The Cookie is crumbling

Why brands must set themselves up for success now to thrive in the cookie-less future.

Analytic Partners’ Kevin O’Farrell explains why you should prepare now for the cookie-less future of measurement.

If the past 12 months have taught us anything, it’s that agility and adaptability are key in a constantly changing world. One of the next big changes has been in the back of our heads for a while now: the end of the third-party cookie and its implications for marketing measurement and econometrics.

While millions of people have adapted and improved their cookie baking skills during the pandemic by exploring and experimenting with new recipes, it seems like mastering measurement in a cookie-less world is still not a key priority. However, brands must set themselves up for success now to thrive in the cookie-less future.

Improving and mastering marketing measurement is not that far off from mastering your baking skills. Brands just need to focus on the key elements of good measurement: your data is the ingredients, technology is the right tools, the analysis is the cooking, and the insights that you receive in the end are the hopefully delicious meal. With the key elements in mind and based on a recent panel discussion, we’ve compiled four key takeaways that every business leader should remember for the cookie-less future of marketing measurement.

1. Assess your skills: where will data deprecation hit the hardest?

Before diving into new recipes and ingredients, assess what you have and what areas within your marketing and measurement framework will be hit hardest by the changes in regulations. A good overview will help you establish a thorough plan for the future.

When establishing that overview, be especially wary of measurement inside walled gardens, which may look like a great place for the post-cookie world. However, they come with their own increasingly complex set of challenges, including a limited, siloed view of behaviours and limited lookback windows. What may seem like an all-purpose weapon, might be exactly what makes the dough crumbly.

2. Find the right ingredients: growing your first-party data

When you’ve screened the pantry and have truthfully evaluated skills and recipes, it’s time to start looking beyond that and re-set your thinking of what your consumers really want. Rather than relying on third-party cookies, marketers should now focus on methods they can control, such as first-party data and optimization of their CRM database. Here lies the key to converting inactive customers or upselling within individual segments with a focus on loyalty, as well as effectively targeting new customers.

Laying the foundation now will help to harvest the benefits of data-sharing when the cookies are gone. However, the importance of a clear value exchange cannot be overstated, alongside privacy and consent to be as transparent as possible with your consumers.

This transparency also has to show within internal cross-functional relationships. Siloed thinking is a recipe for failure in the post-cookie world. Aligning all stakeholders and departments is key to create a holistic view of all commercial activities related to consumer data.

3. Test & Learn: experiment for a better connection

We’ve been told that one must not eat the batter, but this is probably the most critical stage when developing recipes beyond the third-party cookie. This stage will help to create a future-proof strategy and better or more effectively connect with your consumers.

There are several data-rich areas of opportunity, including publishers, cohorts, and contextualisation. As brands focus on growing these areas, they should be prepared to test to optimise spend and readjust strategy for cost effectiveness, but also look beyond spend and strategy towards the messaging itself. While historical data on channel performance and ROI will continue to be high-value, the post-cookie world is a moving target, so it is important to constantly revisit prior assumptions frequently.

4. Taste and taste again: future-proof your measurement

It should be central to every company that in order to thrive in any circumstances, they must continually adapt and evolve all commercial aspects. Just like a good meal needs to be tasted and tasted again to develop the perfect flavour before serving it to your guests.

Businesses with the best odds for success will be those that commit to incorporating a full business view into their strategy, including a better understanding of personas, cohorts, and location data. A holistic, unified measurement approach that blends statistical models with machine learning/AI to deliver depth and breadth of insight at speed and can be the answer to that problem.

Now is the time to say goodbye to the top down/bottoms up approach and future-proof your measurement with a multi-level holistic framework that is privacy-safe. Now is the time to develop deep granularity across multiple dimensions without completely relying on third-party cookies and evolve that approach further and further.

Developing new recipes for measurement success

Following these four steps can make all the difference in your post-cookie measurement approach. It is not too late for businesses to embark on that journey and prepare themselves. Right now is the moment of opportunity for brands to adapt and instigate new and effective programmes that better serve all marketing requirements and ultimately drive the full business forward.

By prioritising first-party data, assessing and testing against current strategies, and focusing on holistic solutions, business leaders will find that the post-cookie world is full of opportunities.

Analytic Partners’ are sponsors of the IPA EffWorks programme.

The opinions expressed here are those of the author and were submitted in accordance with the IPA's terms and conditions regarding the uploading and contribution of content to the IPA's newsletters, IPA website, or other IPA media, and should not be interpreted as representing the opinion of the IPA.

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Last updated 27 July 2021