Cookies have been the underpinning for most digital marketing performance measurement for over twenty years, which has allowed advertisers to measure post-click conversions and attribution for sales impact. As a result, channels like paid search and display retargeting typically stand out as ‘performance channels’. Simply put, cookie deprecation takes away the easy button of using off-the-self audiences and straightforward conversion tracking. However, without third-party pixels, determining clear return on ad spend will become more challenging, especially for marketers who continue to rely on click-based attribution models.
Without cookies, it is imperative that you develop more meaningful ways of understanding how customers make decisions and how it impacts business results, a topic we recently covered on The Loop Marketing Podcast.
How to calculate marketing ROI in the cookieless future
In this new paradigm, marketers will need to rely more heavily on strategy to get the greatest and most accurate ROI.
The ability to calculate marketing ROI starts with having a strong measurement strategy in place prior to campaign launch. Smart marketers know to look beyond online conversion data and search for correlations with business performance to determine true directional success. Advertising campaigns need to be set-up to achieve business goals rather than just vanity metrics. It’s important to know when to incorporate more robust analytical solutions to understand what’s impacting your bottom line.
Cookieless measurement solutions
Some methods for measuring media campaigns in the cookieless future include:
- Media mix modeling (MMM): MMM works by isolating one variable at a time to see the impact of removing or adding a tactic. It allows deeper understanding of how omnichannel campaigns work together and incrementally impact key outcomes.
- Advanced measurement studies: Exposed vs. control consumer studies track brand lift, sales lift or foot traffic lift to provide greater insights into the real impact of advertising on difficult-to-measure business goals.
- Overlaying multiple data sources: Brands can match up Google Analytics conversion data, or sales data, with paid media data. While more time and knowledge intensive in terms of the analysis needed, this is effective to look beyond media data alone and instead looking holistically at the brand to understand marketing’s impact.
Place less emphasis on media efficiency metrics and more emphasis on effectiveness. Look at correlations between business and media data to identify incremental conversions compared to your company baseline.
To achieve this, marketers will need to identify leading indicators of success by channel and tactic and optimize towards those metrics.
Will the cookieless future impact walled gardens?
Walled gardens, such as Facebook and Amazon, leverage their own first-party user data. As a result, cookie deprecation will affect them less in terms of targeting.
Within platform confines, advertisers will still be able to track individual users, though the windows of attribution can vary. Due to this, walled gardens allow for brands to conduct some closed-loop measurement. That being said, there will be limitations on attribution, and less deterministic targeting as privacy laws continue to become stricter.
Walled garden pixels will have limited ability to pass back data to the platform once cookies are gone. We can expect front end marketing performance metrics to decline, even if backend business performance remains the same. Plan for shifts in attribution, using strategies like those laid out above, as we get closer to cookie deprecation.
Cookieless attribution tips
Begin testing and learning today to proactively understand what will and will not be effective in the cookieless future.
- Begin benchmarking current performance ASAP: compare performance of cookie-based vs. cookieless tactics. Then, analyze backend data to determine the effect on business results and set expectations accordingly.
- Consolidate to fewer platforms, or find a way to ID map: Platforms are developing their own internal ID tracking frameworks. The more platforms you execute your media through, the more disparate measurement systems you have to consider. This will also minimize duplication across platforms.
The deprecation of third-party cookies will undoubtedly impact the way marketers approach digital media. But a data-driven media plan tied into a holistic cookieless attribution and measurement solution will ensure your business continues to grow by reaching the audience in the right place at the right time.