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7 Ways Event Marketers Can Prepare for a Cookieless World

Brecht Fourneau |

event marketers sitting around a table working on digital marketing strategy in a cookieless world Over the next two years, third-party cookies will be phased out of use. Understandably, this news has shaken many marketers. Cookies help us deliver our advertising at the perfect time to land the sale, help us understand our customers better, and help us stay in front of them the multiple times it takes to get them ready to buy. In a digital advertising world built on a foundation of cookies, how do we pivot so we can thrive in a world without the cookies we’ve come to rely on?

What are Cookies?

Most of us have a vague understanding of what cookies do. Cookies are small lines of code that are placed in your browser when you visit a website and they capture the site name, user ID, and any other relevant details such as log-in, what’s in your cart, and so on.

First-party cookies are cookies that are stored by the website you visit. Third-party cookies are stored by another organization.

diagram comparing first party and third party cookiesImage Source: Search Engine Land

For example, when you head to Amazon.com and find you are still logged in with items in your cart, this is due to first-party cookies on their site. However, when you then look for a recipe for dinner and see the product you were just thinking about buying in an ad on a recipe blog, that’s likely due to third-party cookies.

Should We All Be Panicking?

Firstly, first-party cookies aren’t going anywhere. We aren’t going to have to overhaul our websites to accommodate this change. However, it will affect advertising. Retargeting has been one of the biggest tools in an advertiser’s toolbelt, and the lack of third-party cookies will affect how easy it is to continue to stay present in your potential customer’s mind.

What’s important now is to start thinking about how this change will impact your organization and how you can pivot so you are unaffected by the change when third-party cookies become obsolete. Third-party cookies aren’t disappearing for another year or so, so start preparing now.

7 Ways to Prepare for a Cookieless World

tracking and data privacy in a cookieless world

1. Stop Relying on Third-Party Data Collection

If you don’t require a log-in area or store on your site, chances are the only data you have on your audience is the email address they used to sign up for your newsletter. Now is the time to change that. Start developing a better relationship with your audience and find out more about them that will help you market and advertise to them and similar audiences in the future. Get granular with your audience and brainstorm ways you can encourage them to willingly share data with you. Once you’ve got data, make sure you don’t leave it collecting dust and leverage it to improve your events.

2. Future-Proof Your First-Party Cookies

If you serve customers in the UK and/or EU, chances are you’ve already got your first-party ducks in a row (thanks to GDPR), but if not, now is the time to do so. Don’t wait until third-party cookies are actively being phased out before you do this. Make sure you’re compliant and communicate how you collect and process data to your customers.

3. Start Thinking About Second-Party Data Solutions

Google, Facebook, and Apple are the obvious few here, but you may have others specific to your audience and industry that are there to help you access aggregated data. Both Google and Facebook offer aggregated data free of (additional) charge, so take advantage of these resources and search for other second-party solutions so you’re already using them when cookies disappear.

4. Keep Your Nose to the Ground for “Clean” Third-Party Solutions

User clearing website history and data from mobile device

Of course, a change like this doesn’t end third-party solutions forever, it just calls for innovation! Third-party solutions that operate without cookies are already out there, and there will be many more to come. VisualDNA is one of the cookieless solutions leading the charge, which aggravates data via personality quizzes, but there will be plenty more coming to fill the vacuum created by third-party cookies going the way of the dinosaur.

5. Remember User Experience

It’s easy to fall apart thinking about the lack of advertising opportunities this new cookieless world (appears) to bring, but don’t forget that cookies are a large part of what makes a user’s experience seamless. If you forget this, you may find that one of the biggest factors hindering your organization's post-third-party cookies isn’t the lack of traffic, but your bounce rate and customer frustration.

Poor quality data will hinder return user experience, so make sure your first-party data is clean and ready to create a stellar user experience. You may be able to aggregate data across your brands and businesses if your organization is large enough and it makes sense to do so.

6. Educate Your Staff

Make sure everyone in the organization understands how this change will affect the company and their department or role. Educate them on how you plan to tackle the change, and ask for (or be open to) ideas from stakeholders on how you can better operate in a cookieless landscape. Being bold and trying new things can pay off hugely, but equally, being well prepared will ensure you experience a smooth transition.

7. Remember the Breadth of Tools at Your Disposal

Finally, don’t forget what a wide array of marketing tools we have access to today. Not only are there plenty of other cookieless personalization solutions across all major ads channels (display, video, social, and search), such as location and time-based messaging and contextual targeting, but we encourage everyone to develop an omnichannel event marketing strategy.

Omnichannel strategy Promotional strategy banner with icons. Email, website, advertising, events, branding, direct marketing, social media, newsletter icons.

Paying to play in such a direct way isn’t the only way to reach your audience, and indeed, is often one of the coldest ways to do so. An omnichannel marketing approach means you aren’t just looking for that click or that purchase, but you’re prepared to build a relationship that will outlast third-party cookies and many of the cookieless solutions that follow. Data is a powerful tool, but when it’s your own data you’ve collected directly from your audience, it’s even more powerful.

Final Thoughts

The world of digital marketing will change, but likely for the better. Yes, the future of marketing looks different from the landscape we currently operate in, but you can expect to develop better relationships with your audience as they feel more confident about how they’re being targeted and feel more secure when browsing and buying online. Audience data won’t disappear. You’ll be better equipped to collect data in your own organization, and second-party data and “clean” third-party data will evolve and get better.

For the event industry, preparing for a cookieless world shouldn’t be a scramble to see how you can replicate the results you’ve been getting with third-party cookie tools. Instead, see this as an opportunity to deepen your understanding of your audience and learn more about who they are and what they want to experience with you. With so many events moving online or to a hybrid model, it can be easy to get wrapped up in the numbers and forget that real people are sitting on the other side of the screen, especially if your focus is on those present in the room with you.

After over a year without global events, we’re finally seeing a return of in-person events! If you have any concerns about how to market and run your events in a world without third-party cookies and you’re going to be at IMEX America in Las Vegas or Event Tech Live in London, we’d love to chat with you about the future of event marketing. Find us at the Aventri booth or schedule a meeting with our team for our undivided attention.

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This Post was Written by Brecht Fourneau

Brecht Fourneau joined Aventri in 2015 through the acquisition of TapCrowd, a mobile event tech startup he co-founded in 2009. He is currently responsible for defining and rolling out Aventri's EMEA and APAC Marketing strategy, constantly looking...

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