Audience Engagement Guest Columns
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How publishers can prepare for the third-party cookie phaseout

It’s never been more critical for publishers to take control of their first-party data and customer relationships

The death knell for third-party data was sounded yet again by Google recently. The company announced it was introducing new third-party data blocks on its Android operating system, limiting app makers’ ability to share a person’s information with third parties, and banning data tracking across multiple applications.

The ever-changing privacy restrictions from the tech giants—in addition to the vast growth of data being created by digital channels—are making it harder than ever for marketers to optimize the way they communicate with the customers that use their products and services. This means publishers that rely on third-party cookies to track and communicate with readers face a significant challenge. And they’re not alone.

According to Braze’s Customer Engagement Review the majority of UK companies aren’t prepared for the shift. In fact, less than a third (28%) of marketers say they will be reducing their reliance on third-party data in 2022, despite the fact that Google has already announced a phaseout by 2023.

What can publishers do?

This move means it’s never been more critical for publishers to take control of their first-party data and customer relationships.

The first step is understanding and activating their data. The good news is that publishing brands are already in a strong place and have a wealth of first-party information on their readers. This includes profile data such as age and location but also features deeper insights into what topics they’re interested in, what days they engage with content on, and whether they prefer news or features. This is all valuable information that can be used to engage your existing audience and grow subscriber numbers.

Encouraging readers to share more information with you will help bolster this data store, enabling you to deepen the reader relationship. For example, surveys, on-screen messages, and incentivising account creation all help publishers to gather information to better understand their readers.

Once you have the data, the next step is acting on it. That means messaging your readers on the channels they are already using – such as email, push notifications or SMS. It might sound simple, but a surprising number of brands don’t message their customers at all, which is a wasted opportunity to build a direct relationship.

Make it personal

Even better if you can personalize these messages using data. Understanding what channels your customers prefer to interact on, what kinds of messages they prefer to see and how frequently can help you vastly increase the effectiveness of customer engagement campaigns.

La Presse, one of Canada’s most popular free French-language news sources, was able to add 139,000 subscribers in one month by engaging with its existing readership. The company partnered with Braze to design customized browser messages to allow access to content while encouraging users to create free accounts and learn more about its readers.

By personalizing these messages, La Presse ensured readers had an up-to-date count of how many free articles they had remaining and created a sense of urgency to sign up. As a result, La Presse increased its conversion rate to 43% without walling off articles, a key goal for the company.

Finally, one huge untapped opportunity to combat the third-party cookie switch off is anonymous users. These users take action on websites without logging in, opting to “continue as a guest,” or haven’t been given an official identifier, making up 57% of new users in 2021. Yet 80% of them received no messaging from brands. That’s a major untapped audience that could potentially be motivated via thoughtful messaging to engage more frequently or to subscribe.

To bring anonymous users into the fold, publishers can turn to the first-party data they are already collecting, combined with other factors like location or session data for specific messages. They can also nudge this audience to convert via tactics like in-app surveys that gather additional insights into the preferences of anonymous users.

While the death of third-party cookies means companies are facing their most significant data management challenge since GDPR was introduced four years ago, there is also a huge opportunity. Publishers that are able to develop a deeper relationship with their existing readership through customer engagement stand to win in the long run.

Georgia Harrison
VP Customer Success, EMEA, Braze

Braze is a leading comprehensive customer engagement platform that powers interactions between consumers and brands they love. With Braze, global brands can ingest and process customer data in real time, orchestrate and optimise contextually relevant, cross-channel marketing campaigns and continuously evolve their customer engagement strategies.