A tale of two perceptions — readiness for a cookieless future, then and now

A tale of two perceptions: Readiness for a cookieless future, then and now

In October 2020, Adobe partnered with Advanis, a market and social research firm, to understand the perceptions of a cookieless future among professionals and consumers. According to the Identity Evolution study, professionals reported that 60% of personalization use cases were dependent on the third-party cookie, but only 37% of professionals felt ready for a cookieless future.

Anticipating disruption

By the end of 2020, marketers were scrambling to test strategies for delivering connected experiences without interruption to use cases, all with access to less consumer data than ever before.

With GDPR, CCPA, ITP, ETP, and so on, the list of consumer-driven privacy directives continued — influencing browser policies without a clear path for marketers to resolve identity, replacing pseudonymous data sources, or testing best practices for capturing consent. As a result, Google's plan to deprecate third-party cookies on Chrome was becoming more of a reality going into 2021. Apple’s requirement for consumer consent for tracking across apps and websites was yet another blow to the continued consumer data deprecation movement, and that removed another layer of insights for marketers.

The idea of a third-party cookieless experience is not entirely new. Apple launched this trend back in 2013 by deprecating third-party cookies in Safari, but the lack of third-party cookies being tracked within Chrome has rattled the martech and adtech ecosystems.

One year later

Google has since extended its expiration date of third-party cookies on Chrome to 2023, and Apple delivered on its promise of consumer consent for mobile app tracking with the rollout of iOS 14.5. And since the launch of the initial Identity Evolution study, Adobe and Advanis reached out to consumers and professionals yet again to understand what has changed in terms of urgency and readiness, potential solutions, and consumer perceptions. Here is what we uncovered.

1. Readiness is a priority for marketers, and it’s a race to differentiation.

Marketers are feeling the pressure to get to the finish line before their competitors. Confidence in readiness has decreased from 37% to 33%, and an overwhelming 75% of professionals see the urgency in readiness to go cookieless — despite Google’s extension. With no easy solution, testing first-party strategies will take time, and waiting to do so could lead to lost market share.

Marketer readiness (YOY)

Marketer readiness (YOY)

Though urgency for readiness has increased, we observed that professionals are still finding value and have immediate dependencies for third-party data, especially across industries that need to build their first-party data strategy. The dependency on third-party cookies remains flat, with 41% of marketers stating that 50% of their marketing efforts are still dependent on third-party cookie data. However, the importance of the purchase and acquisition of third-party behavioral data rose from 42% to 56%. Apart from the travel and hospitality industry, which notably saw a surge in business as travel picked up in 2021, all other industries reported an increase in the importance of third-party data acquisition.

Importance of the acquisition of third-party data by industry (YOY)

3. Data collaboration as an opportunity to build bridges.

There isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach to data deprecation readiness. Most vendors and consultancies continue to push and test first-party data strategies, but not all industries have the luxury of accessing a treasure trove of durable identifiers. Solutions that have been bubbling up include contextual advertising and data clean rooms, but the standout opportunity in 2021, according to the survey, was data collaboration. In 2020, we often heard the term “clean room” come up as a potential solution, but the definition of that term varies. In the traditional sense, clean rooms have been used primarily for attribution when data at the one-to-one level is not accessible but rather aggregated for analysis and attribution purposes. Data collaboration strategies, a slightly different type of data partnership structure, provide a handshake capability within a neutral environment. Added benefits include access to governance tools for segmentation and activation along with cross-industry insights based on first-party identities.

Approaches for readiness of third-party party cookie deprecation

4. Betting on privacy paid off.

As an integral part of the data deprecation story, the market was also tracking potential disruption and required readiness for Apple’s goal to require consent for usage of IDFA. In 2020, 72% of professionals reported that they would be able to overcome barriers associated with this specific market force. Fast-forward to 2021, and this market force proved that less scale did not necessarily mean less reward. Due in large part to Apple’s leadership, professionals across multiple industries reported positive outcomes because of this initiative. Not only did professionals report that their consent-based customer data was more accurate and improved personalization, but the threat of less scale was not a major issue.

5. Consumers are willing to share their data if you go beyond checking the box

Depending on the use case, consumers are still open to sharing their personal data. This is promising, especially for industries such as CPG that may not have the same level of first-party data as a retailer. With consent management platforms being integrated into digital experiences, consumers can opt in to sharing data based on usage type. In 2021, 71% of consumers opted in to share their data with a brand for at least one use case like permission for analytics or autofill options.

Where do you go from here?

As you continue to test approaches for the road to readiness, where do you start? Here are some points of inspiration to help you hit the ground running, identify opportunities, and get smart on tips on marketing responsibly.

Rakhi Patel is principal product marketing manager at Adobe. She leads the go-to-market strategy for Adobe’s customer data management solutions. With 20 years of experience in the digital marketing space, Rakhi has led digital transformation projects for global B2B and business-to-consumer brands and launched programs to elevate the marketer’s role in data management. Connect with Rakhi via LinkedIn.