The new future of customer identity in digital advertising imminently approaches, leaving companies anxious for more clarity and new strategies. Furthering the shift to a consumer-driven opt-in world, both Google and Apple are making technology moves that are causing many businesses to feel nearer to a crisis in their digital advertising. 2022 is the looming year of change given Google’s most recent announcement, but there is an alternative to allow brands to access and leverage first party data! Brands can choose to chart their own course in consumer data now—or just choose to become a member of the FLoC (i.e, the “flock”).

Google’s post-cookie dystopia is made possible by something called Federated Learning of Cohorts. In short, FLoC. Under this system, Google will continue to collect and infer discrete behaviors from their vast amounts of clickstream data into audience cohorts that will be made available for brand advertisers. Apple, in a similar veil of increased security, is removing the previously-shared unique device identifiers called IDFAs. Crumbling the cookies and removing device identity indeed solve for some security concerns; for brands, consumers will be more obfuscated than ever. We’re seemingly back to the drawing board on how to reach better targeted audiences.

When 2022 arrives, up to 90% of all display impressions will have no identifier attached to them. Though details are uncertain, it is clear that the replacement identifiers will not be enough. The best way forward is for advertisers to break free of identifiers as much and wherever possible. With the increasing value of first-party data alongside consumer privacy, the industry will need to put contextual targeting back at the heart of its audience and advertising strategy moving forward.

Walk Along the Avenue of Context with High-Value First Party Data

Some companies will fly with the Google flock; groups of brands will unnaturally join together to target the same groupings of consumers. However, to differentiate themselves, brands need to find and create opportunities to reach the right audiences within contextually relevant moments so that contextual targeting once again becomes the linchpin of their digital advertising campaigns. Brands need to act now and look to strategic approaches and technology that enable the most robust collection of first-party data to be best positioned when change comes.

For product brands, modern product registration, which we refer to as the onboarding experience, is the solution to their first-party data collection problems. The ability to capture owner-declared data—such as name, products owned, place of purchase, and purchase price—is key to identifying and understanding current product owners.  By knowing the brand owner, brands can also establish a direct relationship over the duration the individual owns the product and engage them—with context. The onboarding experience is also the key time to collect consent from customers, with opt-in rates commonly well above 65% (in some cases as high as 90+%) given the opportunity for high in-moment engagement.

Collect interest and intent data for the brand’s own use

The moment of onboarding is not only an efficient and accurate point of first-party data capture, but also an opportune time to collect other data points and insights that can be applied in this new advertising era. Powerful future interest and intent data can be captured through the use of dynamic surveys which are shown to a customer during the onboarding moment. This eliminates the need to source such data, at a lower level of confidence, elsewhere. The brand can then develop audience segments based on intent and interest for direct, high-performing campaigns – eliminating the need to try to retarget this same audience within the soon-to-be aggregated, undistinguishing FloCs.

Capitalize on the first contextual moment

The onboarding experience also creates context where a brand can immediately display relevant offers to each individual at the moment they are engaged, versus retargeting the owner in other, less effective mediums. Offer type examples include extended service contracts, subscriptions, and accessories related directly to the product the consumer has just registered. Our data demonstrates that this strategy results in attachment and conversion rates that are 3-5x higher than other efforts, leading to meaningful operating margin improvement.

Fuel the CDP and avoid cohort “sameness”

Through the capture of declared first-party owner data and additional data points such as interest and intent, an advertiser’s own CDP or their use of other data activation solutions become even more powerful. Control and precision fall into the hands of the brand, not the advertising platforms. First-party data can be applied to a long list of look-a-like models at a brand’s direct disposal. The brands will have less reliance on outside data sources and a more responsive, higher performing target audience to improve return-on-advertising spend (ROAS).

The Time To Act is Now

Cookies are crumbling and, though all good things privacy for consumers are ahead, the data aftermath soon will force change for brands. Introduction of first-party data opportunities is critical, not just to hedge the uncertain changes ahead but to discreetly understand brand owners from created customer moments.

The onboarding experience is an organic and natural moment for any customer purchasing any product to provide self-reported first-party information.  It is during this experience that brands can create context early, capture intent and interest, and better understand their own audiences.

The result: brands take greater control. They can create customer value throughout the customer relationship and enable higher performing targeting within an advertising ecosystem ripe for disruptive change.

If you’re interested in learning how you can collect and use first-party data to solve for many needs across your organization, please contact us.