With cookies on the brink of extinction, how else can B2B marketers make sense of customer behaviours? The answer may lie in "intent data". Jon Clarke, Founder & CPO at Cyance examines the end of cookies and the rise of a new "intent-driven ecosystem".
What will a post-cookie digital landscape look like? How will advertisers, especially in the B2B space, be able to provide targeted experiences to their clients at all parts of the funnel?
As someone who’s worked with intent data for over a decade, I have some thoughts about where this is all going next and what the new frontier of possibilities looks like, particularly for B2B marketers.
Cookie deadline day approaches
Traditionally, marketers have been able to target campaigns by leveraging data from third-party cookies on web browsers.
However, this is all about to change.
Google has announced it will omit third-party cookies in the next update to its popular Chrome web browser in 2022. Given that Chrome has captured over 60% of the browser market, Google’s decision will undoubtedly have a huge effect throughout the industry. It follows similar moves from Safari and Mozilla Firefox.
Whilst this is, in some part driven by regulators tightening privacy laws to remove rogue data capture or tracking, it could also be perceived that companies like Google and Apple are also trying to create a monopoly.
GDPR-redux: another marketing doomsday!
This shift away from third-party cookies reminds me of a few years back when GDPR was introduced. Prior to its implementation, there was lots of fear mongering and speculation about how it would play out. We are seeing this story repeat with the end of cookies.
And, just like with GDPR, heightened privacy is ultimately a net positive for both companies and the general public. The industry as a whole needs to be more accountable, more regulated. We need to give users assurance around data privacy, while giving B2B companies the confidence to understand that a cookie-free digital landscape is one where we can navigate through the online ecosystem without fearing compromised credentials.
There will still be ways of targeting potential buyers; they’ll just have to be smarter, more regulated and more targeted — like through the use of intent data.
Intent data: better than cookies?
Intent data provides a sophisticated way for B2B marketers to get a view into which organisations are researching their products or services. It can track content engagement and consumption across multiple websites using a variety of third-party identifying factors, including:
- universal identifiers
- IP addresses
- single sign-on apps
- email addresses
- consent from form fills or platform/account registrations
The visitor behaviour is then mapped to specific keywords and groupings of keywords called ‘intent topics.’ Marketers are provided a view into the specific buying behaviour of accounts for their chosen keywords or topics to determine if an account is in an active buying journey.
For example, if you’re a marketer looking to sell enterprise IT software, it may be useful to see what type of software your prospective or existing customers are looking to buy. What types of websites have they been browsing? Have they been searching for solutions to specific business problems? Have they been viewing competitor products online?
Our visitor intelligence technology, for instance, captures the footfall to publisher websites and attempts to match the digital ID’s to a company entity. When a match is made we track the on-website behaviour and content engaged with. We then scan this content to determine the meaning of the content consumption over time and levels of engagement. Our algorithms determine levels of need or interest based upon this behaviour, matched to a company and interest topics linked to our customers’ own product and services, even at the buying stage.
In this case, intent data is helping marketing and sales teams prioritise those showing the greatest amount of relevant buying behaviour and also determine the next best action. This supports customer acquisition, retention and expansion strategies.
Intent data uncovers the answers to these questions by providing sophisticated insights into users’ digital footprints. It builds a profile of the customer based on their online footprint, informing marketing and sales teams on how to best approach the client. Whilst this doesn’t differ from third party cookies, it’s a more secure way of tracking behaviour.
But not all data is equal
Intent data is only as useful as it is accurate. When intent data is incomplete or inaccurate, it won’t be helpful to a brand’s understanding of their prospects and customers, and that will be reflected in a poor sales pipeline.
Unfortunately, when it comes to selling in Europe, many US companies lack true insight into their European customers’ intent because they fail to include larger global publisher networks and only look at their activity on US websites. To accurately identify a European customers’ intent, they must collect data from their activity on local language websites, specifically within Europe.
Accurate data has always been important for marketing teams, but as the cookies come to an end it will surely become a bigger priority.
Here’s a deeper dive into how cookie-free intent data can support a winning strategy in Europe.
What does a post-cookie, intent-driven ecosystem look like?
In the coming year, as third party cookies phase out, web users will be moved towards a more data-secure experience.
What will that mean for advertisers looking to reach their customers online?
Firstly, I anticipate that initially we will see global volumes reduce. We saw this happen with the rollout of GDPR; there was a sharp drop in insight from global audiences at first.
However, a few months after GDPR’s implementation, we did see intelligence pick up again in a GDPR-compliant way. I anticipate that the post-cookie world will follow a similar pattern. In the B2B space, volume will initially reduce, but the accuracy of insights will increase.
Universal identifiers will take the place of third-party cookies. This framework for user identification is based on deterministic matching (as opposed to probabilistic matching with cookies), identifying the user behaviour, whilst maintaining the anonymity of the individual across the supply chain without syncing cookies.
Just think of them as ‘digital tags’ that do the same thing as a cookie, but are more secure. It should cut out any rogue website tags that track visitors on a website and send all of the information to many different (sometimes un-named vendors). These new identifiers will be shared across the entire ecosystem, i.e. publishers, audience builders and digital advertising platforms to enable audience creation and activation across the broader ecosystem.
It will increase the accuracy of matching through various identity matching techniques. First-party data (such as that from a CRM) and offline data can be used to create universal identifiers as well.
This will support targeted advertising and the ability to inform intent. Universal identifiers will be shared by everyone: demand-side, buy-side and publishers and will allow the ecosystem to use behaviour for the right reasons — to personalise online experiences without compromising privacy.
In terms of B2B, this means that the customer experience will be improved, facilitating better up-sell and cross-sell methods. A more intelligent approach will maximise every opportunity in the customer journey, helping sales as well as customer success.
How to improve your intent data game without cookies
Companies looking to increase their sales pipeline across Europe in 2021 can rest assured it’ll be possible to do so even after the death of cookies. Improving their use of intent data is a good place to start.
Rather than relying on third-party intent data based solely on US-based publisher networks, US companies would do well to invest in products that allow them to compile intent data that includes a universe of local, European websites in the customer’s natural language. Doing so now, and taking a proactive approach to intent data before we say goodbye to third party cookies, will future-proof their marketing strategies and result in a more informed, accurate sales pipeline.
If you haven’t yet prepared for the post-cookie world, now is the time to do so…
Main image by Jill Wellington from Pixabay
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