From collecting cookies to collecting identification: Rethinking data in 2022

With the cookipocalypse looming, the shift in demand for zero and first party data is expected to continue in the coming year. Paige Richardson looks at how demonstrating sufficient value in order to move away from probabilistic data and incentivise identification will be where marketers face the most pressure in 2022.

The cookie economy collapse

In 2021, Google announced that it would phase out third-party cookies by 2022. It was subsequently postponed to 2023. This made it the last in a spate of internet giants to declare a ban on this type of data collection. According to Google, the context for the decision is to enhance privacy on the web. It should give users more control over how their data is collected and used. 

For consumers, it’s a win against invasive (and often inaccurate) advertising tactics. Perhaps a shift towards greater transparency. But for marketers reliant on third-party cookies, the change will hinder their work. It will affect the ability to find quality prospects, re-engage customers who have considered their products or services. It will make it difficult to measure the effectiveness of digital ad campaigns. 

Like Google, brands will need to chart a new course to more ethical data collection and consumer privacy, where zero and first-party data are vital. 

Cultivating ‘good’ data

First-party data is the data a brand collects from its own audience through its own channels and sources. This includes customer data such as demographics and purchase history. It also shows user data. This can track how a person interacts with your website and app, and data collected from your social media followers. 

First-party data is valuable and compelling. It does not require a trade with a third party and is collected (with consent) from your own audience. However, it’s not enough on its own. This is why brands have relied on third-party identifiers to augment their first-party data to gather incremental information about individuals across the web. Given they will soon be obsolete, multidimensional data – behavioural, transactional and attitudinal – will be needed for a truly holistic view of the customer. And that’s where zero party data comes in. 

Zero party data is data an individual knowingly and willingly provides. Unlike first-party data, which is rich with behavioural data and implied interest, zero party data is explicit. And collecting it is reasonably simple: you ask, they answer. The question itself can relate to preferences, purchase intentions, personal context and how the individual wants the brand to recognise them. And the execution can be in the form of a pop-up, survey, digital experience, interactive content, calculator, email preference centre, community forum or form. The important thing to note here is why a customer would hand over their personal data. The answer: value.

The value exchange

Data isn’t free. Part of the two-way value exchange is giving the customer a benefit in exchange for their information. This could take the form of a gift or offer, education, or personalised content and product recommendations. Whatever value you offer should be tailored to your business; it should appeal to your customer. 

Bed Threads is a luxury bedding and homewares company. It found that value exchange for its customers is beautifully presented and personalised lifestyle content from the brands ‘Journal’. this is delivered direct to their inbox two to four times a week. This is a bold strategy. Appealing to the customers interests and aspirations, with just a few product and promotional messages peppered throughout. But it paid off. The strategy saw Bed Threads grow their email database to more than 300,000 over four years. 

In exchange for collecting more contextual zero party data, Alo Moves – which offers online yoga, fitness and meditation classes – personalises its website based on its customer’s chosen preferences. These are built into the onboarding journey via a survey which asks new customers what classes they’re interested in, their experience level and even their favourite teaching style. 

The customer’s expectation for experiences and conversations to converge is why identification in this ecosystem is so important. 

Incentivising identification

Putting zero and first party data to good use is vital. It requires an integrated and underlying architecture that aggregates your different sources of behavioural, transactional and attitudinal data. A Customer Data Platform (CDP) can do this, collecting data points across platforms to create a unified customer profile, which can be used by other systems that need it. But with Apple, Google and other tech giants putting time limits on the lifespan of first-party cookies, tracking user journeys between visits without authentication will become increasingly difficult. 

Authenticated identifiers, then, will be the new frontier for data-driven marketing. This form of data – collected from logged-in customers and community members – provide a single view of a customer that serves not as a collection of data that suggests an individual, but a specific person. But how do you incentivise identification?

Take Sephora, for example. The brand created the Beauty Insider Community for its loyalty program members to ask questions, post product reviews, connect with other members and join challenges. This value-add was in addition to points, discounts, samples and experiences. 

Huggies, well known for its baby care products, is another brand that put authentication at the centre of its data strategy, asking Aussie mums to join the Huggies Club in exchange for promotions, expert advice and over 42,000 pages of content and interactive tools.

While there is a lot to consider here, my takeaway is hopefully clear. It’s important to have the technology to effectively collect and aggregate zero and first party data. It’s all about creating value. Value to incentivise data sharing to begin with, and value to continually prove the benefit of consent over time. 

Paige Richardson is head of content marketing at The Works.