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Healthcare marketing strategy3 min read Marketers, how will you prepare for a cookieless future?

Legislation gives consumers more control over how their own data is used.

July 28, 2021The Coffey Team

Consumers spend more time than ever getting information, consuming content and making purchasing decisions online. For many years, marketers have relied on the use of browser cookies that offer vital details about user statistics, intention, site usage and conversions.

In 2022, we will be marketing in a cookieless world where tracking online user behavior and compiling analytics to help better target consumers will become more challenging. Marketers will be forced to develop more authentic ways to engage with consumers and build target segments.

Consumers rarely respond to invasive digital marketing behaviors, such as aggressive marketing and irrelevant targeting. But in the past, they weren't able to do anything about it. Understanding consumers' frustrations, organizations have started to consider expectations when building customer experiences. Now, legislation has passed that allows consumers to have more choice, transparency and control over how their own data is collected and used.

How the cookie crumbles

Cookies are bits of data that contain personal identifiers used by web browsers like Google Chrome, Firefox and Safari.

First-party cookies are directly stored by the website you visit. They provide data for site owners to collect analytics, remember language settings and perform other useful functions that provide a good user experience. First-party cookies are supported by all browsers and can be blocked or deleted by the user.

Third-party cookies are created by websites other than the one you're visiting. Organizations can purchase third-party data to enrich their own databases or better target specific audience segments. This data enables marketers to do things like remarketing, track conversions and conduct A/B testing.

Third-party cookies are supported by all browsers, but many are blocking them by default. Users are also taking matters into their own hands and deleting third-party cookies on their own.

A cookieless future

Cookies are not completely disappearing, but there will be some significant changes. Website owners can continue to leverage first-party cookies, but third-party cookies will no longer be supported by major web browsers, with Google planning to sunset them sometime in 2023.

This puts an emphasis on the importance of first-party data once you lose the ability to track and target your consumer via third-party cookies. Without third-party cookies, marketers will have to prioritize first-party cookie data, collected with user consent, and focus on developing relationships with their consumers.

How will this affect marketers?

Marketers are responsible for nurturing consumers through the marketing funnel—from awareness to interest, to desire, to action and ultimately to brand loyalty­. Most impacted by the cookie changes is the top of the funnel, before a user has converted from prospect to customer.

When third-party cookies are eliminated, marketers will have to engage in activities that can transform unknown users into known customers such as focusing on first-party data—from your CRM and engaged users who have opted in. Because first-party data is data that you have collected yourself, it is typically the most reliable data available to you. Once you've collected first-party data, you can gain audience insights, create a personalized experience for your users, improve your retargeting strategy, identify patterns and predict future trends.

Here are some tips to help prepare you for the elimination of third-party cookies:

  • Make sure your website is set up to collect the data you need.
  • Educate your key stakeholders on the importance of this change and its anticipated impact.
  • Put a higher priority on collecting first-party data.
  • Segment your customers to personalize your targeting and messaging.
  • Keep up with the latest news on browsers and cookies.

Currently, Google intends to launch its own tools as an alternative for advertisers to use Google's first-party data. Their "Privacy Sandbox," a secure and controlled environment to improve user experience without sacrificing user privacy, launched in 2020. Google claims that the Privacy Sandbox solution will protect user privacy while also helping content remain freely available, all without using third-party cookies.

Work with an expert

Reaching the right consumer with the right messages at the right time is key to the success of any healthcare marketing campaign. But if you feel overwhelmed by the changes to browser cookies and your strategy to target your consumer going forward, there's no need to give up.

At Coffey, we have decades of experience in helping healthcare organizations target their consumers for their marketing campaigns. We'd love to help you. Contact us to find out more.