According to its latest blog post, Google is officially delaying its phase out of third-party cookies in Chrome from this year until 2023. For many marketers scrambling to find first-party data solutions, this announcement comes as a much-needed relief.

Because the loss of third-party cookies and tracking mechanisms will likely lead to massive challenges down the road where digital advertising and consumer targeting efforts are concerned. Especially if there’s not a widely adopted alternative in place by the time third-party data tracking finally comes to an end.

So, how does this unexpected delay impact you and your work?

Google and the Future of Data Privacy in Digital Marketing

While Google has been hard at work building its Privacy Sandbox, many marketers are skeptical of whether or not this toolset will be enough to make up for the loss of third-party cookies and insights. Even Vinay Goel, Chrome’s Privacy Engineering Director, admits that there’s much work to be done before the organization (and you) are ready to sunset third-party data tracking capabilities forever.

“While there’s considerable progress with [the Privacy Sandbox], it’s become clear that more time is needed across the ecosystem to get this right,” said Goel.

However, the organization isn’t simply looking for a quick fix or to replace third-party cookies with an equally invasive form of individual tracking approaches like browser fingerprinting, The Trade Desk’s Unified ID 2.0, or Lotame’s Panorama ID that have been growing more and more popular in media since Google’s original announcement.

Despite this delay, Google continues to develop its next generation of data privacy-friendly marketing tools. If all goes well, expect a new suite of first-party data-driven technologies to be deployed by the end of next year — giving you and marketing experts everywhere nine months to test these tools and migrate services before Google’s three-month phaseout of third-party cookies begins in late 2023.

3 Steps You Should Take Today

If it isn’t already obvious, it’s time to go back to the drawing board and start preparing now for life after third-party cookies. Unfortunately, that’s easier said than done for many marketers who don’t know where to start. So, here are three easy recommendations you can use to ready your future personalization strategies:

Focus on where you already collect first-party data

It’s never been more important to collect insights directly from your customers. But that doesn’t mean you need to reinvent the wheel — rather than building out new initiatives and campaigns, focus your attention on improving existing efforts like event signups, landing pages, newsletters, and digital subscription forms. That way, you’re able to capture new data points with minimal time and resource investment required!

Always keep consent in mind

This shouldn’t be a new concept after GDPR. But it’s nonetheless an important consideration that is only growing more vital to the ultimate success or failure of your personalized marketing strategy.

Be sure to check the first-party data you already have in order to gain a clear insight into what data you’ve got, and then update your privacy policy to shed light on how you are using this data moving forward to keep your company and customers protected.

Transition to People-Based Targeting

When you combine first-party data with real-time personalization, you’re able to target a desired audience across any channel they engage with. Because people-based marketing doesn’t rely on third-party cookies and tracking mechanisms, it’s an ideal solution for interacting with customers on their own terms.

If you’re interested in building your own people-based marketing strategy, consider these three key elements:

Every retail success starts with data. Whether you’re optimizing marketing messages or managing inventory levels, a foundation built by high-quality, first-party data is key.

But information on its own doesn’t deliver value. If it’s not accurate, actionable, or accessible at the moment it’s needed, it can lead to inefficient business decisions, inaccurate forecasts, and ineffective long-term marketing strategies.

In fact, the challenge of integrating first-party data insights you’ve worked hard to collect from customers into personalized email is creating a two-tier playing field that separates pretenders from true contenders when it comes to retail success:

Start fueling your personalization with first-party data now

Today, 62% of retail consumers say it’s important for brands to deliver personalized experiences. And with so many more people searching, shopping, and purchasing products online, real-time personalization has become an invaluable tactic for improving customer engagement, loyalty, and intent to purchase.

But integrating your first-party data doesn’t need to be an expensive or time-consuming process. In fact, here are three things you can start right now to improve your digital marketing results right away:

Take personalization beyond product recommendations. Integrate a personalized content strategy for every customer email. After all, this small change can be particularly useful for retailers with smaller assortments and longer purchase frequency cycles. The combo of first-party data and real-time personalization can even be used to engage and nurture relationships while simultaneously maximizing the value of existing assets like blog and influencer content.

Use personalization behind the scenes. Personalization does not always need to be explicit in order to deliver an effective experience. Identify interest, product, and brand affinities that can help you deliver more relevant content, align your brand with your customers’ values, and deliver a more engaging, exciting customer experience across all channels.

Consumer behavior shifted towards essential goods at the beginning of the pandemic. As we start to see the light at the end of the tunnel, now is the time for every kind of retailer to prepare their strategies. Personalization does not need to come at the sacrifice of branding or creative efforts. Even the most high-strung luxury shoppers’ expectations can be met with effective segmentation and behavioral strategies that can predict a browser vs a high-intent shopper.

Eliminate inconsistency, inefficiency, and lost revenue in one move

When you combine first-party data profiles with the power of real-time personalization, you get rid of the disconnected experience your marketing team faces anytime a personalized email needs to be built, updated, or sent. Transforming any overly manual, time-consuming legacy processes you use into streamlined project sprints that maximize your productivity and efficiency — and your organization’s email engagement, conversion rate, and revenue generating potential, too.

Now more than ever, it’s important for you to integrate first-party data into your email marketing strategies. Because, as you move closer and closer toward a truly omnichannel customer experience, the insights your customers decide to share with your brand are an invaluable tool for building more relevant and engaging email content, establishing more meaningful customer relationships, and aligning your business with future trends and behaviors that are likely to lead to long-term retail success

Every day, you send and receive an average of 121 promotional emails. But can you remember one you’ve seen recently that stands out in your mind?

For today’s email marketers, that’s the challenge. Sure, breaking through inbox clutter to reach the right person at the right time is a big deal. But there’s no substitute for memorable email messages that move your audience to action.

To maximize the value your real-time personalized marketing efforts deliver, that means first-party data. And not just lots of it, either—your insights need to be used in a way that personalizes content at the moment of engagement to deliver the most relevant, interesting, and valuable interaction possible to every recipient.

After all, you spend a ton of time making sure your ESP’s customer data profiles are accurate. Why not use them to drive your customer experience forward and step up your email marketing game at the same time?

Results may vary, but here are four real-world examples prove the combined power of first-party data and real-time personalization make your messages stand out. So you can grow engagement and revenue with every send—no matter how much competition you face.

Know exactly how to say hi the second someone signs up

Users who have just offered up their email address are likely expecting a welcome email. So, why not take advantage of this opportunity by using the most up-to-date information possible in your brand interactions?

Real-Time personalization taps into your customer profiles to not only serve the freshest, most interesting messaging available at the moment of engagement—but dynamically updates, hides, and/or replaces content in case anything changes between the time you send your email and someone opens it.

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The Washington Post created a personalized email onboarding experience for its paid subscribers that not only introduces them to the brand, but prioritizes the collection of specific first-party data points about their preferences and news interests through fun, interactive embedded polling features.

That way, The Washington Post can recommend highly targeted email newsletters and content to every follower and track trending topics in real-time—ensuring a connected, loyal audience of everyday newsletter readers that are much more likely to convert into paid subscribers down the road.

Make your customers convert with unforgettable email experiences

For many customers—especially those who are shopping primarily online as a result of the pandemic—the internet is awash with abandoned shopping carts. But just because a buyer lost interest doesn’t mean you should call it quits.

Abandoned carts, previously browsed items, or even items your subscribers have clicked in previous emails all provide future opportunities for email communication and potential conversion. Especially if you can bring first-party data insights like purchase history, brand preferences, and recently browsed categories into these messages to give shoppers timely, hard-to-ignore product recommendations and offers.

When online retailer JustFab adopted dynamic recommendations based on the abandoned cart and previously browsed item data stored in its ESP into its real-time email personalization elements, it achieved a 50% increase in email conversion rates. Not to mention a 46% decrease in customer churn on top of that.

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Explore the potential for cross-promotion

The original Morning Brew email newsletter has long been the gold standard when it comes to email engagement rates. So when the brand wanted to promote its niche newsletters, such as Marketing Brew, Morning Brew maximized its two best assets: The newsletter subscribers already open and love every morning, and the first-party data they’ve already submitted to Morning Brew.

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To promote Marketing Brew to its nearly two million subscribers at the time, Morning Brew included a personalized plug that sat in the newsletter’s top spot and dynamically changed based on each subscriber’s individual story preferences, newsletter subscriptions, and recent website browsing behaviors at the moment of engagement—making Marketing Brew’s launch impossible to ignore regardless of interest.

Add flexibility to your first-party data

All-too-often, brands spend too much time and energy focusing on personalization and what they know about buyers on their emails instead of what happens afterwards. Think about it: there’s nothing more disappointing than being served a ‘just for you’ promotion only to find a generic store page staring back at you through the screen after you’ve made the mistake of clicking.

Real-Time personalization is a commitment that goes beyond any single channel, meaning the data you collect across every interaction makes your next message even more engaging. Your content needs to be tailored to individual needs and preferences at every step, and by adding first-party customer data profiles directly into your ESP’s template and campaign builder experience you ensure that occurs. Otherwise, your followers won’t see the value of submitting their personal information or increasing their engagement level with the brand going forward.

That’s why Food Network uses past behavior and a wealth of info collected across digital channels to deliver trending recipes, articles, programming recommendations, and more directly to its subscribers’ inbox. Every email adds value to their audience interactions by using first-party data to deliver exceptional user experiences.

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first-party data