used to drive qualified traffic to your online store. This could mean creating geographically targeted campaigns for example.

This article is part of a special series  dedicated to exploring the cookieless world. For more insights and suggestions, don’t miss our other articles:

Author Rebecca

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