Marketers will soon need to strategically rethink their measurement methodologies.
The imminent end of third-party cookies in the second half of 2024 presents significant challenges for anyone reliant on cookie-based tools for tracking, targeting and attribution.
But changes may be seen earlier — Google started disabling cookies for 1% of users on Jan. 4, 2024 — so marketers must develop a new approach to measurement for a post-cookie world.
Multi-Touch Attribution (MTA) will Lose its Relevancy
In a cookieless landscape, you will need to move beyond the traditional cookie-dependent MTA testing methodology to different alternatives, because our understanding of audiences and what they’re doing has continued to decline due to blind spots without cookie tracking.
With these blind spots, marketers have had to operate more on what they “think” is happening than on what they actually know. Consequently, traditional MTA will lose its efficacy. While this won’t happen immediately, marketers will need to look at measurement differently as cookies begin to fade.
The Power of Closed-Loop Measurement
With impending cookie deprecation, marketers will need to anchor their measurement strategies around a new methodology. Closed-loop measurement emerges as a powerful alternative to cookies.
Using customer transaction data to measure the impact of digital marketing campaigns on online and offline sales, this method helps marketers gauge the effectiveness of campaigns driving sales revenue for brands or clients. Closed-loop measurement provides critical intel to optimize and refine campaigns in real time to increase results.
Alignment and First-Party Data are Key
The future of post-cookie measurement will require aligning with client or business goals and the utilization of first-party data. Without either, you will not be able to architect a holistic measurement strategy. Here is how to foster alignment and leverage first-party data to its fullest.
To ensure understanding and alignment with stakeholders, involve the right people and departments in an outcomes discussion from the beginning. The conversation should be based on the client or business goals and involve those who care about these metrics, and those whose tech and support are needed to demonstrate the effectiveness of marketing campaigns.
Having signals aligned during the planning phase, and what metrics and tracking you can align on to drive visibility in whether collective KPIs are met, is crucial for success. Then, outline the metrics available today against what takes time to measure and determine the timeline for your measurement strategy.
Next, ensure you can access and use your or your clients’ first-party data. Whether you are an agency or a brand, you will need access to this data and to an identity resolution partner or ID graph —and to make sure everyone understands how to read and use the data to make data-driven decisions — for successful audience targeting. If you or your client do not have one already, implement a strategy to gather and use first-party data moving forward.
Use Multiple Testing Methods
With all these factors, measurement methodologies must adapt to one that is more nuanced and mixed. Just as there is no single replacement for a third-party cookie, no one testing method will replace MTA. Instead, marketers must use a blend of different testing methods to verify closed-loop measurement and track whether their campaigns are driving sales, including:
● Incremental Lift Testing: Incrementality looks at the impact of channels and how they lift each other up and assist in the overall success of marketing. Once an identity resolution process is established, incrementality testing can be used to target specific audience groups and identify additional, previously unreached markets or to optimize away from underperformers.
● Regression Analysis: This method uses the closed-loop identification approach to estimate the relationship between a dependent variable and one or more independent variables. By applying closed-loop output data to a regression analysis, marketers can understand how campaigns impact online and offline sales.
● Media Mix Modeling (MMM): This testing method helps determine how different channels affect business KPIs like customer acquisition and sales. MMM’s statistical analysis approach helps prove closed-loop measurement by demonstrating how each channel impacts bottom-line results.
The Whole Picture
When paired with regression analysis and media mix modeling, incremental lift allows teams to show the combined impact of channels when one channel is used as a focus, and prove the stronger mix that’s needed for the best results.
You will need to try different testing methods, mixing them together based on specific campaigns, the goals you want to achieve and the data inputs you have available.
Test and Learn
To make the most out of your blended measurement approach, you need to have a robust test-and-learn program for measurement. To build interest and momentum in testing, encourage your analytics team to be constantly curious. This means that when creating a reporting deliverable, instead of just delivering “What happened,” collaborate with cross-functional teams to show why it happened and what to do with the information.
This creates an environment of learning that helps identify new business opportunities. Additionally, when planning sessions with clients, consider hosting measurement workshops to gather questions your team can help address.
How else can you strategically rethink your measurement methodologies for a post-cookie ad tech ecosystem? The answer is simple: start experimenting now with new targeting, identity and measurement solutions.
You will have time to identify what may or may not work for your client or brand before the full impact of cookie deprecation hits. Some solutions to start experimenting with include:
Google Privacy Sandbox
Play around with the different APIs in its Privacy Sandbox. The move to its Attribution Reporting API and the Google Campaign Manager Offline Conversions API lacks instruction on how to best use the tool, but there is promise to utilize BigQuery to mine your own data.
The Trade Desk’s Unified ID 2.0
With the programmatic approach, Unified ID 2.0 (UID2) allows for unification across The Trade Desk partners’ ecosystem, to better enable other platforms to more effectively use audience and consumer behavior related to ad activity.
While not a standalone solution for closed-loop measurement, this allows for a streamlined and consistent implementation, but it needs to be deployed and rolled out against clients.
Data Clean Rooms
Data clean rooms are privacy-safe, neutral environments where you can prove closed-loop measurement. Running Google Ads, Amazon Ads or Meta campaigns? You can use these walled garden clean rooms if you have a specific intent.
Other partner clean rooms to explore include LiveRamp, Habu and Infosum. Depending on what data platforms you are already using, you may be able to use their clean room capabilities. Some examples are Snowflake, Google BigQuery Data Warehouse and AWS Clean Rooms.
Closed-Loop Measurement: The North Star for Navigating the Cookieless Future
While the cookieless future brings uncertainty, marketers have a rare opportunity to proactively explore new solutions before disruption hits. By anchoring around closed-loop measurement, leveraging first-party data, collaboratively aligning on goals, blending testing approaches and experimenting with emerging privacy-based tools, brands can transform measurement into a core competitive advantage in this new era.
Rather than passively waiting for cookies to crumble, leaders must chart a clear course, fail fast, double down on what delivers demonstrable sales impact and guide their teams toward a more enlightened data culture focused on driving growth. That way, you can thrive in a cookieless age.
Scott Blessman is the VP of Analytics and Data Insights at Goodway Group. He is an analytics expert with over 16 years of industry experience helping brands grow through strategic, actionable insights and a clear understanding of success. He has worked on numerous award-winning campaigns for brands in various industry verticals. Before joining Goodway, Blessman worked at organizations such as VMLY&R, DDB and Digitas North America. He has been a featured speaker at events including the Markets and Marketers Competitive and Market Intelligence Summit and has contributed thought leadership to publications such as the ANA.