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Retargeting Without Cookies (your marketing won’t die alongside third-party cookies)

Thankfully, retargeting without cookies is possible. It’s possible right now with tools like Smart Recognition if you have decent website traffic. That means everyone freaking out over Google phasing out third-party cookies can relax.

Yes, Google is serious this time. Testing cookie phase-out has begun on Chrome. But, again, marketers and advertisers should not panic.

Let’s see why the end of cookies is not the end of marketing as we know it.

Retargeting Without Cookies Will Cut Out Wasted Ads

I wanted to see how many irrelevant ads are finding their way onto my screen every week.

After I started to investigate, it was obvious the total number of ads being wasted on me would be staggering. So, I’ll give you just a few examples of third-party cookies tracking me:

  • Golf.com
  • ESPN.com
  • GasBuddy.com
  • Eofire.com
  • Expressmowerparts.com

Any ads I see from those cookie droppings are very unlikely to produce a sale. Anything is possible but…

I do not play golf. Have no desire to start.

Don’t watch any sports now (recovering NFL addict!).

I could not care less what gas costs since I have no choice but to buy it. And saving 4 cents is not crucial in my mind.

Eofire.com? Great podcast – but the last time I listened was at least nine years ago!

Last on the short list involves mower parts, which I don’t need since a guy comes and takes care of that with his mower now. The last lawn mower blade I ordered was over a decade ago, and I hope it stays that way!

Retargeting Without Cookies Reality

Sure, I could change my mind and suddenly become interested in playing golf. Or start trying to fund my retirement with the help of GasBuddy saving me 16 cents a month.

Super unlikely, though. Yet, third-party cookies seem to be the only thing holding the advertising world together if you listen to some people.

How can that be true when the example list of my cookies was just the tip of an irrelevant iceberg? I could list 30 more third-party cookies that are wasting several businesses’ advertising dollars on retargeting me for stuff I have zero desire for.

Those cookies are also leading advertisers down the wrong path for effectively retargeting me.

Some Retargeting Third-Party Cookies are On Point

No question, some cookies stored in my Chrome browser are relevant. I might buy from companies using more recent data since it is more accurate to my current interests.

The problem is, how are businesses and advertisers supposed to know which cookie data is correct? 

Recency isn’t even that reliable. Think about it. How many ads do you see that came along because you clicked an odd link in an email or news article? Something intriguing, but not a topic you are going to spend any real time on afterward.

3 Examples of Retargeting Without Cookies That Are Relevant 

  1. One example would be tidbits at the end of Morning Brew or 1440 newsletters. A cool photo link showing a killer whale may lead to seeing ads for SeaWorld or swimming with dolphins at some resort.
  1. Another example is accidentally clicking on a link or typing in the wrong address. Third-party cookies stick to your browser, and then you endure retargeting without cookies that are relevant to you at all. 
  1. Last example is holiday shopping. How many websites do you visit just to browse for gifts from Black Friday until Christmas Day? And once your shopping is all finished, it’s not like you are going to circle back in March to do next December’s shopping. But you will see ads based on that browsing for months afterward because of third-party cookies.

And you’re right. Some sales will happen using those third-party cookie examples. Showing ads all year could lead to purchases once the next holiday season arrives. But this is not the reliable strategy many people would have you believe. 

Also, since third-party cookies are going to end no matter what, it would make no difference if retargeting cookies were guaranteed to work! Marketers have to move on and start retargeting without cookies. 

That means testing tools like Smart Recognition so you can collect email addresses from your anonymous website visitors. 

It also means improving user experience and getting creative with it. 

Retargeting Without Cookies Using Top-Notch User Experience

When you’re seeking retargeting tactics without cookies, you will see a ton of articles about making more effort to gather first-party data.

And that is solid advice. The information directly given to you by your audience is gold. Pure, relevant gold.

The problem? People are busy. The majority of them are too busy to take the extra step of filling out your survey, for example. 

People’s minds are flooded with a million things to do now that everyone is expected to manage two worlds full-time— the physical world and the online world. 

So, you have to make it worthwhile for them to use their precious moments of free time to fill out your surveys, provide feedback, or even write a review these days.

It’s not impossible. But it is a must to provide the type of user experience that compels them to send you first-party data, which costs them their limited free time.

HubSpot lays out 12 ways to make user experience top-notch.

Three of the best from the list are:

  1. Don’t ask for too much info at once – make it simple/fast to send you valuable data
  1. If you use social media, reply promptly to direct messages on those platforms
  1. Ensure your website is as easy to use on phones as on desktop computers 

One thing not on that list? Humanizing customer service. This can be as simple as avoiding:

  • Long waits for a response
  • No follow-up on issues
  • Customer support agents without the right context for the problem

The #1 user experience to model cookieless retargeting after?

Retargeting Without Cookies: Sports’ User Experience

Rabid fans don’t need to be retargeted with ads scattered at random spots around the web.

Rabid fans are easy to spot and easy to sell to. 

Sports gives marketers a prime example of how a superb user experience produces sales. Consistent sales, often passed down from generation to generation.

Look into the stands at the next NFL game you see on TV. How many jerseys are on the backs of moms, dads, kids, and grandkids? Those are true fans willing to spend money on tickets, parking, pricey concessions, apparel, and TV subscriptions for away games. 

Plus, take note of all the ads you yourself sit through just because you love football (or soccer or baseball, etc.).

Building that level of loyalty and user experience takes time and effort. But is within the grasp of every brand willing to go the extra mile to get to know their audience, which is filled with potential customers and future rabid fans. 

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