The Cookie Monster: How to Tackle Advertising in a Cookie-Less World

July 27, 2021by Hiebing

The marketing industry has become accustomed to aggregated data collected from cookies across multiple platforms to determine target audience’s behaviors, interests and purchasing power. Considerable changes are already being implemented as the era of third-party cookies comes to an end, so marketers must rethink what a cookie-less world means.

Without the sharing of data from big third parties, the question on every marketer’s mind is what strategy they can now pivot to in order to get a full picture of their target audience. The impact on the advertising world is real and full of positive outcomes – such as providing transparency, choice and control to your users over how their data is being used. These changes can build a stronger sense of trust and community around your brand.

It’s clear the web ecosystem needs to change to meet this internet evolution, and at the center of the conversation on how this change should come about is first-party data. With first-party data, privacy is granted by default with low burden on the user and prevents bad actors from tracking users against their will. These are just a few benefits that come with the collection, organization and implementation of your own data points. But how do you convert raw data into a virtual blueprint of your audience?

1) Benefits of First-Party Data

Proactively preparing for the end of bought or shared aggregated data will better equip brands to thrive in this new digital advertising landscape. While owning your data is momentously important, it is also an opportunity to build brand affinity by giving something back to the customers who are entrusting you with their information. Consider these benefits:

  • Possess full autonomy over what exact data points you collect
  • Create a better roadmap of your customer’s journey by collecting data directly from the source. This allows for higher levels of accuracy and a personalized touch to your user’s experience.
  • Analyze and predict browsing behavior by linking “device-based” identity to a “person-based” identity when someone authenticates on your domain(s)
  • Engage with your audience in a way that makes a long-lasting impact, such as newsletter sign-ups, loyalty programs or regular email updates from your brand.

Build trust with your audience by providing transparency of intent, what type of data is being gathered and used — and how they can opt out of the process. It is critical that data being amassed follow both legal and ethical guidelines for privacy purposes.

2) Collecting Data

To put good data to use, you first need to collect your desired datapoints. This will become the foundation for your cookie-less strategy and will shape how best to learn and interact with the target audience. Defining business objectives for your desired data can be tough and time consuming, so expertise in this area is critical.

Steps to take when collecting data are:

  • Identify the right data to collect and set a goal for key performance indicators. Start with unique identifiers such as email addresses and names. This type of data can be most easily found through website pixels, mobile web browsing and mobile apps. Start by asking website visitors to provide an email address.
  • Pay attention to engagement activity on your website or social media. Engagements such as giveaways provide value to the customer while also creating touchpoints to understand purchase patterns and potential interest in what your brand may have to offer.
  • Complete a data audit to see what you have and what you still need. There is a wealth of offline databases you may have access to, such as your point of sales system or call center information. These resources can help connect the dots as you create a virtual design of your target audience.

Understanding where the consumer is in their journey with your brand will help you map out how best to use this newly collected data to make the greatest impact.

3) Integrating Data

So you’ve collected your desired data. What now? If you’re finding integration to be difficult to bring together – know you are not alone. The data you’ve collected is likely in fragmented silos, so to meaningfully invest what your brand learned, organizing and integrating your data is fundamental.

  • Data is messy – getting the right end user’s access to the right data requires strategy and technology, so start by finding a method or agency to assist with handling data integration.
  • Create interactive dashboards, executive summaries and full-funnel reporting – and add it all into one access point for all reporting. The benefit is that these are brand-specific and focused on decision-driving KPIs.
  • Use your newly integrated data to try contextual targeting. This type of targeting favors first-party data at almost every level, as it allows your brand to understand what drives consumers to make purchases. This type of strategy can lead to contextual targeting ads to be placed in more meaningful, cost- effective spaces.Deploy ads based on contextual signals (e.g., type of site, topic of content).

4) Defining Success

This is a new space for most marketers, so a test and learn approach is vital. Be mindful of measuring what is working and what needs adjustments to create a deeper impact. Measuring success will look different for everyone.

  • Measure what information is actionable; refine conversion definitions to align with a new reality.
  • Experiment: Re-establish benchmarks according to data points that yield a higher drive for customer relationships.
  • Add a personal touch with your targeted content and advertisements. Create a personalized experience based on what you know about your target’s interests.
  • Reanalyze data with the “new” parameters to understand what campaigns moving forward should accomplish.

Owning your own data can seem like a daunting process in a cookie-less world. Ultimately, brands will achieve success in different ways, so measuring yours should look toward what is growing your business.

Interested in learning more about how to set up a first-party data strategy that works for your brand? Email Dana at to set up a call.

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