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Adapting to a Cookie-less World: New Strategies for Marketers to Measure Impact

This post is the second in a series on funnel optimization, unpacking the implications of Google’s phase-out of cookies and its impact on both B2B and B2C businesses. Read the first part in the series here for strategies on optimizing your funnel to maximize conversion. 

The new year brought a big change in the digital landscape – as of January 1st, 2024, Google began phasing out third-party cookies. Marketers have long used cookies for tracking campaign success, so losing them fundamentally changes how businesses engage audiences, and reinforces the need for innovation in data collection, customer relationship management, and of course, personalized marketing. At 621 Consulting, we don’t necessarily see this shift as an obstacle – instead, it’s an opportunity to re-think your strategy and measure what matters.

We sat down with 621 consultant Ben Rose, who has over 20 years experience in performance marketing, growth and analytics, to learn how companies can adapt their approach to funnel optimization and amplify their marketing efforts in a post-cookie world.

Cookies Phase-out: What to Know 

Why is Google making cookies obsolete? “Third-party cookies allow for the capture and sharing of personal data,” says Rose. “With consumers more concerned about privacy than ever, this is a clear shift from Google toward more privacy-conscious methods.” 

It’s important to note: Google is phasing out third-party cookies. To put this in context, each website you visit creates and stores first-party cookies, which then remember your settings and preferences for a personalized experience. Alternatively, other domains like advertising networks, social media platforms and analytics services use third-party cookies. For example, advertisers use cookies to track browsing habits to deliver targeted ads based on interests or behaviors. 

There’s a distinction of note for marketers, says Rose. “Businesses that use tools like Hubspot to track user behavior are using first-party cookies so they can continue those motions – as long as they’re abiding by GDPR and other data compliance standards.”

Google’s phase-out started with just 1% of users this quarter and will roll out to 100% by the end of the year. 

B2B and B2C Marketing in a Privacy-First Era

No businesses are immune from the impact of Google’s decision. For B2B companies, which often rely on lengthy, relationship-driven sales cycles, the ability to track and nurture leads across multiple touchpoints becomes more challenging, potentially impacting lead quality and conversion rates. On the B2C front, companies face the daunting task of reimagining how they personalize customer experiences and measure campaign effectiveness without setting off privacy concerns. What’s true for all businesses is the need to re-evaluate their approach and revisit how they measure and improve the customer journey. In a new privacy-centric world, how do companies continue to understand their audience and achieve the growth they need? 

Three Measurement Strategies to Bridge the Gap

“While cookies have been the norm since the rise of digital marketing, there are plenty of other methods marketers can employ to understand user behavior,” says Rose. He recommends applying one or more of the following approaches to understand customer behavior and the effectiveness of paid campaigns: 

  • Rigorous Experimentation and A/B Testing: While A/B testing is always critical in marketing, the loss of individual user tracking via cookies only increases the importance of experimentation. A/B testing and other forms of experimentation can provide direct insights into customer behavior and preferences. “While this approach can be more costly and time-consuming, it can illuminate what converts with each segment, and ultimately, give marketers the insights they need to make funnel improvements.” Ultimately, as cookies phase out, it’s crucial for companies to ensure every part of their marketing is sharp and effective.

  • Media Mix Modeling (MMM): "Brought to prominence at Kraft Foods in the ‘60s, media mix modeling is making a comeback," says Rose. This approach analyzes how spending in different marketing channels each week correlates with sales, taking into account other factors like economic trends and digital data advancements. “It fell out of favor with the rise of cookies and digital marketing, but now there have been advances in terms of modeling techniques, and the payment barrier has also come down through lightweight MMM tools and SaaS software,” he says. At its heart, media mix modeling helps marketers optimize spend efficiency by strategically rebalancing investments across channels, including social media, digital ads and even traditional methods such as direct mail or TV. 

  • Identity-based Matching Solutions: For companies with access to a substantial amount of customer data, coming from internal and outside data sources, identity-based matching is a viable alternative. This involves matching customer data from different sources to create a comprehensive view of customer behavior. “While this approach can be complex in privacy-related industries like healthcare,” Rose notes, “it’s worth exploring as a valuable tool for personalizing outreach and understanding your impact.” 

Bottom Line: Focus on the Big Picture

“It's not just about replacing cookies with another measurement tool,” says Rose. “This change presents a chance to assess your marketing efforts to date and deploy new strategies to increase conversion and get ahead of competitors.” 

Where do you begin? Start by pinpointing the main stages of your buyers’ journey, defining conversion events and purchase paths. Then, you can identify key areas for improvement and experiment with fresh creative and messaging strategies to increase conversion rates and engage your audience more effectively.

“Whether your business is B2B or B2C, It's about getting a firm grip on your customers' path to purchase and taking actionable, tailored steps to facilitate their journey.”

Missed the first part in our series with tips on funnel optimization? Catch up here.

At 621 Consulting, our seasoned experts in digital measurement analytics,  funnel optimization, and other marketing disciplines can work with you to adapt your approach and build a plan for 2024. Our fractional marketing expertise accelerates your growth across business models and disciplines. We're not just about insights, we're about action. From foundational strategy to optimizing your marketing engine, we’re here to guide your journey and deliver meaningful outcomes.


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