Is a marketing data warehouse the answer to a cookieless world?
8 mins • Feb 24, 2023
Were cookies the light side or the dark side?
Marketing professionals all agree it has become more challenging to steer their online acquisition machines through the increasingly foggy seas of online marketing. Online targeting has become less efficient and even leads to some deception on the quality of the ads served (as mentioned in the third part of this podcast of the New York Times).
It all started with ad blockers preventing websites from building a detailed view of an online visitor's journey with information on every website visited. A growing number of users embraced them. Then some web browsers (Safari, soon Chrome) and mobile operating systems (iOS) set foot on stage and limited online tracking. It got worst. Now, some marketing professionals seem to have nostalgia for the Cookie Era, when things were better with a clearer view of how to put into action your audiences. Better? It reminds me of the dialog between Luke & Yoda on the dark side being better. Are they the dark side of marketing?
With cookies, they knew it all.. not you
That perspective is slightly flawed. For one, you did not have that view. You would get the information those tech behemoths doing the tracking would provide you. For free? Well, usually, when lunch is free, it means you are the lunch. So they pumped you up with some data you could use on their platforms to buy more ads. The art of analytics and getting to know your customers were in their hands. The data you let them have improved their understanding of your customers and your spending on their platform.
Then a wind of change blew on all this system. With the increasing usage of ad blockers and compliance-driven strategic moves of Safari, iOS, and soon Chrome blocking cookies, the system is teetering on the brink of blind investment. The bad news is you have to react. The good news is you will now be in charge of organizing this online acquisition, and no one else knows your business as much as you do and has the drive to improve it. The endgame of Google or Meta was to sell more ads, not to improve your business, even if there is some overlap there. Remember the Google attribution rule where the last click wins, and that one is often related to a search term.
Opportunities to dig into your website and server-side data
The other good news when reflecting on this cookieless world is that marketing peers have been doing this for years. And even before the times of the internet. There are mechanisms to try to put data where it might look hard to do so. For example, mail-order companies used to put discount coupons to find the origin of the lead and also put codes in the “reply bulletin” you would send back. So these end up being today's UTMs in links and landing pages. That data is already a good start to a better understanding of your customers, along with navigation data on your website.
Here are some thoughts on what you can do by spending time working on the quality of your website data - and maybe you already do these things, but just in case, here they go :
Improve your understanding of your personae by digging into the website visitor behavior: which pages they spend time on, what are their routes on the website lead to the most conversion. The last page before conversion might often be the same (for instance, the pricing page) - then which landing page did they arrive on? which blog post or solutions page did they read longer than the others?
Identify pages with higher bounce rates or lower engagement to improve them and get a better experience for your visitors on your website.
Analyze the behavior of those users that abandon their shopping carts. Is there a pattern here you can leverage?
The more, the merrier! Increase conversion and retention with your data warehouse
Things become increasingly interesting when mixing website data with other information you might have. Many companies have a CRM with information related to customers and prospects, typically after sign-up. And many will also use email to maintain communication with customers. Opportunities become exceptional when you use all these together.
For instance, a credit underwriter would contact you to offer a restructuring when collecting churn-related information, such as a call to customer service to ask for your payment schedule.
The CRM has information on what was bought, when, and maybe even information on margins. There are many types of campaigns and actions you can build. For example, you can isolate an audience of customers of product category 1 (CRM), and who have interacted with pages of product category 2 (website data or email nurturing clicks) that you will retarget with category two products by email or any other means.
This is about finding an interesting campaign for customers based on actions and interests. The possibilities are endless. The variables to define an audience that will be put in action are what they did on your website, what they bought when they did so, what they have been looking at… and even some additional event-based information (stock levels? retailing events?) or offline interactions with your team. Each data source is interesting, but together they become very powerful if you can action them.
Your data has to be unlocked. Once it is connected together, you build specific audiences and then put them into action. This is our vision of what marketing data should be doing: a specific audience is sent to a dedicated channel where it receives a tailored message. A lot of effort has been put in place to get that customer to sign-up and provide you with his contact, whether by email or phone. Now is the time to send him value-added communication that makes sense for him and yields good returns for you. Spend time on the messaging, the offering, the channels used, and the creativity/design. Measure and improve.
The opportunity is for your team and yourself to put your thinking into action. Activation platforms such as Google or Meta should be kept to what they are good at serving ads. You stay in charge of what you do and put your thoughts and data in motion by creating customer profiles or audiences across all of your channels. There are many ways to do that, to create efficient customer experiences. We will work on giving you more thoughts. A first step could be to check how to work with conversion APIs.