Valuing the age of consent in the cookieless era

consent-Image by Markus Winkler from Pixabay

As tech stories go, the impending death of the activity tracking digital cookie is very much turning into a slow, tortuous and painful one.

But such delays at least give the industry pause for thought about preparedness and how to address key issues such as user consent in our cookieless future, whenever we finally get there.

Here, Jake Ness, Client Solutions Director at esbconnect, offers some insights and ideas to advertisers and brands before they jump onto the  first technology-based solution that comes along…

Jake-Ness-esbconnect
Jake Ness, esbconnect

With all the hype around the death of the first-party cookie, as an industry, we are in danger of becoming immune to debate about how prepared we are for a post-cookie reality.

To some extent, this is the result of natural desensitisation, with the topic being dissected every which way while the implementation of cookie deprecation itself has been mired in delays.

But this attitude is also, in part, down to new tools which claim to directly solve the issues associated with not having cookies – namely tracking and data-sharing consent.

More and more, we see companies jumping to adopt technology which seems to enable effective tracking for that brave new cookieless world. But is that enough?

Consent beyond cookies

Arguably the biggest concern facing the advertising industry is the fundamental over-simplification of what lies ahead: the amalgamation of a cookieless environment and user consent as one single issue.

We know that advertising is more effective where consent is given. In fact, some reports suggest campaigns perform up to 250% higher when the consent box is checked vs rejected (and 42% higher when the consent box is checked compared to when consent is not available).

ESB_CookielessFuture
Consent after cookies: User approval is all in the post-cookie world.

But we also know that consent levels can drop. If a user hits ‘reject’ on the CMP software, marketers suddenly find they are no longer able to accurately track the full consumer journey (and therefore ROI).

Any resulting conversion can appear to be purely organic rather than telling a story of advertising success.

With all kinds of ‘cookieless’ technology emerging, it’s easy for advertisers to rest on their laurels, believing that simply having a cookieless alternative in place means they are all set.

And yet in reality, because of rejected or diminishing cookies, campaign results can appear worse than before.

At best, effectiveness measurement is incomplete or compromised, and advertisers may choose to pull ad spend across media channels as a result.

At worst, we risk not honouring consumers’ wishes.

So the question is – how do we keep these users in the customer engagement loop? This is where we need to weave active user consent back into the customer journey.

Applying privacy-friendly attribution

Attribution lies at the heart of both effectiveness and efficiency measurement in advertising. Over the years it has evolved from a simple last-touch attribution model to a more sophisticated multi-touch, omnichannel approach.

With the marketing mix evolving to include a growing number of channels, multi-touch attribution is crucial, as it gives accurate credit to all the factors contributing to a purchase decision, but also informs the future marketing budget.

What the industry needs, therefore, is a comprehensive suite of privacy-friendly solutions that provide access to this much-coveted attribution data to accurately measure the success – or otherwise – of marketing strategies without the historical benefit of cookies.

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New tools: Adland needs a comprehensive suite of privacy-friendly solutions.

Email – the crux of customer engagement

Often when a customer purchases an item online, they willingly enter an email address – either to set up an account, fill out a customer survey, or simply to receive a purchase receipt.

Upon entering their information, the email address is stored, and attribution can commence.

Utilising email as a consistent digital ID for attribution means that it is possible to accurately attribute across the user journey without requiring cookies or any additional tracking.

Using a consented, first-party email base to drive users to site creates a ‘consent bubble’ which allows conversion tracking and fully accounts for users regardless of their response – ‘accept’ or ‘reject’ – on CMP cookie prompts.

By initiating a purchase journey and entering into the process of the sale, the brand can pass data back via an attribution tool to match to the initial email send and attribute a conversion.

This means that marketers can now demonstrate the contribution of a specific email – whether part of an acquisition or retention campaign – to the purchase decision.

As attribution tools evolve, email will continue to stand out as an invaluable channel due to the fact it has both online and offline usability.

We are already starting to see attribution models offering to solve for this channel as a part of a wider solution, by focussing on the continued use of email as a gateway to user behaviour and engagement – and as a trusted digital identifier.

Unlocking the power of email in 2024

The emergence of the email attribution tool – which generates real-time impressions that can be filtered to target specific demographics – represents a new era of advertising in which we can capture crucial data otherwise lost amidst the struggle to get consent on-site.

As cookies wane, and the need for consent intensifies, email-driven consent management will become an important cornerstone for advertisers in establishing a future-proof and compliant cookieless environment.