Interviews, insight & analysis on digital media & marketing

Cookies crumbling: a positive change on the horizon

by Gordon McCaw, Marketing Manager at Dog

The final sunset of the third-party cookie has been on the horizon for digital marketing for the last year or so and there are several schools of thought as to the impact this monumental shift will have on the Ecommerce industry. For performance marketers, ad vendors and social media platforms, the loss of data and tracking capabilities will create a degree of ambiguity and frustration. But for other marketeers and industry-optimists, the change indicates an opportunity to better connect, engage and interact with a customer base and prospective audiences. One thing is for certain, though, this shift is as important to digital marketing (if not more so) than the inception of the 3rd party cookie in the first place.

For Ecommerce businesses, 3rd party cookies and the complex advertising algorithms they help to inform have proved vital in demonstrating ROI from marketing spend over the last decade, something that wasn’t in place in the years and decades before. While this has been a good thing in that it has helped us understand which channels, audiences and formats are profitable, the algorithms had gotten so good at predicting intent that even lackluster creative was still able to convert audiences somewhat effectively. The removal of this data and algorithmic accuracy in the short-term means inflated cost per acquisitions, targeting issues, limited understanding of return on investment and generally poorer ad performance than we’re used to. This is particularly true for legacy digital channels such as Google, Facebook & Amazon, and is something that brands in the Ecommerce space have been battling since the iOS 14 changes in 2021, showing no signs of easing in the months and years to come. 

In the long term, this will force marketers to think more creatively about the way in which they communicate with target audiences and consider a wider media mix to avoid reliance on one channel. The key opportunities for media diversification are TikTok, digital TV, native display and streaming audio such as podcasts. For consumers, the change is a welcome one. The days of ads following them around the internet for a pair of trainers they looked at once, are numbered. And in order to gain their attention, business and trust brands will need to engage with them more deeply than ever before. 

As previously highlighted, brands in the Ecommerce space will need to pay particular attention. Among our Ecommerce clients, we’re taking this opportunity to future-proof the effectiveness of their marketing activity and move away from a reliance on driving sales through one channel. We’re focusing on larger trends and broader consumer and contextual insights, rather than granular platform data. Taking a content-led approach focused on storytelling to garner more attention and investment in the long-term.  And diversifying media mix across established and more niche platforms, while redefining what success looks like on a larger scale through the development of brand measurement frameworks. As part of the strategic approach, we’re committing to growing databases for these clients and are finding success with lead generation campaigns. It’s an evolving process for each individual client, but the tactical levers we’re pulling as part of the strategic approach, are delivering positive impact.

A shift away from data-driven channel marketing will require transparent conversations among stakeholders, as our outlook on success will, in some cases, need to be reconfigured. In the past, marketing was able to justify its value by looking at impact of spend more holistically, and analyse the trends it creates, rather than in the granular way we have become so accustomed to. A shift back to this way of thinking – while using all of the data intelligence we have available – will be required moving forward to preserve marketing effectiveness.

Those that succeed will have the creative capability to capture attention in a world where it is increasingly scarce and build first party data sets so they’re less reliant on any future tracking solutions presented by ad tech companies.

Marketers, in general, will need to address priorities and rethink elements of our approach to adapt to this change. Our suggestions include:

  1. Decrease your reliance on individual platform metrics and the one-click sales you may have been able to attribute to these.
  2. Consider success more holistically, while defining agreed short- and longer-term goals and measurements.
  3. Focus on building up a database of engaged customers and prospective customers to help improve marketing activities going forward.
  4. Plan for long term effectiveness rather than short term sales uplifts.
  5. Don’t be afraid to invest in brand your and telling its story across a diverse range of channels.

We’ve weathered (and helped clients find success throughout) the many changes and crises over the years here at Dog. And we’ll continue to help our clients prepare for change and grasp opportunities on the horizon.


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