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Wipe Away the Crumbs

Wipe Away the Crumbs

a broken up cookie

The secret to successful marketing in a cookieless world

By Wilson Lau, principal marketing manager, SEO, AdRoll

It’s no secret that digital marketing has changed considerably in the last three years. In the wake of the pandemic, companies had to shift their strategies to accommodate a “new normal.” This new normal meant new media outlets, new avenues for reaching customers, and sometimes even new products to meet different customer demands. Data-driven marketing has changed significantly in the last two years as consumers have vocalized their expectations for brands. Marketers have learned that consumers want personalized experiences, but they also want to feel that companies respect their privacy.

Traditionally, marketers relied on things like cookies to collect information on their customers and better market their products. They’ve been critical components of many marketing strategies for decades, but they’re on the way out.


Cookies are, in essence, a third-party strategy that collects pieces of data about consumers which are not directly shared by the consumers themselves. These cookies follow you from site to site, effectively sharing information as well as tracking your choices and preferences. In recent years, customers expressed dissatisfaction with this method of data collection. Some consumers are concerned about privacy, which led to differing strategic theories and practices around data collection.

Brands need what is called an omnichannel marketing strategy that leverages multiple touchpoints to convert prospects into customers.

If you haven’t already noticed, many websites are implementing user privacy measures by asking people to opt-in for cookies when they access a website. As society becomes more focused on the importance of user privacy, digital marketing strategy must continue to evolve to keep pace with consumer expectations. After all, if your customers don’t trust you, they are less likely to do business with you.

But what does this mean for modern marketing? Effective, future-focused marketers will not depend on third-party cookies moving forward.

The end of third-party cookies is slated for 2023. It doesn’t spell the end of digital marketing, but it will change the strategies, tactics, and tools. Here’s how to respond and what’s coming next, according to new research from digital marketing and growth marketing platform AdRoll.

Reaching Your Customers Without Cookies

What will the future of marketing look like without third-party cookies? Brands must consider how privacy comes into play as they evaluate data collection methods for their business. We already know that consumers want personalized experiences, so data about consumers will still be critical in a cookieless world. The question is how to reach your customers without third-party data from cookies.

Companies must take a more transparent approach if they want to interact with their customers. One way they can do this is through first-party cookies. The difference here from third-party cookies is that first-party cookies give consumers more choice. They won’t be tracked without their knowledge, and they have a better understanding of who is collecting their data.

Another way that companies can reach their customers without cookies is through email campaigns. Email campaigns are another avenue through which companies can share product information and company updates, and engage with the consumer. It’s a direct way to disperse your advertising and marketing efforts. Companies can also leverage targeted ads and retargeting campaigns to engage with customers without third-party cookies. These options help marketers make sure that their ads are reaching the correct audiences.

It’s possible to reach your customers without third-party data. The best thing brands can do for their business is to create a comprehensive approach and disperse their marketing on multiple channels.

Connecting with Your Customers on Multiple Channels

Brands need what is called an omnichannel marketing strategy that leverages multiple touchpoints to convert prospects into customers. Omnichannel strategies include methods that help you create a seamless customer experience across multiple channels and platforms through which you sell. It serves both the customer and the marketer by creating a consistent experience across platforms. Customers get the personalized and streamlined experience that they are looking for, and marketers get a better understanding of their customers’ needs.

Customers who interact with your brand across multiple channels also tend to spend more money. One study by Harvard Business Review shows that customers who used more than four channels spent 9% more on average than those who used just one channel. This behavior persisted for every purchase that the customer made.

Finding the right strategy is imperative, as customer engagement and loyalty are harder and harder to ensure. One study estimates that retail eCommerce sales worldwide will continue to grow this year and into the future, exceeding $7 trillion by 2025. The great acceleration of eCommerce, which was brought forth by the pandemic, means you cannot afford to neglect any part of your customer journey.

The answer to these challenges is to stop siloing different channels and treat the customer journey as a cohesive, interconnected whole. While different channels will claim that they have the keys to success and that your target market only exists on their platforms, this simply isn’t the case.

Every single one of us wakes up in the morning and checks for text messages and email, and then (more often than not) we scroll through social media. Then, we spend our day encountering ads of various kinds—whether that’s a sponsored Facebook post, a highway billboard, or a commercial for our favorite TV show. There’s simply no escaping this constant barrage of advertisements. This is a challenge for any marketer trying to reach their ideal audience.

There’s a reason many brands aren’t thinking about their efforts comprehensively—it’s difficult. It often seems like the system is stacked against you. Existing systems are built around individual channels—channels with separate algorithms, metrics, measurement systems, advertising campaign methods, and analytic strategies. They’re all measuring things in their own unique language. The modern marketer’s biggest challenge lies in making these separate channels speak to each other, so all of the separate, siloed data paints a bigger, more cohesive picture.

Each of these channels claims that they hold the secret to customer loyalty and satisfaction. We know by now that that promise is simply too good to be true. The burden falls upon the marketer to approach things with the customer in mind instead of thinking of the channel first.

cookies crumbling

Growing Your Omnichannel Marketing Strategy

There are four key steps to establishing and growing an omnichannel marketing strategy. First, you must leverage customer data. This must always be the center of your strategy. Companies must prioritize optimized, speedy, and agile tech and data activation to execute across multiple channels. Leveraging as much data as possible, and connecting it across channels, helps create a custom experience that transfers fully from in-person to online.

Secondly, you must organize your team around audiences, not individual channels. Organizing around channels leads to a disconnected customer experience and negates your omnichannel strategy and goals.  Over the last three years, our massive shift to an online-focused approach has required a huge amount of collaboration across teams and, for many, sparked new roles and new ways of working. It’s only natural to streamline workflows across channels and make teams aware of how their roles affect one another. Once you’ve organized your team around audiences, you’ll understand why this method works. As a result, each subgroup of your team will be able to focus on the holistic message they are sending to their designated audience across platforms. Every audience member will encounter a more streamlined experience, cohesive brand voice, and unified company message. This can only benefit your company long-term.

Thirdly, you must ensure that your overall message is consistent across platforms. Coordinating campaigns across channels seems like a challenge, but understanding your buyer persona and buyer segments will help. Shifting your focus from channels to customer experiences, understanding your buyer persona, and segmenting your buyers will help you deliver the right message to the right user through the right channels.

The best thing brands can do for their business is to create a comprehensive approach and disperse their marketing on multiple channels.

If you’ve followed these steps, you’re well on your way to a successful campaign. The final and sometimes most important step is to choose the correct metrics.

Input and output metrics help you understand what data points you can draw from the flow of traffic. Start with the output metrics you’d like to optimize. This could be something as simple as the number of new customers. Then, consider the input metrics that would influence the number of new customers you’re getting.

Think of these metrics like a production line. There are stages in production that lead to your desired outcome, just like there are stages in marketing that lead to your preferred metric. This production-line metaphor helps illuminate how you can operationalize your efforts internally, giving you language around each step to lead your company where you’d like it to go. Having this common language and common goal while utilizing an omnichannel strategy only makes your marketing efforts more powerful.

It’s no secret that as society evolves, businesses must evolve along with it—or get left behind. The pandemic made our world more digitally accelerated and interconnected than ever before. There’s no going back to the siloed, separate methods we utilized in years past. The future of marketing, one without cookies, will be more integrated than ever before. 

Wilson Lau is the principal marketing manager, SEO at e-commerce marketing platform AdRoll.