In 1994, 24-year-old computer programmer Lou Montulli started using pieces of code he called “cookies” to determine whether visitors to a site called “Netscape” were returning or new. The same year, an ex-investment manager named Jeff Bezos started an online bookstore.
While Netscape has faded from memory, the online bookstore became Amazon.com, the most disruptive retail model since the department store. Central to Amazon’s success was a hyper-personalized offering, seamless user experience, and eerily accurate targeting. All fuelled by the cookies that made Netscape so groundbreaking.
Since 1994, cookie technology has been the foundation of many successful online businesses, and the backbone of digital marketing strategies. But this model is set to change in 2022, with Google announcing their plans to make third party cookies “obsolete”. The change is part of a series of rollbacks that have been underway since 2018. Safari has already suspended third-party cookies, and government regulatory bodies have shifted laws around opt-ins. Smart marketers are adopting new strategies for data collection, optimization, and email database growth – those who haven’t will need to catch up, fast.
With this in mind, Forrester-leading software solution provider, Cheetah Digital are offering a free ebook titled “The #1 Secret to Smashing Your Email Marketing KPIs.” Within, you will find case studies from major brands who are shifting their data strategies — and reaping the rewards. To learn how companies like Vodafone, Shell, Air New Zealand, and more have pivoted to zero-party data — follow the link.
And for those playing at home who need a refresher on what exactly third-party cookies do, and the alternatives that can supercharge your email marketing strategy, read on.
Breaking down first-, third-, and zero-party cookies
The cookies Montulli used to determine Netscape’s visitors were what we now think of as “first-party cookies” — pieces of code generated and stored on a website. First party cookies collect “on-location” information. They can track how visitors use websites while storing information that makes user experience seamless, like passwords and search preferences.
Third-party cookies are codes that attach to web visitors’ browsers and collect information as they move from site to site. An advertiser using a third-party cookie can create a “map” of user behaviour, from what websites customers are visiting, to the content they’re engaging with. They can then extrapolate from this data to determine what products or advertising will resonate with them. The results are the eerily prescient ads most internet users experience daily.
Sounds too good to be true? It is. Third-party cookies collect a lot of data, and in the wake of scandals like Cambridge Analytica, consumers are more aware and less keen to share. Regulators now require that web users “opt-in” to third party cookies — rather than simply being notified of their presence. Unsurprisingly, they are opting out in swathes. In Australia alone, 30% of consumers have installed ad-blockers, and 35% regularly clear their cookies (Cheetah Digital, Australian Consumer Research Report).
Furthermore, what third-party cookies offer in scale and reach, they sacrifice in accuracy. Third-party cookies often misidentify essential information like age and gender. These errors can be embarrassing for brands attempting to create hyper-personalized ads using this data. The lack of accuracy makes email segmentation impossible and leaves companies hamstrung by corrupted data-sets. For companies who want to aggressively grow their databases, and develop email marketing strategies with genuine cut through and relevance, third party cookies and the data sets they enable are simply not reliable enough.
For this reason, zero-party data is rapidly superseding third-party amongst savvy email-marketers.
Zero-party data is data intentionally and proactively provided by the user. It’s an attractive option for marketers as it cuts out the changing requirements of regulators and algorithms. Instead, zero-party data is reliant on the relationship between brand and consumer. However, it does require the marketer to create an engaging enough value proposition to get the consumer to opt-in – which means your value proposition needs to be compelling.
Shell is just one of the companies whose case study is featured in Cheetah Digital’s ebook. For Shell’s digital development manager Chris Muscatt, zero-party data and value-exchange marketing efforts have become something of a no-brainer. In 2019, Shell ran an Avenger’s themed scratch-card activation. Consumers who spent over 30 pounds received a scratch card with a unique code, which they submitted online.
The promotion garnered 285k entries, generated $8.5 million in revenue, and countless PII data points. Muscatt reflects, “Platforms like Cheetah Digital have enabled us to activate different types of engagement, from moderating user-generated content to engaging in progressive profiling and building strong data sets that allow us to capture more customer information and serve them with more relevant and timely communications.” The value exchange has translated to higher consumer uptake, a resilient email database, and a relationship between brand and buyer with genuine longevity.
To learn more about growing your database with engaging value propositions, and smashing your email marketing KPI’s, download the ebook by Cheetah Digital, where you will find a dozen cross-sector case studies.