Life after cookies: What this means for brands in 2016

Originally posted on Wallblog

Many marketers still find frustration trying to assess where and how their digital ads are being interacted with by consumers, whether the messages are reaching their intended audience, and – crucially – whether the consumer has already completed their path to purchase as a consequence.

Without this information to help marketers test and learn, to enable them to hone the way they’re reaching potential customers, effective digital marketing can feel like a game of chance.

No marketer wants their ad spend to go on reaching consumers with irrelevant ads.

The root cause of many ads’ irrelevancy is the cookie, a useful but limited technology, which is still being relied on by many marketers to solely identify who they’re marketing to online.

In a world where two thirds of consumers’ devices don’t support cookies – and the average home contains nine internet connected devices – the cookie is an outdated and outmoded tool that too often fails to allow targeting to consumers with relevant, timely ads.

Many consumers end up being bombarded with multiple ads across their devices because cookies can’t distinguish they’ve already interacted with an ad on a different device.

The picture gets worse when you consider that cookies don’t follow customers into physical stores.

According to research by eMarketer, this means that the 85 per cent of purchases taking place on the high street are invisible to digital marketers.

This leaves brands still plying consumers with online messages when they’ve already made their purchase – a costly, significant waste.

Also, without knowing the role digital played in driving consumers in-store, marketers are left only measuring the success of their online spend from the 15 per cent of sales they can see.

The positive news is we now have the technology to make the shift from cookie-based marketing to people-based and build a picture of the actual customer we’re trying to reach.

It’s the difference between a probabilistic, modelled approach and something uniquely tailored to actual consumer’s interests and needs.

For years the industry has been pushing the message that it’s time to leverage the huge amount of data available and a people based approach becomes more interesting for brands by providing the ability to also utilise their high value 1st party data, to create a holistic view of the customer both on and offline.

We’re now firmly in the age of people-based technologies which, unlike the cookie based, anchor the available data about a consumer and tie it to that person, whatever the device they’re using.

This can only be achieved through first party data, the data received when a consumer registers directly with a website.

By understanding the person behind the device, marketers can ensure they’re reaching them with tailored messages across all their devices and also measure true effectiveness of the online channel, including all actions, regardless of where these touch points occur.

When you thread together all available data – for example FMCG or retail transaction data, TV viewership data, vehicle ownership data – merge this with customers online behaviour and then tie it to an online identity, you can reach customers with messages that take into account who they are, where they are and what they want.

Clients will inevitably be drawn to a marketing solution that allows them to take a consumer centric view across their full marketing strategy, now the technology is in place to support this approach, it is time to take advantage and market to people, not just proxies.