Last updated on November 9, 2023

Adam Chandler
Senior Content Strategist, Yotpo
June 7th, 2021

As regulations around consumer privacy tighten, D2C brands will need to lean more heavily on first-party data to drive engagement and acquisition.

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Last year, Google announced its plan to eliminate its support for third-party cookies in the name of consumer privacy. But the more recent announcement that it won’t replace those cookies with alternate IDs is another step towards a “privacy-first web.”

“72% of people feel that almost all of what they do online is being tracked by advertisers, technology firms or other companies, and 81% say that the potential risks they face because of data collection outweigh the benefits.” — Google, citing Pew Research

Between this, Apple’s similar update pertaining to mobile apps, and an increasing number of states moving toward strict privacy regulations, the age of the third-party cookie is coming to its end. And now, brands are sorting out what that means for them moving forward.

Businesses have long relied on third-party data to drive targeted advertising campaigns and interactions. It has helped them track their website visitors’ behaviors and interests, drive effective targeted advertising, and inform their user experience. How can businesses that have depended on third-party cookies expect to pivot by the 2022 milestone?

Let’s explore five strategies you can use to reach your audience in a post-(third-party) cookie-world.

Build and Clean Your First-Party Database

When the clock runs out on third-party cookies, the customer data you collect directly (Yotpo collects zero-party data and uses first-party cookies) is going to be even more valuable. You’ll want to use that data to drive deep and meaningful engagements and build your brand’s community. And to do that, you’ll want to make sure your data is clean, accessible, and ready to be leveraged. Take the time now to prepare by cleaning – and growing – your first-party database. 

Of course, to collect first-party data – especially from new customers – you need to offer something in exchange. You need to give users a reason to opt in and share their personal information. Whether it’s an insightful newsletter, an exclusive event, or members-only product releases, you’ll need to offer up an experience that will make them want to sign up.

You can still deliver highly personalized, targeted engagements that make a big impact. You just need to rely on the information you get directly from your customers. 

Drive Deeper, Direct Engagement with Existing Customers

The new privacy changes will mean that the cost of customer acquisition is going to skyrocket. So, brands will want to double down on their connections with existing customers to make up for the difference as well as explore new ways to maximize every engagement to drive more sales and boost revenue.

One path is to consider direct communications channels, such as email and SMS, to meet customers where they are and deliver personalized, targeted messaging. These channels are a great way to stay connected with your audience, promote loyalty or membership benefits, or drive revenue through cross-selling and upselling opportunities.

SMS in particular is lower cost, has a lower barrier of entry than other channels, and boasts a 98% open-rate. And it’s growing in popularity with consumers. A recent survey conducted by Yotpo found that when opting in to brand communications, almost 50% of respondents would opt for SMS, or both SMS and email messaging. And customers are over 200% more likely to respond to SMS messages than on any other marketing channel. Yet less than 40% of brands are using it to engage their audiences. It’s the perfect opportunity to reach customers in a one-to-one engagement. 

Make the most of your communications by using deep segmentation to tailor messages for your audience. That way your customers get the personalized experiences they’ve come to expect. Yotpo’s SMS marketing platform makes it easy to build personalized message flows that guide customers down an optimal path in real-time, and create hyper-targeted segments based on customer data you already own.

Amp Up Your Loyalty and Referrals Programs

Loyalty programs are proven to be the most effective way to turn site visitors into known customers, so it’s a natural place to focus your attention and build your base. Plus, studies have shown that consumers spend more on brands they’re loyal to. Solutions like Yotpo Loyalty let you capture customer data, intent, and preferences in exchange for captivating experiences. And they do so in a way that prioritizes privacy and consent. 

If you don’t already have a loyalty program, start designing one now. (If you do already have one, great! Are there ways you could make it even better?) What can you offer as an incentive? Is it exclusive discounts? A first look at new products? Maybe it’s an exclusive, members-only experience. Whatever the offer, make it worth their while to share their information, and be upfront about how that information will be used.

You can also offer incentives for referrals, which are a low-cost, high-quality approach to audience acquisition. Referrals are known to generate good, warm leads that often turn into high-value customers. Incentives like, “Get 20% off for you and a friend when they use your personal code!” turn your customers into brand advocates while building your audience base.

Bring a New Perspective to Older Strategies

Remember when we used to market without third-party cookies? Consider revisiting strategies like contextual marketing when it comes to online advertising. Contextual marketing allows you to place ads on websites that rank for similar keywords to you. 

Of course, no one is saying you have to go back to doing it just how you used to. Get creative! Maybe you can find a hybrid approach that uses your first-party data to inform your target keywords, for example. 

Again, engagement here is going to rely heavily on the experience you build – down to the design and content in your ads. Make them eye-catching and beautiful. Find new ways to showcase high-value messaging, like highly-rated customer reviews or user-generated content to back up your brand promise.  

Branch Out Into New or Emerging, or Offline Channels

Not all channels rely on third-party cookies that are being disrupted. Platforms like podcasts and advanced TVs (ATVs) target audiences through device-specific data, versus personal data. Therefore, they will be less impacted by the change, and could offer new opportunities to reach audiences who are open to engaging.

And don’t forget about offline channels. Events and in-person experiences have always been a great way to connect directly with your audience. As in-person events start to reemerge, think about where your customers are, and how you could meet them there to deliver one-of-a-kind interactions they’d be willing to show up for. Like this one, from Yotpo customer, The Others Beauty:

“It’s so important to know where your customers like to hang out and for us, it’s in studios getting fresh ink by your favourite artist! So, the plan is to offer even more value and touch points in exchange for this data. 

We have some exciting plans on how we can link up with hundreds of thousands of tattoo artists from around the world, giving them a credible platform to showcase their work to new audiences. We also have an in-house studio being built at our offices, allowing us to get even closer to our community and build authentic relationships for life.”   – Stu Jolley, Co-Founder & MD, The Others Beauty

Goodbye Third-Party Cookies, Hello Data Ownership

The next era of engagement will feel a lot different to brands and marketers. And with seismic change comes growing pains as we pivot and plot the path forward. But change, while difficult, isn’t necessarily bad. Moving away from reliance on third-party cookies may usher in an era of data ownership – where consumers are more in control of their data, and companies build whole marketing strategies based on the customer data they own. 

We know that consumers will share their information and even spend more money in exchange for captivating, personalized experiences. Brands have a unique opportunity to refocus their energy on delivering those experiences and building communities of loyal, highly engaged customers.

For many smaller or DTC businesses, that has already been their bedrock. 

Investing in quality engagements – such as loyalty programs, SMS marketing – and finding creative ways to maximize your existing base will go a long way.