Forbes India 15th Anniversary Special

Are Indian marketers prepared for a cookieless world?

Top Indian marketers highlight their reliance on first-party data to prepare for the cookie apocalypse. But what's the workaround? Storyboard18 finds out more

Published: Jun 13, 2022 05:15:10 PM IST

Are Indian marketers prepared for a cookieless world?Indian advertisers, with investment power, are ready to fight the cookiepocalypse. Image: Shutterstock

Google is gearing up to eliminate third-party cookies in its Chrome browser by 2023. Apple is making changes to its Identifiers for Advertisers (IDFAs). Third-party cookies have acted as a catalyst for advertisers, who invest heavily in digital, to understand who their consumers are, what their preferences are, and where they are located, to target them with precision.
Google Chrome, which holds the largest market share in terms of browsing, third-party cookies help advertisers personalise, target, and retarget their consumers. nnow, marketers across the world are racking their brains to crack new codes of targeting and advertising on the internet.
According to an e-Marketer report, 36 percent of marketing professionals worldwide expect that the customer purchase history will be their most valuable source of data, once the third-party cookies are gone. Meanwhile, 32 percent see social media profiles as key, and 31 percent plan to rely on website registrations. When the who, what, and whereabouts of the consumers are out of the window, marketers have to develop new strategies to get to consumers.
Shashank Srivastava, senior executive director—marketing and sales—Maruti Suzuki, says that in such a challenging scenario, marketers would depend more on first-party data. The auto major is extensively dependent on it. Maruti Suzuki has a Customer Data Platform (CDP) in place. Data regarding all the interactions with consumers are collected. CDP not only consists of transactional data like invoicing or day-to-day delivery service but also has interactional data that is gathered while conversing with the consumers.
According to Srivastava, brands will have to engage in probabilistic audience modelling—a mechanism where data is generated through anonymous data points from a user’s browsing behaviou. And compare them to deterministic data points, also known as first-party data truth. This can be done with the help of tools like artificial intelligence and machine learning, he suggests.

Mrunmayi Oke, head - category and growth at quick delivery platform Dunzo, has similar thoughts. She states that to maintain the return on investment (ROI) of online marketing spending, advertisers will now have to start utilising first-party data smartly.

Oke says, “Hyper-personalisation through user tracking would become difficult and impact return on ad spend (ROAS). App-based advertising is also set to change with more focus on privacy concerns and data sharing. ATT (app tracking transparency) for iOS is already implemented and android privacy sandbox is expected to follow soon.”

To personalise or not?

Maruti Suzuki’s Srivastava believes that in a cookieless world, a solid level of personalisation may not be possible. It would require a lot of investment and the upgradation of technology to collect first-party data. But, Anil Viswanathan, Mondelez India's vice president of marketing, feels that this is a good time for brands to engage with their consumers through their owned properties or platforms.

On the one hand, Srivastava and Oke think of contextual targeting as one of the mechanisms to survive and gain more traction in a cookieless world, on the other, Viswanathan says that it all boils down to “How well do the brands know their customers?”

50 percent of Mondelez India's advertisements have adopted the personalised route. Viswanathan states, “We have set up a consumer digital organisation where the team is concentrating on our owned media platforms. Through this, we are collecting our own first-party data. It is also about engaging with consumers on an ongoing basis, gathering data and making it smarter along the way." The next step the brand plans to take is to transfer the data to the regular marketing team. That will then be used by them to design the campaigns with sharp insights.

Also read: Put Down the Cookie Cutter: Digital transformation should be uniquely customised

Experts that Storyboard18 spoke to think advertisers should focus on taking consent from the users. This could be done by displaying the right message about the benefits of collecting secured data to deliver a personalised experience. Dunzo’s Oke adds, “In addition to this, relying even more on one-to-one marketing channels like notifications, emails, and short messaging service (SMS) would help maintain the ROI in a cookieless world.”

Crunching the right set of data

At Mercedes-Benz India, the focus is on building communities using the observe, orient, decide, and act (OODA) model.

Santosh Iyer, VP of sales and marketing of the luxury auto brand in India, says, his team is working on putting together a technology agnostic framework. This will be a safe set of third and second-party data signals that will be used to create activations, mine insights, and personalise communication. “This framework can help leverage key globally defined audiences at a local level. Those audiences can be used in a self-serve manner directly from the activation platform. These audiences are ready to use now and can bring scale and performance to any type of campaign,” he adds.

Also read: The era of borderless data is ending

While Mercedes-Benz India will primarily build up and increase the use of its first-party data, the company is looking at leveraging third-party data partnerships to improve campaign performance. “Contextual and behavioural personalisation will become hygiene going forward,” says Iyer.

Mondelez India's Viswanathan thinks that until brands are dependent on somebody else for the data of their consumers, it would be seen as a flawed strategy. He highlights when the cookie crumbles, the advertisers depending on the big social platforms would be a risk over a period.

Startup brands in India that are ahead of the tech curve believe privacy, personalisation, and measurement can all be achieved together if the right tools and strategies are deployed. For instance, tracking pixels—a 1x1 pixel graphic that looks at users’ behaviour, site conversions, web traffic, and other similar cookie metrics that are hidden in platforms ranging from banner ads to emails—captures information instead of cookies. For now, Indian advertisers, with investment power, are ready to fight the cookiepocalypse.

Note to readers: Storyboard18’s new Month In Focus initiative spotlights themes and topics that are pushing marketers to reshape and rethink how brands interact with today’s customers. Our theme for this month is Stacks & Strategies, a martech and adtech spotlight on how decision-makers and marketers are advancing the adoption of new technologies and tech-driven strategies in the brand marketing ecosystem. From the defining trends and preparing for a cookiepocalypse to how progressive martech strategies help fast-track business and brand growth. Catch this special on Storyboard18.