Even though Google has postponed the deprecation of third-party cookies to 2024, retailers need to start planning for a cookieless future now. Privacy regulations are tightening globally, with Europe’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) giving consumers more rights and control over their own data. Australia is not far behind, having confirmed an extensive overhaul of the old 1988 Privacy Act within the life of this parliament.

Retailers will be required to be much more transparent about their collection and use of data, and obtain explicit consent from consumers.

Previously, retail media outlets were able to provide attribution involving the use of cookies. But this solution, already significantly challenged today, will effectively become extinct in 2024. Businesses will no longer be able to track consumers’ online activity through the use of pixels and will instead have to find other ways to collect first-party data.

This requires two separate matches: a brand-to-consumer match to determine what types of consumers they want to target, and a consumer-to-media match to figure out where to reach those consumers most efficiently.

Sharing sensitive data sets through privacy-safe collaboration

The only way to make this work is through privacy-safe data collaboration. The challenge here is the right balance between data protection and data usefulness. Trading partners, such as advertisers and media owners or retailers and distributors, have long recognised the benefits of data collaboration. But previously, the technology wasn’t there to do it securely and without risking their customers’ privacy.

This is where data clean rooms come in. Data clean rooms can be used to match data by providing a secure environment where data from different sources can be accessed and compared without the risk of external contamination or interference.

Now, as consumer data protections increase, data clean rooms are also playing an important role for marketers, retailers and publishers. Media organisations such as ITV, Channel 4 and Disney already make them a part of their advertising offerings.

Ability to find specific audiences without exposing data

With targeting and personalisation critical for successful marketing, retailers need to be able to identify specific audiences. “Spray and pray” is a wasteful and ultimately unviable approach. Instead, buyer data needs to be applied to owned retail media properties, like those found in Coles360, and then extended to non-owned properties, like BVOD partners.

By matching your existing first-party data sets through data clean rooms, much more accurate segments can be identified that make sense to a specific brand. This enables personalisation that’s more relevant and less intrusive.

Marketers can then verify who exactly was exposed to their campaigns, where, when, how often, and compare the effectiveness of various channels for each campaign.

Building a rich retail media network

Retail media solutions powered by third-party cookies are limited and will soon expire completely. Faced with a loss of portable identifiers, and device fragmentation, companies are increasingly collaborating across first-party data. Retail media networks empower multiple companies to unlock rich actionable customer insights, deliver powerful marketing and achieve accurate measurement.

In the UK, for example, broadcaster Channel 4 has launched a retail media solution with supermarket chain Sainsbury’s loyalty provider Nectar. This joint proposition will enable advertisers to combine rich shopper insights with Channel 4’s audience intelligence to deliver high-performing and measurable campaigns across All 4.

ITV, another broadcaster, has made similar deals with supermarket Tesco, and health and beauty retailer Boots. Also using InfoSum’s data clean room, ITV’s existing first-party data, collected through sign-ups, will be matched with Tesco’s Clubcard and Boots’ Advantage Card databases. Through this integration, advertisers can better target ITV audiences and then measure the sales uplift among those exposed to ads.

Data clean rooms should be a key tech investment for retailers to support their strategies in 2023. By data matching and collaborating, new audience segments can be created based on product categories and more effective advertising can be delivered across the retailer’s network.

Richard Knott is general manager of Australia & New Zealand at InfoSum.