July 20, 2021

The financial services industry is highly regulated and data intensive. Financial marketers around the world rely heavily on data for digital advertising spend and measuring the performance of online advertisements. However, as third-party cookies (TPCs), a major source of third-party data, come under mounting data privacy pressures, a host of applications such as attribution, frequency capping, behavioral targeting, and lookalike

audience seem jeopardized. As a result, financial marketers are now focusing on pursuing data strategies that allow them to utilize customer data legitimately.

Why Are the Cookies Crumbling?

Cookies are pieces of code that differ in the manner they collect user data. First-party cookies are set by the website whenever a user visits the site and are stored in the user’s system. These cookies are domain-specific and collect basic browsing information that helps engage repeat visitors. However, TPCs are not set by the website the user visits but by a third-party server such as an AdTech and can be accessed on any website that loads the third-party servers’ code. TPCs are increasingly discouraged because users have no visibility into the various domains where their information is shared.

Due to stringent data privacy regulations (GDPR and CCPA), these TPCs are being gradually phased out. Safari and Mozilla were among the first web browsers to bring restrictions surrounding TPCs. Google’s recent announcement of phasing out TPCs by mid-2023 acts as the final nail in the coffin as Google Chrome accounts for more than half of the global web traffic.

This announcement surfaces a pinching challenge around Google and Facebook, as around 70% of all US digital ad spend goes to these famous walled gardens. These rely only on first-party audience data and are marked safe even after the cookie’s demise. As these walled gardens rule over huge chunks of deterministic data, they seem lucrative for brands looking to advertise within the walled garden. However, these gardens have their own share of challenges for brands:

· No visibility into ad campaign performance (only an aggregated view)

· Portability restrictions or the inability to link walled gardens’ campaign interactions to a brand’s CRM database outside their ecosystem

Banking on First-Party Data

The absence of third-party data poses a dilemma for banks and financial institutions that have been using TPCs to fuel their marketing strategies for years. Should they rely on the walled gardens or look for an alternative to survive in a cookie-less world? Let’s explore further.

First-party data is more reliable, low cost, and provides greater flexibility across channels. Hence, banks need to focus on creating a sustainable first-party data strategy to survive outside the walled gardens. A bank typically collects first-party data through first-party cookies, pixels, web analytic tools, marketing campaign activities, and account transactions. Broadly, data derived can be classified as non-PII/unauthenticated data (such as IP address, device configuration, etc.) or PII/authenticated data (such as e-mail ID, phone number, etc.).

To gather and utilize this data, banks need to establish a privacy-compliant methodology that must rest on the following pillars:

· GDPR-compliant robust consent management solution that automates the user consent management process and helps banks legitimately collect first-party data and work on it

· Real-time customer data platform (CDP) that helps build meaningful customer profiles and journeys in one system, without the need for TPCs

· MarTech integration of identity resolution platforms that help create people-based identifiers on customer data

However, a bank cannot create a walled garden alone and needs to rely heavily on other ecosystem partners. Such dependency may lead to data partnerships that hold the key to a more open, privacy-first ecosystem. Here, brands can realize the full potential of data-driven advertising while maintaining flexibility and ownership of first-party data outside the walled gardens. Such partnerships unify the capabilities of various industry players such as AdTech vendors and publishers. One such partnership is the data co-ops. It shifts much of the power that walled gardens enjoy to smaller data aggregators in the market. Access to data co-ops requires brands to adhere to stricter rules for privacy compliance, wherein customers give consent before the data is ethically sourced and used for marketing purposes.

Into the Cookie-Less Future

The change that matters most between the pre-and post-cookie world is a brand’s adaptability to attain the amount of data required for meaningful targeting, marketing, and advertising. When third-party cookies are finally put to rest, financial marketers must focus on emerging data management strategies that will help fill the void created by the cookies’ demise. These new strategies, supported by a consolidated MarTech and AdTech stack, will pave the way for a cookie-less future.

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Kulwinder Gill has over 20 years of experience in marketing technology for Banks, Financial Services and Insurance industries. She helps marketing leaders make a greater impact on customers and drive growth through marketing and technology innovation. She has strong skills in strategy, planning, communication, digital and marketing technology, and works with global brands.