Guest Blogger

by Kashif Dalvi, Digital Strategy & Technology Director at Total Media

After approximately a year of staying silent on identity, Google finally made a statement on a world without third party cookies earlier this month. The search engine giant stated that they will not build any alternate identifiers to track individuals as they browse across the web. Instead, they will point everyone to its new solution – FLoC.

FLoC or Federated Learning of Cohorts was first proposed by Google last year in its Privacy Sandbox. The cookie alternative works by gathering data about a user’s browsing habits and then clustering groups of users with similar interests into cohorts. With Google stating that FloC won’t provide brands with a unified ID solution, the third party cookie replacement highlights the emerging divide in digital marketing.

At one end, you have those who still believe that there will be a unified ID across the open web. At the other, you have those who believe that the idea of digital personalisation based on data is no more, and everyone else lies in between.

This fragmentation increases when you consider the rise in digital adoption as a result of the pandemic. Many brands have now moved their experiences online. Now, not only do you have a fragmented ecosystem with different data points, but also one which is more important than ever before.

Maintaining a data-driven approach 

Gone are the days where you can think about a simple consumer journey or a few touch points.

In this new landscape there are going to be some gaps in data and visibility, as well as gaps in reporting and measurement, and there certainly won’t be the 1-to-1 personalisation that was once dreamed of.  But data will not just disappear entirely. Marketers need to be smarter about using what’s available to focus on the things that matter, such as ensuring you have an omnichannel strategy.

Not everything is reliant on cookies or a unified ID or similar. In reality, lots of the ways you can target ads, such as using non PII data points (wifi, location, etc), or contextually will still exist. But, people’s mindsets will need to change in order to deliver effective digital strategies and more importantly, a better customer experience.

Brands need to consider a data-driven consumer-first approach. The strategy needs to leverage elements like design thinking, different data sets, and it needs to be one that can be set up to move at pace in testing and learning environments. Brands who leverage this, alongside creative new digital offerings, will see significant advantage – as has already been demonstrated in McKinsey’s recent report. A design-centric approach which focuses on end users is vital. Putting the customers’ needs at the heart of decision making will not only help make real-time sense of how channels are performing and how sentiment is changing, but also looks at how this evolves as consumers’ needs change.

Keeping up with changing behaviours

The death of the cookie, the rollout of FLoC, and the pandemic has shown the capacity for people’s behaviours needs to shift very quickly. Within this context, it is more important than ever that tools and technology constantly update our understanding of how to serve customers, in order to give them the best experience possible. Relying too heavily on certain types of data, certain technologies can stop brands being agile and adapting to the changing needs of your consumer.

The pandemic has accelerated the rate of digital transformation across several industries. With customer patience waning, it is likely that customer experience transformation will be next.

To deliver on this, brands need to shift their mindset away from a targeting and reporting perspective, and instead focus on customer experience based on what they know about the behaviour of the consumers. There are a wealth of tools and research approaches to help brands consistently create campaigns and products built off human understanding. By listening and observing their consumers, this will help brands to understand their perceptions and needs.

In the post-cookie era brands should use a mix of data analytics and stay in touch with actual human behaviour to produce insights that can ultimately deliver on giving consumers the best experience possible.

About the Author

Kash leads integrated digital strategy, technology & creative approaches for a range of high-profile clients. These campaigns range from building and recommending data and technology solutions, creating appropriate measurement & optimisation frameworks, through to fully integrated data led marketing solutions.

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