Personalizing Digital Experiences in a Cookie-less Future

March 9, 2021
Hannah Svendor

With the ending of third-party cookies near, organizations will need to rethink their marketing strategy and how they approach data collection and audience targeting. Here are several ways marketers can target users beyond cookies to create the same sense of personalized web experiences.

UX & Design
Digital Marketing

For years, marketers have used cookies to inform digital advertising and user experience by tracking information about web visitors and their browsing behavior. Due to growing concerns around user and data privacy, among Firefox, Microsoft, and Apple updating its browsers to block third-party cookies, Google recently announced it would terminate the use of third-party cookies by early 2022.

This is not to be confused with first-party cookies, which are created and stored by the website you visit directly. These collect data about your behaviors, actions, or interests, typically from opting in to using the site or providing information about you. They help carry out useful functions such as remembering your login, language settings, and providing a better user experience through personalized content and product recommendations.

While these changes are good for users and data privacy, marketers everywhere will need to rethink part of their marketing strategy. Additionally, organizations will need to rethink how they approach data collection, audience targeting, measurement, and attribution.

With third-party cookies crumbling from the equation, how will organizations create the same sense of personalized web experiences?

Delivering web personalization moving forward

Identity has always been at the core of personalization. More specifically, you need to know enough about an individual before you can successfully personalize an experience for them. Here are several ways marketers can target beyond cookies and the promising potential that lies ahead:

Encourage user registration

If you want to truly deliver personalized experiences, you need to know who your users are, and an email address is a great first step to building out their profile. Think about places on your site where exchanging information makes sense for the user: newsletter sign-ups, cart check-out, first-time buyer discount, loyalty program, etc. Being upfront and honest in how you intend to use their data enables consumers to be more trusting of brands and willing to provide that information.

Incorporate progressive profiling

Start small and build from there. If you ask for too many details upfront, it may shy away users from the registration process altogether. Instead, slowly integrate additional data collection during each brand touchpoint. For example, they subscribe and get their first couple of newsletters. Once they’ve started to feel comfortable, you send an email with quick buttons to enable preferences and better understand what types of content or products they are most interested in.

Engage with email and SMS marketing

Email and text message are both powerful channels to engage customers independently from third-party cookies. They offer the possibility to send personalized offers and content to users based on their behavior on your site, such as cart abandonment. As a mass communication tool, emails and SMS have great reachability and engagement by informing users of special sales, promotions, and discounts.

Look to contextual advertising

Contextual advertising allows you to be present when and where your audience, allowing it to come off as more relevant and much less invasive than retargeted ads from third-party cookies cross-site tracking. These ads are placed based on the content the user is consuming at that exact moment, instead of their overall internet behavior, which makes them appear a lot more genuine.

Personalize based on web behavior

What about when a visitor hasn’t been uniquely identified yet? Using software tools like Optimizely, brands can tailor web content or product recommendations based on a user’s online behavior. By interpreting what pages they view, products they look at, keywords they search, how close they come to making a purchase, and more can help get closer to identifying a visitor and understanding them at a deeper level to deliver stronger personalized experiences.

Use a Customer Data Platform (CDP)

A Customer Data Platform (CDP) allows you to integrate all touch points across your brand’s marketing channels into a single centralized customer view to better analyze and personalize a user’s experience. CDPs go beyond the traditional CRM by gathering data from multiple sources to provide a 360-degree view of customers including websites, apps, email, analytics tools, CRMs, social media, and more.

Let first-party personalization begin!

Regardless of your industry, consumers expect the same thing: seamless customer experiences that are personalized to meet their needs, engagement through multiple channels, and trust that their personal data is in good hands. Organizations must focus on providing the most relevant and frictionless journey for users using the information that they feel comfortable sharing with organizations. The only restriction here is that organizations must follow privacy regulations for ensuring transparency, right to correct, delete, etc.

While third-party cookies have long been part of an organization’s tried-and-true strategy, as a result of prioritizing first-party data in your strategy, a more transparent, helpful approach of asking for information to tailor web experiences will not only result in more accurate data, but potentially in stronger, more trusting and mutually beneficial relationships with customers.