Within the last year Apple and Facebook have begun limiting the data they provide to digital advertisers by restricting third-party cookies. Cookies have served as fuel for many digital campaigns, providing marketing teams with the ability to identify and segment audiences, personalise communications, as well as track performance across channels and devices. 

However, in the wake of new privacy laws, Apple’s recent privacy update and Chrome’s upcoming depreciation of third-party cookies, small- to mid-size enterprises (SMEs) need to rethink how they understand their customers, especially after IAB Europe was recently fined $396,000 for using cookie pop-up boxes that were deemed illegal under the new legislation.

While the death of the third-party cookie is inevitable, the death of effective digital and social marketing is not. In fact, the end of third-party cookies should be seen as a market correction that forces marketers to be better at what they do, and more strategically consider how they use the data they do have. 

Here’s why SMEs will be the true champions of first-party data and the driving force behind the end of lazy advertising.

Why you need to know your customers better than ever 

In this new era, SMEs need to know their customers better than ever and turn their attention to first-party data to uncover the metrics and insights required to build compelling and strategic marketing campaigns. 

First-party data is customer information that an individual business collects itself. This could be via an account they’ve made, a product they’ve purchased with the business, existing leads generated from previous campaigns or even email addresses of visitors who’ve shared their details. First-party data can also be collected from social media accounts. For example, buyers can choose to share their data with businesses by providing access through Instagram’s Privacy and Security settings.  

Businesses can also gather first-party data by tapping into critical conversations between consumers and your business through chat, social media and customer service calls. During these conversations, customers share the challenges they’re facing, their buying objectives and share insights into who they are as customers. These interactions contain a wealth of information, and these insights can be converted into enriched, first-party data with actionable takeaways by using AI. 

AI can be leveraged to connect, collect, control and analyse first-party data. The democratisation of AI widely levels the playing field by driving efficiencies, reducing manual work and automating processes. And with 52 per cent of marketers experiencing an increase in sales, and another 51 per cent noticing an increase in customer retention since introducing AI capabilities into the ecosystem, the results speak for themselves. 

Your ticket to success in a post-cookie world

Rather than taking a step back, what the end of third-party cookies really means is that marketers will be forced to get better at their job and know their customers better, now that they can no longer rely on lazy digital marketing tactics. When it comes to first-party data, once it’s been collected and analysed, SMEs can channel it into a customer relationship management software (CRM) to power campaigns. 

Contextual advertising that better aligns your brand with publishers will also be important in  the post-cookie world.  Even Google is jumping on the bandwagon with its new offering, Topic, a new browser standard in Chrome that will facilitate “interest-based advertising on the web” without sharing users’ identities with the advertisers. 

This is an opportunity for SMEs. If you know your customers you’ll be able to have meaningful communications with them, not just ‘stalking’ them around the internet hoping to be noticed. In the wake of the new privacy regulations and industry changes, now is the time for SMEs to update their digital toolbox, diversify their strategies and invest in technologies that will help them thrive in this new cookieless world.

David Weinberger is head of growth marketing at Metigy.