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4 questions to help marketers prepare for a cookieless future

March 16, 2022By
Computer mouse clicking on screen

For marketers, the goal has always been to reach the right person with the right message at the right time. And third-party cookies have made this easier. But they’ve also been the cause of growing privacy concerns regarding who is accessing information and how browsing activity is being monitored.

With the end of third-party cookies in sight, now is the time for companies to adapt their data strategy and rethink how they connect with customers. Using the right tools, marketers can leave third-party data in the past, and set their sights on data collection methods that strike a balance between privacy and personalization.


Third-party cookies are out, first- and zero-party data are in

Relying on third-party cookies isn’t the only viable option for marketers to gain insight into their customers. Data exists in more direct forms. We’re talking about first-party data and zero-party data–getting to know your customers straight from the source. Embracing both of these in your new data strategy is the key to meeting customers where they’re at in a world without third-party cookies. In fact, 61% of high-growth brands are already shifting to a first-party data strategy.

To understand how to best collect and use these types of data, we first need to understand the difference between first-party data and zero-party data:

  • First-party data: First things first, the future is not entirely cookieless–first-party cookies are still functional. First-party data is information about a company’s customers, collected and owned by the company itself, based on activity on their website. It still offers valuable insights, without the creepiness. And just like third-party data, it can be used to tailor communications and experiences based on the person’s interests, intent, and engagement.
  • Zero-party data: This is information that a customer voluntarily shares with a company. It’s not tracked based on activity, it’s provided through things like form fills, surveys, and conversations. What better way to gather information than straight from the source? Third-party data is disconnected from the customer, but zero-party data is reflective of the relationship and trust established.

While first- and zero-party data aren’t new, they’ve been hiding in the shadow of third-party cookies when it comes to data strategies. It’s easy and convenient to collect large amounts of third-party information but getting data straight from the customer, that’ll take a little more elbow grease.

While some may see the end of third-party cookies as a hindrance, it’s also a great opportunity to explore new ideas, re-evaluate how you connect with customers, and build trusted relationships that will serve you well long-term. It all starts with shifting your marketing strategy.

Four considerations to shape your new marketing strategy

To be proactive, marketers should already be thinking about the changes needed to prepare their company for the end of third-party cookies. With many variables to consider, here are four questions to help you build a strategy around first- and zero-party data, turning a cookieless future into a connected future.

1. How much do I currently rely on third-party cookies?

The first step of creating any strategy is to determine your starting point. Start with a level-set of where your marketing organization is currently relying on third-party cookies. There might be some ways your website uses cookies that you didn’t even realize!

Also, consider if there are any data sources you might lose access to. What connections and uses do these data sources have? By identifying these, you can plan ahead to ensure you’re prepared to replace them.

Once you’ve established the role cookies currently play for you, you’ll have a holistic view of where you need to adapt. Now you can start thinking about the logistics of shifting your data collection methods.

2. What systems do I need in place to handle first- and zero-party data?

The systems you had in place to manage third-party data may not be suited for your new data strategy. You’ll need to make sure your systems are equipped to handle the compliance, storage, and integration of first- and zero-party data.

Prioritizing data privacy and compliance

Consider what new systems you need to put in place to ensure your customers can trust you with their data. User privacy, compliance, and security should be a priority–people want to know that you’re safeguarding their information. These components need to guide your marketing strategy, so you can build trust while also abiding by legislation. For example, ensure that you’re familiar with–and in compliance of–the necessary consent and privacy laws that you’ll need to follow when gathering and storing first-party data.

A best practice is to only collect the information you need. This is beneficial on both sides–you don’t want to be holding more information than needed, and your customers don’t want to share more information than necessary.

Selecting tools to manage data at scale

Being conscious of how much data you’re collecting will also help with data management. A 2021 Forrester report found that “25% of B2B marketing leaders agreed that data materialized too fast for them to handle”. Ensuring that you have a database that can manage the volume of incoming data, should not be overlooked.

Tools like the Salesforce Marketing Cloud suite–including the Salesforce CDP, Interaction Studio, and Datorama products–are great for managing data. Additionally, they can handle re-identification of web visitors as they go from being unknown to known visitors. Both the CDP and Interaction Studio can perform re-identification once visitors become known, and are great places to store, manage, and activate a large volume of individual-level data at scale. And Datorama enables marketers to gain a holistic picture of marketing performance across all channels. With these tools, you can build a comprehensive tech ecosystem to connect data sources throughout the customer journey.

3. How can I get my customers to share more data?

With the technicalities of your systems and compliance handled, how do you actually go about getting data? Think of it like this–cookies were answers that were just given to you, but zero-party data is information you earn. You earn it by building trust and engaging customers in a way that makes them willing to share their information with you.

Providing customer value in exchange for information

The two most important things to remember are value and trust. By providing value to customers, you build trust and connection, which in turn creates more opportunities for information sharing.

How you deliver value is dependent on understanding your customers. It comes back to building and nurturing the customer-brand relationship. You need to learn who they are, what they want, and how to communicate with them, so you know how to provide value to them personally.

Consider the types of content and materials you can offer in exchange for information. Some possibilities include whitepapers, emails, playbooks, and free demos. You can also explore different avenues for collecting information on your website. For example, chatbots, contact forms, or blog subscriptions can be good options, as are Interaction Studio surveys, which allow you to collect zero-party data from your web visitors as they browse your site, and use this information to display personalized content to each individual.

Each touchpoint to gather information should serve a purpose for the customer–give and you’ll get in return. Creating meaningful, human-first experiences is what will set you apart as a brand they are willing to engage with.

Dots representing customer journey

Building human-first experiences

To get started on the right track, follow these three tips for prioritizing people in your data strategy:

  • Create meaningful relationships: Trust before tracking–take the time to build relationships by showing understanding and empathy. Establishing trust leads to greater loyalty.
  • Be transparent: Information-giving is a two-way street. Share with customers why information is being collected, how it will be used, and the choice they have to provide it.
  • Embrace creativity: People value more than just logic derived from data. Marketing is about “connecting people to meaningful stories”. Work on building a connection between your products or services, and your customers.

Like any relationship, meaningful customer relationships don’t just build themselves. They take time and effort. Something as simple as asking your visitors for their permission to collect their data gives them control that they didn’t have with third-party cookies, building a level of trust that is advantageous for both sides.

Established relationships can actually influence how people perceive personalized offers. When asked to rate brand interactions, customers rated recommendations informed by first-party data as more helpful than those from third-party monitoring. So, investing in human-first experiences can improve the perception of your company and strengthen long-term trust and support.

4. How will my analytics need to change?

This Forrester article said it best, “Customer obsession requires obsession with customer data”. All of your teams and tools need to work together to analyze your data, so you can use this information to shape the experiences you provide. You may need to alter your data analysis process to keep up with your new strategy. Consider the questions you typically ask of your data–do they still make sense? What about the tools you use for analysis?

Using the Cloud to reduce data silos

When it comes to first-party data analysis, the cloud plays an important role–or rather, cloud integration. You don’t want your data siloed across multiple clouds and platforms. According to a 2021 Forrester report, 24% of B2B Marketing leaders report issues with too many unconnected data sources. Keeping your data integrated and organized in a single cloud environment will make it easier to run analysis and come up with solutions based on a holistic view of your data.

Data analysis made easy with Salesforce CDP

Luckily, integrated data analysis is exactly what the Salesforce CDP was built to do. You can use it to:

  • store millions of customer profiles and events
  • perform identity resolution to determine when two profiles are the same person
  • build and activate segments to different marketing channels.

Did we mention it does all of this at scale and on brand new architecture? The Salesforce CDP is the perfect place to connect your Salesforce CRM and analytics tools like Tableau and Tableau CRM for analysis. And if you’re using a different BI tool, no problem, CDP’s data can be accessed directly using any analytics tool that can connect to a database using a JDBC driver.

Shifting your data strategy starts here

After considering the four questions above, you know where your organization currently stands with third-party cookies, the systems and tools you’ll need to change, and how you can start collecting data in new ways. You’re ready for change.

The end of third-party cookies is the beginning of reconnecting with customers on a personal level. Show them how you can solve their problems, and they will likely want to see the answer.

With the preparations above, you can face a cookieless future with a data strategy that will build long-standing customer relationships.

Find the opportunity in a world without third-party cookies.

Get in touch with our team to put the tools in place for your new data strategy and start reconnecting with your customers.