5 principles of online marketing in a cookie-less world

According to Natalie Drucker, online marketing is changing. As an industry, digital sellers must start moving away from dark design patterns and over-collecting data.

In the early digital age, data tracking through cookies was carried out on the basis that it helped the user – but too often there was zero customer value.

In 1994, Lou Montulli invented the first internet cookie looking to create a better experience while browsing online.

The cookie was initially designed with privacy in mind. It was designed to not share data with other sites, keeping all that information centralised for the user.

However, internet cookies are now being used in a different way. Advertisers have ‘hacked’ the original cookie, Drucker said, sharing data with other sites.

This has caused a backlash from customers and regulators, who want online data to be collected less and anonymised more – and this presents a problem for marketers.

Soon third-party cookies, which allow for this kind of data transfer, will be a thing of the past, and product sellers are going to have to change the way they use cookies to reach their customers.

Drucker insists that marketing can continue to thrive in a post-cookie world, there just has to be a focus on redressing poor user experiences, begin improving the customer journey and outcomes and make use of new tools and technologies.

“We all know that third-party cookies are going away, and probably for a good reason because they’re not so ethical,” she said.

“You’re probably wondering to yourself why it took so long from 1994 for these cookies to disappear? It’s because in 1994 that was the only business model that was viable.

“E-commerce wasn’t a thing and advertising was the main business model that could make money.”

Following the GDPR rules in your marketing

Legislation has now caught up with online selling, and vendors are starting to look towards first-party cookies as the future for digital marketing.

“Under EU and UK cookie laws, first-party optional cookies require user consent as per the GDPR definition of consent,” Drucker continued.

“Cookies law have been with us for quite some time now, but the GDPR has given it a new meaning because it provided a framework for how to go about implementing it.

“Now companies know how to implement these consent frameworks but also the legislator knows how to enforce them,” she added.

This means that marketers must be more careful now than ever before about ensuring consent is freely given and falls within the confines of GDPR law.

“For consent to be compliant, it must be freely given, informed and unambiguous, given by a clear affirmative action and easy to withdraw consent,” Drucker said.

“What does it mean for us marketers? If the user doesn’t give us consent to optional cookies it means that we’re going to have very limited web analytics, and we won’t be able to do a lot of the things we do in digital marketing without this data.”

Drucker breaks down the two types of internet user: the average person, who likely aren’t bothered by cookies, and the privacy sensitive user group, which will be more likely to reject cookies and install applications to block consent pop-ups altogether.

“The key to remember here is that, even though we have two very different groups, the result is the same – they both continued without accepting cookies,” Drucker commented.

“So, for us marketers, what is more important? Is it to gain consent at all costs or create a good user experience?” she added.

Do better with online advertising

Drucker said that each seller must implement experiences in an online environment, and she believes that marketers can “do better” than current user experiences.

“Today I want to share with you a new mindset,” Drucker said. “Marketing in a cookie-less world.”

She said this is a mindset where marketers become less reliant on cookie data to deliver user and business value, as well as embracing fundamentals of marketing; to create human experiences, build trust, and have users want to share data in exchange for value.

Drucker shared her five principles. The first is to make a good first impression – marketers must be smart.

Internet users today are “faced with a sea of ​​pop-ups,” Drucker said, taking several clicks to get past them. This is not a very good user experience. “This key moment when someone lands on your website really matters,” she added.

Provide users with a website experience that feels natural and flows, rather than being intrusive and aggravating. Provide a clean layout that highlights the strength of your brand instead.


Her second principle is pull verses push strategy. Instead of asking people for their email addresses to access elements of the website, marketers should allow them to engage with the content naturally. If someone finds value in the content, they can provide their details on their own terms.

The third principle is contextual value exchange. Ask users to accept cookies in the right context to unlock a benefit. Additionally, map out points of exchange across your site, Drucker said.

Drucker’s fourth principle is to ask instead of guess. “When we go into a physical store, it is ok for the seller to ask us why we are there, so why can’t we just mimic that. Instead of guess, just create that good experience from the start,” Drucker commented.

The fifth principle is to give VIP segments a reason to log in. An example of this is B2C, which provides additional benefits to users who log in to encourage them to authenticate. Another example is B2B, which creates a unique program not available to anyone else on the general website.

Drucker ended her talk with a final thought: “Don’t get caught with your hand in the cookie jar, embrace the principle of marketing in a cookie-less world so you will no longer need them.”

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