The Beginning of the First Party Data Era

The Beginning of the First Party Data Era


There’s been a lot of discussion on the “cookie-less” future. But then again, within B2B marketing, perhaps we’re not talking about this enough.

As it stands today, most major browsers (Firefox, Safari) and devices (iOS) have already blocked third-party cookies. Google has committed to taking the same action in late 2024 with Chrome, which will impact more than 66% of all web traffic globally.

This action — while great through the lens of consumer data privacy — will become wildly disruptive to marketing teams.

However, as an optimist, I’ll propose the possibility that the end of third-party cookies can usher in a new chapter for demand marketing that prioritizes relationships over transactions.

But before we get into that, let’s give a quick primer on what cookies are and how marketers have used them to create and drive pipeline.


A Primer on Cookies

Third-party cookies are tracking codes that are placed on your computer by a website or service other than the one you’re currently visiting. This information is sent back to a third-party, which often is an advertiser.

Ad tech companies have long used third-party cookies for ad targeting and measurement. They’re also the reason you keep seeing ads for things you’ve already bought, or for that product you looked at once and then never returned to purchase.

These tracking codes have also been used to “follow” users across the internet and devices in order to better understand their journeys and string together multiple touchpoints in the customer journey. This helps marketers show ads to potential customers that are more likely to convert.

In a nutshell, third-party cookies have helped turn the internet into a giant advertising platform. And while that’s not necessarily a bad thing (if you like a tailored web experience based on your browsing history), the reality is that cookies have also been abused to collect and sell personal data without users’ consent.


Impact of Cookie-Less Future on B2B Marketing

To be clear, first-party cookies — which are set by the website you’re visiting — are not going away. These are the cookies that keep you logged into your favorite sites and apps.

What is going away, however, is the ability to track people across the web using third-party cookies.

The elimination of third-party cookies will put an end to this data-driven marketing program as we know it. Marketers will no longer be able to leverage them to segment audiences, track conversions, or deliver ads to highly targeted audiences across the web.

This loss in visibility has a big impact for two primary reasons:

  1. Marketers will no longer be able to track conversions back to specific marketing programs across the web.

  2. Marketers will be blind to how potential customers interact with their brand on other websites.

  3. And perhaps most interesting to content teams, marketers will no longer be able to retarget traffic after they land on a piece of content - perhaps through long tail search - and don’t convert. This means going from multiple chances at generating a conversion from your hard working content to only one shot.

In other words, the cookie-less future will make it harder for marketers to prove the ROI of their programs and to understand the full impact of their marketing efforts.

This impact may be a great forcing function for marketers to change their mindset around how they run programs.

Third-party cookies create an inherently transactional form of marketing. Instead of focusing on relationships, it’s focused on delivering a message based on contextual information according to a person’s browsing history.

When marketers use third-party cookies to target potential customers with ads, they are hoping their message is sent at the right time, in the right context to drive a conversion. It’s only slightly better than a “spray and pray” method.

So, with this imminent change on the horizon, what is the answer?

Enter first-party data: the post-cookie future of B2B marketing.


Opportunity to Capitalize on First Party Data

Make no mistake, the end of third-party cookies will be disruptive. And it will require marketers to fundamentally rethink their demand marketing programs.

In response to these changes, marketers must become more reliant on first-party data, which is data that’s collected directly from interactions with your own website or app.

This data is yours, and it’s much more valuable because it’s specific to your brand and customers. It’s the currency of record for owned media and allows marketers to make better decisions about where to invest talent, resources, and time.

There are many different types of first-party data, but some of the most common include:

  • Website behavior - How people interact with your own website. Page views, time on site, and what actions they take
  • Marketing database - Subscribers to your content, attendees of an event you host, registrants for a webinar or co-marketing virtual event
  • CRM data - Data collected from interactions with your sales and customer success teams, such as customer profile information, purchase history, and contact details

First-party data allows you to use first-party relationships to reach your target audience. This shift in focus will help you move away from a transactional marketing mindset to one that prioritizes long-term customer relationships.

And it’s this relationship-centric mentality that will be critical to success in the post-cookie future.

The future is first-party data.

With first-party data, you have a complete view of the customer journey from start to finish with your brand. This allows you to create more targeted marketing programs that focus on building relationships instead of driving transactions.

It helps you make smarter decisions about the type of content you should be producing - what formats, topics, etc., are resonating with your audience? It also helps inform how your content is impacting business outcomes.

And while first-party data has always been important, the cookie-less future has made it essential.


Anthony Kennada | About the Author

Founder and CEO, AudiencePlus

Prior to founding AudiencePlus, Anthony served as the CMO of incredible companies like Hopin and Front. He was the founding CMO of Gainsight where he and his team are credited with creating the Customer Success category -- a novel business imperative, profession and software category that helps subscription companies grow sustainably by becoming customer obsessed. By focusing on human first community building, content marketing, live events and creative activations, they developed a new playbook for B2B marketing that built the Gainsight brand and fueled the company’s growth from $0 to $100M+ ARR, and eventual acquisition by Vista Equity at a $1.1B valuation. You can follow him here.


The Beginning of the First Party Data Era

The cookie-less future will make it harder for marketers to prove the ROI of their programs and to understand the full impact of their marketing efforts. This impact may be a great forcing function for marketers to change their mindset around how they run programs.

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