Interviews, insight & analysis on digital media & marketing

Sophie Strong, with Hiot Shawl: The great data renaissance

Sophie Strong is Managing Partner of Media Experience at PHD UK and NDA’s monthly columnist. This month’s column was written in collaboration with Hiot Shawl, Client Leadership & Consultancy.

The digital marketing landscape is undergoing a seismic shift. The deprecation of 3rd party cookies in Chrome, the long-reigning tool for online ad targeting, ais upon us. This change presents a challenge, but also a significant opportunity for businesses to refine their data strategies and build stronger customer relationships.

This is, in many ways, the critical ‘hit reset’ moment we needed as an industry. Like other ad tech changes, it is pointing us in the direction of enhanced user experiences by respecting their choices and privacy. But this, in turn, means we need to look at how robust our data strategies are.

The changes to privacy updates, whilst beneficial for the user, restrict tried and tested capabilities our industry have grown to become reliant on. Consumer privacy concerns are driving the demise of third-party cookies. Users are demanding more control over their data, and regulations like GDPR are putting stricter limitations on how data can be collected and used. 

However, whilst some of the ‘low hanging fruit’ options diminish, this is an exciting time for us to revisit how we approach data as marketers.  Before we get into the nuts and bolts of the how – let’s explore what our options are.

There are lots of types of data that we talk about in media. Let’s demystify what they are and bring them to life with an example:

  • Zero party data is information that is essentially given by customers voluntarily, often to receive some kind of benefit, like personalised offers
  • 1st party data is data collected about customers by brands from their website, app and broader marketing channels. It includes everything from behaviour, preferences, feedback and most importantly, consent. An example of this would be, data collected from newsletter sign ups.
  • 2nd party data is data that a company collects from its audience and then sells directly to another company. An example of this would be behavioural data within a logged in ecosystem e.g. readers of specific content on a news brand’s website.
  • 3rd party data is data that is collected and used by companies who have no direct connection to that user. An example of this would be for example, audiences such as ‘car buyers’ sold by data brokers.

None of these are new but some have just become increasingly important on our agenda, with the expected signal loss that the 3rd party cookie deprecation in Chrome will bring. Notably, 1st party data is getting the much-needed attention it deserves.

To put this into perspective, a recent McKinsey study showed that 71% of consumers expect personalisation and 76% said they get frustrated when they don’t find it – stressing the importance of how as brands we show up and interact with our current and prospective consumers. Consumers are seeking easy navigation in-store and on-site to meet their demands, relevant recommendations, and targeted offers. The pay-back? Repurchase and recommendation.

So, how can businesses continue to target and personalise experiences in the cookieless future?

  • Create a clear “North Star”: Be very clear on where you are today and where you’re aiming to get to when it comes to your data and technology capabilities. Create a clear plan on where your gaps are, and how you overcome them. Look beyond pure activation opportunities and be clear on gaps and opportunities that exist across your business as whole looking at; processes, people, data, strategy and technology. All of these must align behind the vision to make it a reality. 
  • Breakdown the silos in your teams: Now more than ever, it’s critical that organisations are breaking down the silos and barriers that exist across teams and functions. Data literacy needs to be a cross-departmental imperative and cross-functional teams need to be brought together in service of the greater consumer experience.
  • 1st Party Data is King: Invest in collecting and enriching your own 1st party data. This includes website behaviour, purchase history, preferences indicated through forms and surveys, and loyalty program information. The enrichment of this through 2nd and 3rd party data sources is also a powerful way to get deeper and more rounded insights into your consumer. It is important to note on this point, that regulators are increasingly clear that consent is required for these use cases with the ICO staying that “only appropriate basis for profiling in the context of behavioural advertising is consent.”
  • Go beyond just collecting data – encourage customers to actively share their preferences and interests. Offer incentives for completing surveys, participating in polls, or creating user profiles. In other words, collect more Zero Party data.
  • Contextual Targeting Takes Centre Stage: Focus on your website content and the context in which users engage with it. By understanding user intent and interests through keyword analysis and content consumption patterns, you can deliver targeted advertising that feels relevant and unintrusive.
  • CRM Becomes Even More Critical: A robust CRM system and strategy allows you to centralise and utilise all your customer data for more targeted campaigns, personalised email engagement, and loyalty programs.
  • Explore Identity Resolution Platforms: These platforms help connect data from various sources, even without cookies, to create a more unified view of your audience. However, it is important to note that due diligence in this space is critical, as the Information Commissioner has raised concerns that some of these do not address concerns around user transparency, control, consent or accountability.
  • Invest in Customer Segmentation: Segment your audience based on a variety of factors beyond demographics. Behavioural data, purchase history, and content preferences can help to create more meaningful relationships with your consumer.
  • Embrace Measurement and Optimisation: Continuously monitor the performance of your data-driven strategies and adjust as needed. A/B testing, incrementality testing and a deep understanding of LTV can be invaluable in this process.

In this new era, transparency and user trust are paramount.  Be clear about how you collect and use customer data and offer customers options to control their privacy settings. By putting privacy first, you will build stronger relationships and ensure long-term success. The deprecation of cookies is a wake-up call for businesses to refine their data strategies and prioritise building direct relationships with their customers. 

This is an opportunity to get creative, personalise the customer experience, and unlock new ways to connect and engage with your audience.

At PHD UK we recognise the incredible value of having a robust data strategy and have developed our Beyond Consultancy unit, supporting clients wanting to unleash the potential of their marketing spend through better utilisation of their data and technology.

This is the Great Data Renaissance our industry has been craving, are YOU ready?