Blog post

How to deliver personalisation in a cookie-less world

Date of post

3 February 2021

Read time

4 mins

Third-party cookies have been invaluable to marketers when it comes to online advertising and user targeting, but now the era of the third-party cookie is coming to an end. Google is following in the footsteps of several other browsers and removing support for them before 2022, meaning marketers need to change tactics ready for a cookie-less world.

But what does this mean for personalisation? When you consider that 72% of consumers will only engage with marketing that is personalised and tailored to their interests, how can we deliver the expected experience at scale without cookies to guide us?

Marketers need to switch up their tactics as soon as possible so they aren’t left treading water when cookie support ends. This means exploring different ways to deliver personalisation throughout the customer journey. So where should you start?


First-party data

Collecting first-party data should be your first port of call, which means optimising your site and customer experience to encourage visitors to provide you with their data. This data is owned by you, so you can use it to deliver offers and provide personalised content and experiences on and off your site.

This data can include behavioural data (such as purchase history), web analytics data and any personal information provided to you by your customers – including name, location, email address, phone number, etc. When you don’t have third-party cookies, this data is your best opportunity to meet customer expectations when it comes to personalisation.

So how can you use first-party data for personalisation?

  • Utilise your web analytics data to improve page and content performance
  • Segment customers to deliver improved targeting and personalisation
  • Send targeted emails to your customers based on their segments or the way they have interacted with your website, e.g. abandoned basket offers
  • Use direct mail as an alternative to digital marketing
  • Send messages or emails to customers who are local to your business

There are a lot of opportunities for utilising first-party data, so planning exactly what information would be useful and using your CRM to integrate all the data will ensure you’re able to deliver a cohesive and strategic experience.


Zero-party data

While first-party data requires input from customers or site visitors, it can be obtained via third-parties. Zero-party data is valuable because it cannot be inferred and can be tailored to meet your brand and products.

Insights are a big part of personalisation, which is why third-party cookies have been so heavily utilised. Zero-party data can help provide you with more insights by asking customers questions that improve their experience. For example, a beauty website might ask what type of skin a visitor has to provide better product recommendations. When combined with your first-party data, this can help you provide more accurate and targeted personalisation.

Zero-party data covers information that cannot be provided by a third party and that can’t be inferred, providing you with deeper insights. These can help you scale your personalisation better, as well as give you a greater understanding of your audience, their needs and their pain points. Even better, this data is unique to your brand, giving you an edge over competitors who aren’t collecting zero-party data.


People-based marketing

Also known as cross-device marketing, people-based marketing uses unique identifiers to target people across multiple devices, delivering a seamless experience. Facebook uses this approach to track people instead of their devices, allowing it to create a cohesive, personalised experience no matter what device is being used.

Rather than segmenting customers into broader groups and targeting them that way, people-based marketing focuses on each individual. This allows you to customise your messaging more effectively, as well as deliver it at the best possible time based on your customer’s behaviour.

This method uses data from both online and offline sources, building up rich, detailed customer profiles over time. It means utilising sales info from each person (such as online or in-store using a loyalty programme), the customer path to purchase and media exposure to gain insights and better understand what drives awareness, sales and advocacy.

Even better, this type of tracking is more accurate than third-party cookie tracking. Third-party and first-party cookies track behaviour, which includes any mistakes someone makes while browsing. A person could accidentally click on an advert or webpage and third-party cookies wouldn’t account for this being a mistake, whereas people-based marketing can.


Contextual advertising

While you’re building up your alternative data to better target customers, switching to contextual advertising could be the best option. This means that the ads being shown on a website or page are relevant to the content, rather than trying to match the ad to the user. For example, if someone is visiting a blog about healthy eating, they’ll be shown adverts for healthy meal delivery or health food products.

Contextual advertising uses keywords that are defined by the advertiser, so you choose to show your ads to users who are interested in keywords associated with your product or service. Certain advertising networks will allow you to display contextual ads without the use of third-party cookies, ensuring you are serving relevant content without the need for user data to inform personalisation.

This can help support good user experience and provide an easy form of personalisation. However, it can mean that you miss out on opportunities to better target individuals. While contextual advertising is a good idea, you need to use it alongside other personalisation strategies.


Personalisation is the future, even if third-party cookies aren’t

Just because third-party cookies aren’t going to be part of your toolset any more, it doesn’t mean that personalisation is no longer possible. Developing your strategy now can ensure you have enough data and insights to deliver the right messages to the right users at the right time once Google stops supporting this type of cookies.

With customers expecting that personalised approach to marketing, changing your strategy now will strengthen your position. It will also help you to gain the trust of your customers, allowing you to gain further insights to build a more accurate picture of your audience; all of which leads to better marketing.

Post author

Mel left university with a first-class degree in English Language and Linguistics and after more than ten years as a marketing manager working for organisations across various industries, she left employment behind and struck out on her own as a freelance writer.

Table of contents

More content like this

Get in touch with Marketing Labs®

Recent blog posts

Psst! Did you know we’ve got our very own podcast?