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.
In June 2021, Google stated that it would phase out third-party cookies. Third-party cookies, which serve as a medium for the advertisers to understand consumers and their preferences, is a critical marketing tool that will go out of the window by late 2023. Closer home, major auto brand Maruti Suzuki is simplifying and enriching its consumer data collection processes, to be ready when there is no access to third-party data.
In a conversation with Storyboard18, Shashank Srivastava, senior executive director, marketing and sales, Maruti Suzuki, talks at length about how the brand is focusing on collecting focused consumer data; challenges for marketers when the cookie crumbles, the workaround and more.
In the cookieless world, hyper-personalisation strategies will be tricky. This, according to many, could have an impact on ROAs (Return On Advertising) and ROIs (Return On Investment) of digital spending. What is your opinion on this?
A lot of advertisers and publishers are depending on third-party cookie data for personalisation, targeting and re-targeting consumers. There are many browsers that have disabled third party cookies as Firefox did in 2013. Next, Google Chrome is going to do it. Google Chrome has the largest market share in terms of browsing. So, the effect is going to be much more. It is a challenging situation but what marketers are going to do is depend more on first-party data i.e. collecting data of their consumers.
Maruti Suzuki is already preparing for that and we have CDP in place. It stands for 'customer data platform' where we collect data regarding all interactions with consumers. It is not just transactional data like invoicing or day-to-day delivery service. It also includes interactional data - data which is gathered by interacting with consumers. The one thing all the advertisers and publishers have to do is to have as much first-party data as possible. That means investments in CDPs.
What are the other workarounds?
In the case of Maruti Suzuki, we are also working on SVOC (Single View Of Customer) which encompasses all the data comprising transactional and interactional. I think this is the first step companies will have to do. The other thing companies will have to do is look into probabilistic audience modelling - a mechanism where data is generated through gathering anonymous data points from a user’s browsing behaviour; and comparing them to deterministic data points. Here, we can make use of AI ML (artificial intelligence and machine learning) technology for the bucketing of consumer data.
So, the brands may not have the hyper-personalisation of an individual consumer but may have a rough personalisation based on the probabilistic audience modelling. This also means one will have to employ some of the newer AI ML tools. I think that is contextual targeting which is easier.
The advertising effect may not be very specific, so the brand may not have personalisation. But, contextual targeting is a good way. In terms of the delivery of the ad message or the communication message, it does not have a large percentage of delivery but it could be better. As mathematical models improve, contextual targeting would also get better.
Walled gardens are third party data platforms that have a large amount of consumer data. Here, they will not give you data on individuals but will give you data on buckets of individuals on the basis of parameters like geography or age etc. I would expect walled garden arrangements with social media platforms to increase in response to this cookieless world.
How prepared is Maruti Suzuki to enter the cookieless world?
In the absence of third-party cookie data, many advertisers do not have a large customer database for them to do the first-party targeting easily. Companies like Maruti Suzuki have a very large consumer base where we get around 1.2 million enquiries every month. So, our base is very strong and it is easier to collect first-party data for more personalised targeting. For many advertisers, that may not be true and for them, contextual targeting is an important way out.
What’s the best way forward or most effective mechanisms for advertisers in the cookieless world? Do you think contextual advertising will pick up?
The three mechanisms that can be adopted are first-party data, contextual targeting and probabilistic audience modelling. That requires AI ML technology for making sense of the data and having good modelling. Fourth is the development of data platforms, for example, CDP.
Then is the arrangement with walled gardens. They are basically social media platforms or other platforms like Google, Amazon, Flipkart, Facebook or Instagram etc. They have a large number of consumer interactions and have access to a lot of data. So, that is what advertisers would like to do in response to this cookieless world.
As a marketer, what worries you about being cookieless?
One is that the level of personalisation may not be possible. Secondly, it requires a lot of investments and upgradation of technology for us to collect first-party data. Social media platforms get a lot of power in terms of data because for walled garden arrangements, you need to have that arrangement with some providers who have lots of customers on their platforms. And that currently is only available on very few platforms.