What does the end of cookies mean for marketing data insights?

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Cookies are crucial to understanding customer behaviour online, but in recent years, having to accept or reject cookies has become somewhat of a nuisance for the average online user. Also, one can argue they're not exactly the best for privacy.

In a new move aimed at tackling the problem of cookies on the internet, Google announced in February that its next major update to Chrome will block all cookies by default. This obviously will cause quite a lot of headaches in the ad industry – or will it?

We reached out to Jon Clarke, Founder & CPO at Cyance, to discuss the topic in more depth below.


What the end of cookies means for marketing data insights

As cookies come to an end, B2B marketers must adopt an intent approach to data and more specifically, localised data if they want to reach customers in Europe.

A person’s web activity can tell a lot about their buying behaviours, decision making habits and perhaps upcoming purchase. To date, many marketers have relied on third-party cookies on web browsers to gather this data. As cookies essentially allow third parties to identify visitors and see which websites they’ve previously viewed, providing useful insights for targeting. 

However, this is all about to change, as Google has announced it will omit third-party cookies in the next update to its popular Chrome web browser in 2022. Given that Chrome has captured over 60% of the browser market, this is going to have a significant impact throughout the industry. For consumers and web users this will feel like an extra level of privacy, but for marketers, it means that strategies will be thrown into disarray and have to be heavily revised to conform to Google’s tightening grip on online advertising. 

So, what will the digital landscape look like without cookies? How will advertisers and marketers, especially in the B2B space, be able to provide a targeted and relevant experience to their clients throughout their journey?

As someone who’s worked with intent data for over a decade, I have some thoughts about where this is all going next and what the new frontier of possibilities could look, particularly for B2B marketers.

It’s GDPR all over again

This shift away from third-party cookies takes me back to when GDPR was first introduced; prior to its implementation, there was a lot of speculation about how it would play out. We are seeing the same pattern with the end of cookies, and just like with GDPR, the net positive for both companies and end users is a heightened level of privacy. 

The way we’ve been using third-party cookies to date has been a bit reminiscent of the Wild West, with insights shared without transparency or strategy. The industry as a whole needs to be more accountable, more regulated. We need to give users assurance around data privacy, while giving B2B companies the confidence to understand that a cookie-free digital landscape is one where we can navigate through the online ecosystem without fearing compromised credentials. There will still be ways of targeting potential buyers; they’ll just have to be smarter, more regulated and more targeted —  like through the use of intent data. 

Intent data: a step up from cookies

If B2B marketers are looking for a sophisticated way to understand which businesses are researching their products or services, then intent data is the answer. Using third-party identifying factors, intent data is the web data that tracks content engagement and consumption across multiple websites.

The visitor behaviour is then mapped to specific keywords and groupings of keywords called ‘intent topics.’ Marketers are provided a view into the specific buying behaviour of accounts for their chosen keywords or topics to determine if an account is in an active buying journey.

For example, if you’re a marketer looking to sell enterprise IT software, it may be useful to see what type of software your prospective or existing customers are looking to buy. What types of websites have they been browsing? Have they been searching for solutions to specific business problems? Have they been viewing competitor products online? 

Intent data uncovers the answers to these questions by providing sophisticated insights into users’ digital footprints. It builds a profile of the customer based on their online footprint, informing marketing and sales teams on how to best approach the client. 

Yet, intent data is only as useful as it is accurate. When intent data is incomplete or inaccurate, it won’t be helpful to a brand’s understanding of their prospects and customers, and that will be reflected in a poor sales pipeline. 

Unfortunately, when it comes to selling in Europe, many companies lack true insight into their European customers’ intent because they fail to include larger global publisher networks and only look at their activity on US websites. To accurately identify a European customers’ intent, we must collect data from their activity on local language websites, specifically within Europe. 

With the end of cookies, it's more important than ever that marketers rely on accurate data. Here’s a deeper dive into how cookie-free intent data can support a winning strategy in Europe.

The post-cookie, intent driven landscape

As third party cookies phase out over the coming year, web users will be moved towards a more data secure experience. So, what will this mean for marketers looking to reach their online customers?

Firstly, I anticipate that initially we will see global volumes reduce temporarily. We saw this happen with the rollout of GDPR; there was a sharp drop in insight from global audiences at first. 

However, a few months after GDPR implementation, we did see intelligence pick up again in a GDPR-compliant way, and I anticipate that the post-cookie world will follow a similar pattern. In the B2B space, volume will initially reduce, but the accuracy of the intelligence will increase.

Universal identifiers will take the place of third-party cookies. This framework for user identification is based on deterministic matching (as opposed to probabilistic matching with cookies), identifying the user behaviour, whilst maintaining the anonymity of the individual  across the supply chain without syncing cookies. 

It will increase the accuracy of matching through various identity matching techniques. First-party data (such as that from a CRM) and offline data can be used to create universal identifiers as well. 

This will support targeted advertising and the ability to inform intent. Universal identifiers will be shared by everyone: demand-side, buy-side and publishers and will allow the ecosystem to use behaviour for the right reasons — to personalise online experiences without compromising privacy. 

In terms of B2B, this means that the customer experience will be improved, facilitating better upsell and cross-sell methods. A more intelligent approach will maximise every opportunity in the customer journey, helping sales as well as customer success.

Upping your intent data game

Improving the use of intent data is a good place to start for companies looking to increase their sales pipeline across Europe in 2021 and beyond, and rest assured, it’s all possible after the death of cookies.

Rather than relying on third-party intent data based solely on US-based publisher networks, companies would do well to invest in products that allow them to compile intent data that includes a universe of local, European websites in the customer’s natural language. Doing so now, and taking a proactive approach to intent data before we say goodbye to third party cookies, will future-proof their marketing strategies and result in a more informed, accurate sales pipeline.

Jon Clarke is the Founder & CPO at Cyance.


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