Beyond Cookies: The Future Of Targeted Marketing In A Cookieless Era

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In the ever-evolving digital marketing landscape, the impending demise of third-party cookies has caused a shift in how businesses approach targeted marketing. For years, cookies have been the backbone of online advertising. They have enabled advertisers to track user behavior, deliver personalized content, and measure campaign effectiveness.

However, with increasing privacy and data protection concerns, major web browsers are phasing out support for third-party cookies. This shift paves the way for a more privacy-centric and user-friendly online environment. However, it challenges marketers to find innovative strategies for targeted marketing in this cookieless era.

Understanding the cookieless landscape

Cookies are small files that store information on your computer. They're used to track users across multiple devices and browsers, but they have some limitations.

Understanding the cookieless landscape

For example:

  • Cookies can only store data about a single user at a time. If you want to track someone's browsing history across multiple devices, you'll need another method besides cookies.
  • Cookies don't tell you anything about what was viewed on each page of your website or app. They simply tell you whether or not someone visited it in a particular time frame.

But despite their limitations, cookies have become an integral part of advertising for many companies and individuals. According to, 80% of advertisers consider cookies to choose the target market. However, cookies can't collect data if visitors reject them.

Another problem with cookies is that they might not be available very shortly. As stated in an article on Google Blog, the company plans to disable third-party cookies for 1% of users starting January 4th, 2024.

Once the tests are complete, Google plans to scale this to disabling third-party cookies for 100% of users by the end of 2024. This will bring an end to the cookies era. On the other hand, Mozilla Firefox has already disabled third-party cookies, and many other browsers might follow the trend.

The evolution of targeted marketing

The advent of the internet marked a pivotal shift in targeted marketing. With the rise of online platforms, marketers gained access to valuable consumer data, allowing for more precise targeting.

Search engines and social media platforms became powerful tools, enabling advertisers to tailor their messages based on users' online behaviors and interests. This shift towards data-driven marketing ushered in an era of personalized and relevant content.

The evolution of targeted marketing

As consumers increasingly embraced digital platforms, understanding online behavior became paramount. Cookies and tracking technologies emerged, enabling marketers to track user activity across websites and deliver personalized ads. This level of granularity allowed for the creation of targeted campaigns that could reach specific audience segments.

However, cookies are going now. While Google plans to block third-party cookies by the end of 2024, many individuals have already taken measures from their end. According to a McKinsey study, built-in cookie blockers and ad-blocking software are used on over 600 million devices worldwide. This is because the overall trust factor is low.

This has increased the focus on targeted marketing and technologies like identity resolution. Identity resolution is a process used in data management to connect and match different pieces of information accurately and reliably. This information relates to the same real-world entity, such as a person, across various data sources.

According to Intent IQ, it involves identifying and consolidating diverse data points associated with an individual. It is done to create a unified and comprehensive view of their identity. This helps organizations ensure data accuracy, reduce duplicates, and establish a more coherent understanding of individuals within their datasets.

Artificial intelligence and machine learning in targeting

Artificial intelligence (AI) is a big part of the future of marketing. By harnessing the power of advanced algorithms and data analytics, marketers can personalize their strategies to cater to individual consumers' preferences.

Artificial intelligence and machine learning in targeting

One of the key advantages of AI and ML lies in their ability to analyze vast amounts of data quickly and efficiently. These technologies give marketers valuable insights into consumer demographics, purchasing patterns, and online behavior. By understanding these factors, businesses can tailor their marketing campaigns to resonate with different customer segments' unique interests and needs.

Predictive analytics, a subset of machine learning, is crucial in targeted marketing. By leveraging historical data, AI models can forecast future trends and consumer behaviors. This predictive capability empowers marketers to anticipate customer preferences, optimize product recommendations, and strategically position their offerings in the market.

Embracing first-party data

With the demise of third-party cookies, first-party data is the most valuable data type. It's information that you have directly from your customers, allowing you to build a more personalized experience for them.

Embracing first-party data

Consider the example of an airline. When a customer books a flight through your website, then first-party data would be their name, email address, and phone number. Research from Think with Google says that 65% of advertisers plan to increase their focus on first-party data. This is to overcome the risk of losing customer insight after the third-party cookies are no longer available.

However, having the first-party data alone is not enough. You need to generate insights into the first-party data and connect it with other available data sources to target the right audience. This can be done through a device graph.

A device graph comprehensively represents the interconnected network of devices within a specific environment or system. This graph outlines the relationships and interactions among various devices, such as computers, smartphones, IoT (Internet of Things), servers, etc.

In digital marketing and online advertising, a device graph is often used to track and analyze user behavior across multiple devices. This gives marketers a more holistic view of users' journeys as they switch between devices. With this view, they can deliver a more personalized and consistent user experience.

Contextual marketing: A new approach

Contextual marketing is a new approach to targeted advertising. It identifies the context of your customer's browser rather than their behavior. This means you can reach people visiting sites related to your products or services, even if they're not actively searching for them yet. More importantly, this can be done even if cookies aren't enabled on their browsers.

Thanks to this, contextual marketing has become a crucial part of many new marketing and advertising strategies. According to Statista, contextual advertising revenue was estimated at $227.38 billion globally in 2023.

The benefits of contextual marketing include:

  • Better targeting: You can offer highly relevant content and promotions based on the actual interests of each visitor.
  • More relevance: This personalized experience will attract more customers while reducing cart abandonment rates by up to 50%. It also helps reduce ad fatigue by showing users only relevant ads at any given time rather than bombarding them with irrelevant ads.
  • Easy implementation: You don't need special coding skills or expensive third-party software. Just drop some code into an existing site template and start getting results immediately.

In the end, the cookie is dead. The future of targeted marketing is here, bringing an exciting new world of possibilities for marketers. Today's technology has enabled brands and businesses to cater their messages to their customers in ways never imagined. We hope this article has inspired you to think about some new approaches that could improve your marketing strategy or expand upon existing methods.

About the author 

Peter Keszegh

Most people write this part in the third person but I won't. You're at the right place if you want to start or grow your online business. When I'm not busy scaling up my own or other people' businesses, you'll find me trying out new things and discovering new places. Connect with me on Facebook, just let me know how I can help.

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