Stop looking at devices and start having a singular view of people
For retailers and other brands, relying on cookies can result in missed opportunities to talk to customers. Brands need to know who they’re addressing, and subsequently, how to address them. If, for example, a parent is preparing to transition their baby from a crib to a toddler bed, a retailer needs to be ready to deliver relevant and personalized messages about things like style, comfort, safety and sleep habits.
The problem is, cookies bypass virtually all the intelligence and data needed to identify real individuals. People use multiple devices, browsers and apps. Cookies simply fail to connect all the dots. This leaves marketers subsumed in a sea of John Does, unable to reach individuals with relevant, contextual and personalized messaging that converts traffic into customers.
The cookie starts to crumble
The cookie’s demise as a primary source for identification and measurement is also being accelerated by legislation such as GDPR. Now that websites have raced to become GDPR-compliant, clicking the consent box (or not) is becoming a standard component of the browsing experience.
That’s just web browsing. Over half of all internet traffic now comes from mobile devices, yet the majority of those devices don’t accept (or fully accept) cookies. Famously, Apple’s iOS disallows third-party cookies in the Safari browser. And apps, which account for the majority of mobile internet use, don’t accept cookies at all.
Otherwise put, if you’re relying on cookies, you only have information about devices, not people.
Moving beyond the cookie
When it comes to digital marketing, the goal for all brands should be two-fold. First, have a single, persistent view of customers and prospects to avoid falling into the “50 First Dates” trap. Second, once the brand is introduced to an individual, it should be able to maintain ongoing conversations with that person that grow over time.
There’s no magic wand when it comes to achieving that singular view. Even if you have detailed information, such as email address or online account log-in, it’s a mistake to think that’s all you need. Families often share the same account log-in details, and people can have multiple email addresses linked to them. Instead, brands that use actual transactions and can connect multiple pieces of data to identify an individual—often referred to as deterministic matching—are best positioned for success. Such was the case for one children’s furniture retailer.
Epsilon-Conversant worked with the brand to obtain a single view of its current customers, lapsed customers and prospects. Rather than treating each cookie (or device) as a different entity, the retailer focused on using highly accurate online and offline customer data to match people to their devices. Each individual was connected, on average, to 14 cookies and devices, and as a result, the brand was able to accurately reach people with personalized advertising. In total, the brand served 1,500 unique ads each month and was able to ensure that irrelevant messages did not hurt performance.
The story is only one example that shows brands don’t need to settle for cookies or incomplete data to connect with individuals. There is a better way. When every dollar matters, and every customer interaction counts, relying on cookies is fiscally wasteful and inconsiderate of the customer experience.
Taking control of identity
The future of cookies is bleak to be sure, but technologies are paving the way for a brighter future. For example, customer and prospect relationship management (CPRM) platforms give brands the opportunity to bring identity and measurement in-house.
CPRMs, like Epsilon-Conversant’s Mesobase, offer brands the opportunity to analyze, activate and measure their own data in a self-serve environment. Brand messaging can be enhanced and streamlined when brands know and understand their customers as individuals, rather than the cookie-based tunnel vision of the devices and browsers that access your site. This enhanced vision leads, in turn, to streamlined definitions of people, cohorts and touchpoints, enabling relevant and effective messaging. Not only with one marketing team, but cross-functional teams can get a clearer view of current and future customers.
Cookies may be sweetly tempting, but ultimately, they provide only empty calories in the form of disconnected identification and data loss. The affordances of technology fuel our industry in exciting new ways. There’s no longer any justification for basing a marketing strategy on a diet of cookies alone.
This post originally appeared on Adweek.