Google’s stay of execution for third-party cookies in Chrome won’t last forever. Even if they push the deadline beyond the expected second half of 2024, the tracking tool’s demise is on the horizon.
In the no-cookie era, you will still possess vital customer insights from your first-party data – the information people share directly in exchange for valuable content and experiences. However, you won’t have access to their actions and behaviors outside your brand’s content ecosystem.
First- and third-party data have often combined to give marketers a multi-level understanding of their audience so they can tailor content to individual needs and interests. But content personalization doesn’t need to end with the loss of third-party cookies.
You can take steps now to increase trust and transparency in your data collection practices and make customers more willing to provide their data in exchange for personally resonant experiences.Take steps now to create content personalization through first-party data, not third-party cookies, says @joderama via @CMIContent. Click To Tweet
Consumers grow increasingly concerned about marketers’ access to and use of their information, including what they search, talk about, and purchase. That affects their thinking about exchanging their personal information for your content.
“You’ve got crazy high customer expectations. They want customer service … they want to find out things very easily – and if they’re not finding it with you, they will find it elsewhere,” says SJC Media’s Jacqueline Loch in her Content Marketing World presentation.
Fortunately, brands that deliver on those demands stand to reap more data benefits. According to a report by McKinsey, 66% of consumers would consider or be happy to share personal information in exchange for added value (34% would not).
To meet your part of that value-data bargain, Jacqueline suggests crafting content that’s a relatable, attractive invitation into your brand’s experience. “Make it look good, make it meaningful, make it visually compelling, make it simple. Just say what you’re asking the person to do and explain the benefit of providing their data in a really simple way,” she says.
She points to her agency’s campaign for dermo-cosmetics brand Vichy to drive the adoption of SkinConsult AI, its skin-analysis tool. The content assets included a mobile-friendly video of women following the tool’s simple consultation process – scanning the QR code, taking a selfie, and answering a few questions about their skin-care priorities.
“It walks consumers through the steps [of using the consultation tool] and shows how they can get a custom skin-care routine recommendation in just a few minutes,” Jacqueline explains.
Parent company L’Oreal can use the first-party data given by every consumer who completes the consultation to recommend additional products.
They also repurposed the video assets across other content platforms, including print articles in publications like the Canadian women’s magazine Chatelaine (shown below).
Earn consumer trust
Only one-third (33%) of consumers believe companies use their data responsibly, according to the McKinsey report. (The remaining two-thirds have a negative or neutral view of companies’ data usage.)
Jacqueline says earning consumer trust starts with transparency. “You have to be really clear about what you’re going to do with the data and that you’re constantly going to be taking care of it,” she says.
Beverage brand Oatly hits the bull’s eye for earning consumers’ trust in its data collection. All website visitors receive the standard request for consent to track their data. But rather than cloaking tracking activities with legal jargon, Oatly created a page of clear – and entertaining – explanations on their data acquisition and usage policies.@Oatly doesn’t cloak its visitor-tracking activities in legal jargon. It clearly and entertainingly explains its data policies, says @joderama via @jacquelineloch @CMIContent. Click To Tweet
They define each type of tracking cookie. In the analytical cookies section shown below, they also created an easy-to-understand chart disclosing the owner/source of the data, the tracking cookie tags collecting it, the data’s usage, the time they retain the data, and the other tools and sites that can access the data (i.e., Facebook or Google Tag Manager).
Oatly also outlines how they handle the data they collect and how their cookies help users avoid repeating steps (like selecting their preferred language or entering a password) on each site visit. It also notes that they store customer data on Plausible, an analytics platform.
Focus on consumers’ preferred form of personalization
Consumers may not understand how cookies work, but they know their impact – that feeling that content follows them around the internet, usually too close for comfort.
But you can still personalize content without crossing the line from invaluable to invasive. Consider these lessons, based on data from Marigold’s 2023 Consumer Trends Index (registration required) on creepy vs. worthwhile personalized content:
Don’t do creepy content
Location-aware ads: Sixty-seven percent of consumers say getting an ad that seems to know where they are is creepy. That includes geofenced ads and SMS offers shown when the consumer happens to walk by a storefront or in-store display.
Targeting based on “overheard” conversations: Sixty-three percent of consumers say they’re turned off by ads about something they discussed near a smart device.
Retargeting ads based on tracking data: Sixty-one percent of consumers don’t like ads that seem to follow their activities from one site to another.
Retargeting ads also can turn off consumers if they are irrelevant or fail to take context into consideration. For example, I use a company laptop at home to research my CMI articles. Because that computer shares an IP address with my personal devices, retargeting ads for business products and services I have no intention of purchasing fill my personal social feeds and email inboxes.
Do worthwhile content
Helpful recommendations: Seventy-nine percent of consumers are cool with product recommendations based on purchases made with a brand. For example, when I return to Amazon to buy clothes, its in-ad recommendation carousels – including this skull-themed, studded tank top – save me time.
Offers based on engagement: Sixty percent are OK with offers shown after they spend a few minutes on the brand’s website.
That includes offers of assistance, product discounts, and demo suggestions. B2B brands excel at this, as you can see in the screenshot below. Wrike’s pop-up chatbot gives a wave and jokes that “things must be getting serious” to acknowledge I’ve already been on the site.
Next, it asks if I’m looking for anything particular and offers options, such as “I want to know how people like me are using Wrike” or “I want to see a demo.” It uses my response to help me access the best information to move me toward my goal.
Cart reminders: Sixty-five percent approve of receiving an email or ad reminder for their abandoned shopping carts. Given the intent shown, a follow-up ad with a discount code, a similar item on sale, or social proof from satisfied customers could be just what the consumer needs to complete the transaction.
For example, I received this email after adding a wireless keyboard to my Logitech shopping cart. Not only does it provide a code for free shipping, it includes a link to my abandoned cart. The text also highlights the company’s free-returns policy – reassuring me that I’ll be covered if I’m not satisfied with my purchase.
Set the stage for personalized content success
Marketers don’t need third-party cookies to understand consumers prefer to engage with brands they trust will use their data to provide meaningful experiences and who respect their privacy preferences. With more trustworthy data practices and a stronger focus on delivering customer value, you can win their attention – and their appreciation.
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Cover image by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute