Google has announced plans to entirely “phase out” third-party cookies in Chrome within two years.
While Facebook has been the lightning rod for negative headlines regarding privacy breaches and surreptitious data sharing, Google has had serious problems of its own. Chiefly, a $57M fine for falling afoul of GDPR legislation, data leaks that signaled the end for its flagship social network, and clandestine location tracking of iPhone users — all heavily contributing to deteriorating consumer trust and the readiness for sweeping privacy legislation.
The aggressive timeline set out by Google is certain to see Firefox and Safari et al. scramble to follow suit, as nobody wants to be known as the browser that doesn’t value the privacy of its users.
Although Google’s privacy pivot is a win for privacy-conscious consumers, it’s a headache for marketers wedded to third-party cookies to power their advertising, as well as perpetuating Google’s anti-competitive walled garden. These sweeping changes to the martech and adtech industries reinforce the need for marketers to shift to a first- and zero-party data strategy to power their advertising and marketing initiatives. Hence P&G, responsible for the second largest advertising budget in the US is pulling all ad spend from the walled gardens and shifting to a zero-party data strategy. The cookie is truly crumbling.
The zero-party data solution
In the post-Cambridge Analytica and privacy legislation era, zero-party data is the next step in rebuilding trust and engendering lasting and meaningful connections with consumers. A class of preference data that a consumer proactively and intentionally shares with a brand to improve personalization — never collected by cookie tracking.
Zero-party data empowers marketers to get ahead of these inevitable changes and build direct relationships with consumers, including their competitor’s customers, to better personalize their product recommendations, services, and content.
As this preference data comes directly from the consumer, there are no intermediaries and no guesswork — it’s psychographic data that includes your customers’ values, attitudes, interests and personality traits.
The value exchange economy
The utopia described above comes with a caveat. Consumers are not going to hand over their personal and preference data for nothing. You need to offer a tangible value exchange.
To collect the data required to power true personalization, consumers need to be entertained, engaged, and receive something in return for their attention and preference data. Marketers can deliver this through interactive experiences that conduct research, accrue opt-ins, and deliver an altogether better experience for the consumer.
Questionnaires, polls, quizzes, contests, or social stories can incorporate reward mechanics that give consumers a genuine reason to engage and submit their first- and zero-party data. And it doesn’t always have to be a discount or red-letter prize; exclusive content, access to live events, social kudos, personalized recommendations, and loyalty rewards can also be the catalyst for the collection of opt-ins and zero-party data collection.
Capturing consumer motivations, intentions, interests, and preferences at scale allows for a truly personalized customer experience and helps marketers eschew the walled gardens and the “cookiepocolypse.”
Richard Jones is the CMO at Cheetah Digital, where he oversees a global team that is responsible for all aspects of the brand, demand generation, digital marketing, corporate communications, and sales development. With more than 20 years of marketing, sales and strategy experience, Jones was previously the CEO of Wayin, a global leader in zero-party data collection and activation. There, he helped many of the world’s leading brands such as Daily Mail Group, NHL, Bauer Media, Vodafone, Priceline.com, Reckitt Benckiser, Air New Zealand, and Manchester City FC create zero-party data strategies.