Marketing in a post-cookie world

It’s a nerve-racking time to be a marketer. 

After being the driving force that sparked new digital strategies for businesses amidst the COVID-19 lockdowns, marketers now face a new set of daunting pressures posed by artificial intelligence, uncertain economic conditions, and an evolving data privacy landscape — three “existential threats” ironically, pointed out to me by a certain popular natural language processing AI.  

Privacy is a novel challenge, and its importance has only continued to grow as regulations like the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) have increased alongside consumer expectations. One profound implication for marketers is that third-party cookies will be phased out by Google by 2024. 

This is a seismic shift in our industry that will make it harder to be a “data-driven marketer,” considering over half of marketers rely on third-party cookies as their primary source of information on website visitors. 

Marketers need to rethink how we gather insights to better serve our customers. Zero-party data is a viable solution to this problem which can help marketers establish, build, and maintain long-term relationships with customers in a privacy-respecting manner. 

And it all starts at the login box. 

The cookieless paradigm: Trading personalisation for privacy 

Third-party cookies gained popularity because they drastically simplified our ability to know our customers. In a technologically non-invasive way, we could covertly track the behavior of users across the internet to glean insight into their demographics, purchase patterns, and preferences. This data could then be used to build robust user-profiles and drive personalised marketing strategies. 

Capturing customers' attention is increasingly difficult, and personalisation helps marketers cut through the noise and deliver delightful customer experiences to drive conversion. It’s also something consumers have come to expect. Data from McKinsey found that 71% of consumers expect personalised experiences from brands and are left salty when they aren’t met with them. Effectively, third-party cookies offered a shortcut for us to improve the return on investment in our marketing efforts. 

However, cookies were a tool designed for a different era. 

While cookies might have been technologically non-invasive from a user experience perspective, they infringe on user privacy. And it’s only amplified by our current social climate. 

Privacy is a constant talking point for consumers, businesses, and governments. Globally, countries are ramping up the rate at which they introduce regulations to protect how enterprises manage, store, and use citizen data. As a wave of legislation comes through, consumers are becoming more conscious of privacy and demanding more from companies — privacy expectations are becoming “table stakes.”

As marketers, privacy belongs at the start of any strategic conversation. In the short term, data may be challenging to understand. New combinations may take a minute to generate patterns we can predict. But in the long term, we’ll benefit from rebuilding direct relationships with our customers rooted in trust. 

Develop a bias for zero-party data 

A cookieless world prompts modern marketers to move from a model where they’re inferring customer preferences to one where they’re asking about them. This is the essence of zero-party data, which is information consumers willingly share with a business to enhance their own experience with a brand — emphasis on “willingly.” 

Customer consent enables us to understand their needs more effectively with proven pay-offs. Research shows that companies who drive personalisation based on their own data of their customers see a 25% lift in revenue. In comparison, businesses that depend primarily on third-party data attribute a 5% increase in revenue from personalisation. 

But implementing a zero-party data strategy means taking a calculated risk by introducing friction to the digital experience. As consumers, we all know the frustration of filling out an unnecessarily long form to access an application. As marketers, we’re not only guilty of putting our customers through that pain, but we also recognise the dirty data that comes with it. Harris Interactive found that 88% of users admit to entering false or incomplete data when signing up for a service. 

The goal should be to lead with value, earning the right to ask users for data which can be used to improve their experience. As our SVP of Marketing at Okta Kerry Ok, says “stop trying too hard from day one.” Make it easy for users to enjoy the benefits of your product or service and then ask for more information only after showing them value. 

Why the login box is the newest addition to your martech stack 

The login box Customer Identity and Access Management (CIAM) can be an unexpected hero in our marketing technology stacks moving forward. As the digital front door to applications and services, it serves as the first committal step our customers take to engage with brands. So, let’s see it for what it is — a solution for digital teams to increase customer acquisition, learn about their audiences, and drive retention — and respectfully delight our customers. 

By simplifying the registration and login process, businesses can increase their conversion rates and make it easier for potential customers to derive value from their products or services. After that initial conversion, you can monitor their usage and employ progressive profiling to gather additional information about their preferences. Slowly, you can collect zero-party data to segment, tailor, and personalise marketing efforts. 

Taking it a step further, the insights from customer identity can meet you where you work. It can be integrated into existing Customer Data Platforms (CDP) or Customer Relationship Management (CRM) platforms to help build an accurate 360-degree view of your customer. 

As marketers, why we exist and what we need to accomplish doesn’t change in a cookieless world. But we must revisit how we can understand our customers, respect their privacy, and create meaningful marketing moments to delight them. 

To learn more about marketing in a cookieless world and how the Okta Customer Identity Cloud can help, please check out our whitepaper.

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