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Why banks will thrive in a cookieless world

The industry is better positioned than others because it has more access to alternative sources of
high-quality customer data.

Feb 8, 2023 / Marketing & Sales

Cookies are still technically legal in the United States, but there’s a growing regulatory push against them, with the California Consumer Privacy Act and European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation leading the way. While it’s important for bank marketers to understand that the third-party cookie data they might be using is going away, it’s also important to know the differences between types of data and how to pivot.

First, let’s look at the difference between first-party and third-party cookie data. First-party cookie data is gathered by observing user behavior on your company’s website or digital platforms. It’s often analyzed to build out segmentation and targeting efforts. First-party data will continue to be an acceptable form of data for use in understanding your current customers and developing leads.

Third-party cookie data, on the other hand, is from outside your organization and typically collected from multiple sources, such as browsing and advertising activities. This type of data collection was common in apps until Apple and Google took proactive steps last year to eliminate them. The age of sneakily tracking people is over, and that’s OK – digital marketing is moving into a new era.

Banks collect a ton of data on their customers —likely more than many other business types. Banks have this much data partly because they often use data brokers to do data appends on existing customers or to rent prospect data for market targeting. Banks will still be able to append data to their existing data through outside sources, such as second- and third-party appends. You can use the data you have on current customers to identify prospective audiences for targeting, putting you in a better position to succeed in a cookieless world than the average company.

Of course, third-party cookies are a nice-to-have bonus in the banking industry; however, they are not a necessary component. Still, you might need to make adjustments before third-party cookies are gone forever:

Start now: Cookies are going to disappear sooner rather than later, so you might want to stop relying heavily on third-party cookie data today and begin leveraging first-party and other sourced third-party data. This way, you won’t be making a drastic adjustment once third-party cookies are no longer available. Existing customer data is a great source to start with, as you can use it in aggregate to create different customer profiles and personas based on behavior patterns or branch patterns. This data can then be leveraged for various targeting exercises, whether it’s for marketing to your current customer base or new customers.

Create a customer journey: A customer relationship doesn’t end at the sale. There are opportunities to cross-sell and upsell throughout a customer’s lifetime. Tracking cross-sell and upsell journeys over time allows you to then model these behaviors and apply targeting to similar “looking” customers in the future. This also allows you to be more efficient with your marketing budget by reaching people at the right time versus using blanket targeting.

Educate the C-suite: What’s obvious to a chief marketing officer isn’t necessarily obvious to the rest of the C-suite. Many executives won’t understand the impact of this cookie change. Understanding that dynamic and communicating it now will make things easier when cookies go away permanently. For example, Google is already rolling out Google Analytics 4 to replace Universal Analytics. Start the migration now by leading the charge and getting buy-in from the C-suite.

Banks aren’t going to miss third-party cookies as much as other industries because they have so much first-party data and other third-party data. It’s more a matter of understanding the amount of data you have available, how to read it and then how to put it to use. A good data team that understands how data can be used for marketing can help reduce missed opportunities.

The biggest thing to understand about the lack of third-party cookies is that first-party data has always been the most accurate way to target consumers. What banks know about their customers is intelligence that other industries had to rely on third-party cookies and other appends to gain. That means banking will be a front-runner in the cookieless economy — as long as they work with their marketing teams to understand their needs.

Megan Allinson is the integrated marketing director at BKM Marketing.