Marketing B2B Marketing Data & Privacy

Intuitive, integrated & international: marketers, it’s time to rethink audiences & insight

By Ian Darby | journalist

November 17, 2022 | 7 min read

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Stories about the death of third-party cookies have shocked advertisers – but it shouldn’t be something to fear. Instead, marketers should embrace the opportunity to explore effective insights to grow their customer base and boost sales. Here, we explore how.

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Third-party data has a clear role to play in most brands’ marketing strategies and can help avoid a scattergun approach

Impending restrictions on cookie-based insights from web browsers have encouraged many advertisers to look elsewhere, to invest heavily in first-party information. First-party data is powerful but often still needs to be enhanced and supported by further audience insights to enable brands to grow sales and awareness outside of their existing customer base.

Brands need to understand who their target audiences are, those who are high value or likely to purchase certain products. There is a temptation to try and collect this additional data directly through the customer interaction by asking supplementary information, like their interests. However, this brings friction into the digital journey.

Mark Lindsay, sales director at Experian, explains: “Collecting first-party data often requires additional clicks, meaning interruption to the journey, and we know that the Nirvana is ‘can I order in three clicks?’ If brands are not going to use the information proactively then this collection is potentially excessive.”

A significant strength of third-party insight is that it can be overlaid on a brand’s owned information to give additional insight. For most advertisers there’s an upside in re-evaluating just who makes up the customer base. As Debbie Oates, director of customer engagement at Experian, says: “Third-party data can deliver insight that really helps brands know who their audience is. More often than not, Experian will highlight a segment to a brand that is different from the segment they thought they were engaging with. So, it’s almost taking it back to first principles for brands and asking themselves ‘do we understand who we are trying to engage with?’”

Helping advertisers to find their audience

Insight based on demographics and location is available at an individual, household, or geographic level but, depending on the use case, the level of utilization will vary. It’s not only about insight to help define first-party audiences but third-party insights also help planners to understand where to find their audience.

As Oates says: “Most brands that we talk to want to grow their customer base rather than just be focused on those that they have already been engaging. How do they grow that effectively, and how do they really ensure that they are speaking to the right target audience? Linking insights into activation here is key – whether that’s digital audiences or planning where best to launch new outlets.”

One of the big growth areas is brands who are looking to scale internationally. Experian's WorldView product is an example of a geo-level data source not reliant on cookies, and can be applied to digital campaigns, traditional media and used for customer insights and location planning. There’s a wide range of insight available enabling immediate access to consistent, consolidated, geographic data concerning population, age, gender, income, and expenditure plus a global segmentation. This can help advertisers right down to the level of judging which areas are more likely to be affluent families, where to plan out-of-home campaigns or run door drops.

This type of insight is powerful, especially when businesses are planning global or regional marketing campaigns and are able to make decisions on a consistent basis across country borders. Another significant strength of third-party data sources such as WorldView is their capacity for fast integration into campaigns, and that they help advertisers work within local data regulations.

“If I'm interested in reaching 30-year-old males, with a fair amount of disposable income across the world, then WorldView can help a brand and their agency to convert that brief into actionable campaigns,” says Lindsay.

Integrating third-party insights with other sources

Of course, advertisers are right to worry about the loss of third-party cookie data. It’s powerful in terms of helping to understand people’s online browsing and purchase intentions. But, Oates argues, there are ways forward: “We are seeing a shift towards more audience targeting capability based on contextual and content-led information. In a world where our consumption of information is highly fragmented, it’s difficult to see how that data alone provides effective audience definition. However, we are seeing more agencies, publishers and digital platforms use overlays of third-party insights provided by WorldView and other sources to deliver a more rounded view to support more effective campaigning.”

The strong point emerging is that third-party data has a clear role to play in most brands’ marketing strategies. It helps advertisers to avoid a scattergun approach, and to really hit the right audiences. And it also assists businesses in understanding people. As Lindsay puts it: “From your planning to your activation and execution, right the way through to measurement, if you’re using a consistent set of data across that journey, you’ll benefit in so many different ways.”

But what’s coming next? How can marketers prepare for a world without third-party cookie data, and how should they balance their own investment in first-party customer information with a strategy of looking towards third-party insights?

Lindsay recommends clear standards on first-party data hygiene and ensuring this is linked to other data sets. And he also has a wider point about brand activity: “Most brands are still running their advertising campaigns on a country-by-country basis, but consumers are thinking less and less in that way. It’s crucial to have consistent data, and insight, which allows you to run more international campaigns to reach a wider audience more efficiently and effectively.”

Looking forward, marketers shouldn’t fear the death of the third-party cookie, rather embrace it as an opportunity to explore effective insights that will grow their customer base and build higher levels of understanding to boost sales.

Marketing B2B Marketing Data & Privacy

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