7 Alternatives to Third-Party Cookie For Your Campaigns.
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7 Alternatives to Third-Party Cookie For Your Campaigns

Have you ever suspected someone is listening to your phone conversations because as soon as you mention needing to find a dress for your friend’s upcoming wedding, every website you visit shows you summer dresses? This high level of personalization comes from cookies, which track your internet browsing across your devices. Third-party cookies share information about your interests (based on your online behavior) with other websites. Those websites then show you advertisements based on your individual preferences and viewing history.

At least, that’s what used to happen. Due to increased efforts for data security and privacy, third-party tracking is slowly phasing out. Advertisers must now find new ways to identify, track, and target their audience with relevant ads without third-party cookies.

An illustration of several people looking at a giant chocolate chip cookie

While helpful to brands, the personal data derived from digital cookies — especially third-party cookies — often make consumers feel uncomfortable and overexposed.

Regardless of how long it takes for us to reduce our reliance on third-party cookies, you don’t have to reduce our online advertising efforts. Here are seven third-party cookie alternatives you can use to increase your advertising campaign effectiveness in a post-cookie world.

1. Use email marketing to circulate content and ads

Your email list is comprised of people who willingly gave you their email addresses. This means they are already interested in your brand, product, or service and want to see more of what you have to offer. Give them what they want and email your list with a combination of valuable content and product offers. Because of their initial interest, they are more likely to engage with the content and offers you send them.

Segment for relevance

One way to place the right content in front of the right people without using third-party cookies is by segmenting your email list. Creating small, clearly defined groups allows you to send more customized, relevant information to a specific demographic or group of people that have similar interests.

Establish connections

Email marketing also helps you establish connections and work with non-competitors to place your ad in front of an interested audience. For example, if you collaborate with a brand that also has a strong email list, place an ad in their email newsletter and invite them to place an ad for their company in yours. This way, you’ll both reach new audiences with your content.

Using email marketing as an alternative to third-party cookies is a great place to start when it comes to sending personalized content to an engaged audience without using third-party data. Plus, once you begin to place more content in front of your email audience, real-time data — clickthrough, email sharing, and bounce rates — will provide valuable insights that will enable you to make better, more informed decisions related to your brand. If you don’t have a strong email presence, now is the time to start building your email list and creating campaigns.

2. Place target ads on social media 

Advertising on social media is a great way to get personalized, relevant content in front of a large group of your target audience. Facebook, for example, offers powerful ad customization that lets you target specific, niched groups, similar to email marketing. By adjusting filters such as demographics (age and gender), location, and interests on Facebook and other social platforms, you can better promote your product or service to your most enthusiastic audience.

A form showing several different demographics to target like age, gender, language, interest, and behaviors.

With demographic targeting, you can filter who sees your ads on social media — enabling a personalized ad experience without the use of third-party cookies.

3. Build a search engine retargeting campaign

Search engine retargeting is a great way to reach an audience with the same interests and behaviors as your current audience who have never interacted with your brand. You do this by uploading your contact list to a search engine platform. The search engine then displays your company’s ads to users who have never interacted with your brand, effectively growing your audience base and increasing your website traffic and revenue without using third-party cookies.

4. Take advantage of contextual targeting

An older but nevertheless still relevant strategy is contextual targeting, which showcases your ads alongside content your ideal customers will view. Instead of relying on third-party cookies, this tactic focuses on search terms and site content. It’s similar to what media buying used to be when advertisers would buy commercial spots during TV shows watched by their target audience. Contextual targeting may even boost brand safety, as marketers play a more active role in deciding where their ads will appear and what content is safe and unsafe.

5. Consider other emerging channels

To further diversify their media mix, advertisers are exploring marketing channels like advanced TV (ATV), podcast advertising, and digital billboards. These examples operate independently of third-party cookies and will therefore be immune to any cookie-related changes now or in the future.

ATV advertising (which encompasses all things streaming; think: Netflix, Hulu, Apple TV, etc.) targets viewers through their devices using an Identifier for Advertising (IFA), which is like a third-party cookie but tied to a device instead of a browser. The IFA allows the device itself to collect user data, but advertisers don’t have access to any identifiable data, making it a better option for consumer privacy overall.

Meanwhile, many companies are trying to bring the intelligence programmatic advertising has benefited from for so long to these new channels to boost ad relevance and performance. So far, most early adopters have been big brands with big budgets, which could help democratize the landscape for smaller players.

6. Use first-party data because it isn’t going anywhere

Personalized advertising campaigns aren’t over. You can still use first-party cookies to collect information (such as a user’s login information, language preferences, location, and device type) to make informed marketing and advertising decisions about your brand.

If you’re worried about not having enough first-party data, know that you likely have more than you realize at your fingertips. Valuable data and insights — things like customer trends, interests, and purchase history — are stored in your customer management system (CMS), call center software, social media, and POS systems. Use them to drive your messaging and strategy when creating digital marketing campaigns.

7. Try new solutions developed specifically to replace third-party cookies

New tools and programs are set to replace third-party cookies, including Topics, a proposed tool from Google’s Privacy Sandbox. With Topics, the user’s browser determines certain interest-based categories based on recent browsing history. When the user visits a participating site, Topics shares a number of those categories with the site and its advertising partners. Because individual user data is not shared across the web, Topics is more private than third-party cookies, yet still effective for advertisers.

Other companies are banding together through platform integrations to enrich their offerings and utilize second-party cookies, or those that result from data partnerships between corporations. (Hubspot, for example, now has over 1,000 available integrations with other apps and software).

Navigating a Post-Cookie World as a Marketer

The move away from third-party cookies is a significant change for marketers who have long relied on this data tool to create personalized and relevant content for their ad campaigns. However, just because cookies are gone does not mean all hope is lost. Now is the time to start identifying which approaches best suit your business as an alternative to third-party cookies. In fact, using various strategies together can produce even more results than third-party cookies alone.