Cookie monster strikes again: a future beyond intent data
We all know that cookies aren’t just a sweet treat for dunking in our tea or coffee at breaktime. In fact, almost every website we visit now asks us for approval to track our cookies (fortunately not our cookie intake) for a variety of purposes. Because of the concerns around privacy and security, search engines such as Apple’s Safari and Mozilla’s Firefox have already blocked third-party cookies.
Back in February 2020, Google announced they would also be making changes to the cookie and privacy settings, and those changes are now coming into fruition. Google has announced that it is well on the road to stop using third-party cookies; while there has been some debate on the exact date, Google’s Director of Product has now confirmed the beginning of H2 2024 for the cut off. As the most popular search engine (with over 85% of the market share), these changes will have huge implications for those who rely on Google for their answers.
So, what does this so called “cookiepocalypse” mean for the sales industry, and why should those salespeople relying on intent data for their leads and contact data start looking for alternatives? In this article, we’ll get to the bottom of the cookie jar to explore exactly what Google’s new policy means for sales teams worldwide.
What are cookies?
Cookies (in the context of technology) are small pieces of data that are downloaded onto your device when you visit a website, typically in the form of a text file. These cookies serve various purposes, and play a crucial role in enhancing user experiences and enabling certain functionalities on the internet.
Here's a breakdown of some ways in which cookies are used:
- Data Storage: cookies serve the purpose of storing specific fragments of information tied to a user's engagements with a website. This assortment of data encompasses preferences, configurations, login credentials, browsing chronicle, and even contents held within a user's virtual shopping basket.
- Authentication and Security: cookies are often used for user authentication management. When you log in to a website, a cookie might be created to remember your login session, allowing you to access different parts of the website without the need to repeatedly input your login details.
- Session Management: similar to data storage cookies, session cookies track similar pieces of data, but are temporary and are stored only for the duration of a user's visit to a website. They help maintain a seamless user experience by remembering information such as the user’s login credentials. Because the data is only stored for the current session, the data tracked will be deleted when the user closes the browser.
- Tracking and Analytics: cookies are frequently used for tracking user behaviour and website analytics. They provide insights into how users navigate a website, which pages they visit, and how long they stay. Website owners might also look for other patterns in user behaviours that will help them improve their content, layout, and user experience.
- Personalisation: cookies enable websites to personalise content by remembering a user’s present features and preferences on a specific site. For example, a website can remember your preferred language and currency, or a news website might remember the specific topics you're interested in and display related articles.
- Targeting/Advertising: these types of cookies are purposefully designed to collect information from your device, enabling the display of advertisements tailored to topics that resonate with your interests. Advertisers deploy these cookies on websites with explicit authorization from the site operator. The data amassed by these cookies can be shared among other advertisers to gauge the effectiveness of their promotional campaigns.
- Third-Party Cookies: these types of cookies include targeting cookies and come from third-party sources like advertisers or analytics services that are embedded on websites. These cookies are saved on a different domain to the one being visited and as such raise privacy concerns. A third-party cookie can be accessed on any website that loads the code from the third-party server; therefore, they’re often subject to stricter regulations.
It's clear then that cookies can have a positive impression on our online browsing and shopping activities. However, there are also some very real concerns about privacy and data security. Users have the option to manage and delete cookies, and most modern web browsers provide settings to control cookie behaviour, but for those perhaps less tech-savvy, there are still some privacy concerns in play.
How do third-party cookies help sales teams?
Third-party cookies provide hugely valuable insights and data for sales teams. They provide insights into users' browsing behaviour across various websites, enabling targeted advertising and personalised outreach based on the user’s interests. This data allows sales teams to tailor their approach and offerings to potential customers more effectively. This process helps sales teams in several ways including:
- Lead Generation: by analysing third-party cookie data, sales teams can identify potential leads that have shown interest in specific products or services. This information helps sales reps focus their efforts on prospects who are more likely to convert. Sales lead providing companies such as Zoominfo, Apollo.io, 6Sense, and Dealfront all rely heavily on intent data to provide intelligence to their clients.
- Personalisation: third-party cookies provide information about a user's browsing history and preferences across various websites. Sales teams can use this data to personalise their interactions with a prospect while also offering targeted solutions. This creates a more engaging and relevant experience for potential customers and helps sales teams identify more suitable prospects for outreach, ultimately increasing their success rate.
- Time Appropriate: by tracking a user's interaction with third-party cookies, sales teams can time their approach to when a prospect is actively researching or considering a purchase. This means that both initial outreach and follow-ups can be strategically timed for higher chances of conversion. By reaching out when a prospect is already interested, a salesperson can ensure they are working efficiently, rather than targeting people who have shown no active interest in their products or solutions.
- Cross-Selling and Upselling: because third-party cookies indicate a prospect's interest in a particular product, sales teams can tap into this information and use it to introduce complementary products or solutions. This creates the opportunity for upselling or cross-selling, in line with the prospect's preferences and direct interests.
- Competitor Analysis: sales teams often tap into the benefits of third-party cookies to track a prospect's engagement with competitors' websites. This information helps sales teams understand the prospect's options, who they’re competing against, and allows them to tailor their messaging to highlight their product's unique advantages, helping them to stand out from their competitors.
While third-party cookies offer numerous advantages to the advertising industry, it’s clear the privacy concerns and regulations surrounding data collection and usage (such as GDPR and CCPA, which are designed to protect the individual) are shaping how companies can use this data.
The ban on third-party cookies
The cookie is crumbling. That is to say, with Google now also formalising a ban on third-party cookies, there’s expected to be a profound impact on the digital advertising industry. With the ban already in place for some search engines and beginning to be rolled out now for Google users too, businesses that rely on cookies for digital advertising must transition towards zero-party data to maintain their relevance. Zero-party data could even be better for cookies in the long run as it’s more accurate, reliable, and privacy considerations will be removed with the user themselves providing the intelligence on their own preferences. Businesses that fail to transition to zero-party data or find another alternative will be left to lag behind in the evolving data landscape following this cookie ban.
For sales teams, this ban on third-party cookies is a crummy end of an era. With vast amounts of data now at risk of disappearing, revenue teams (and salespeople in particular) will be forced to re-evaluate their lead generation practices and partnerships. Huge changes will have to considered as revenue teams find new ways to reliably source their leads and keep good flow in the funnel.
With the ban on third-party cookies, comes another element to consider. Google Topics, Google’s new solution to replace cookie tracking, currently categorises every website you visit into one of their topics, Google will then use this data to advise advertising companies of your areas of interest. There are currently approximately 350 topics, but questions around this number suggest it could change in either direction as privacy matters are considered alongside the trillion-dollar marketing industry’s needs. This means the ability for sales, advertising, and revenue teams to get really niche data and understand their prospects is going to get a lot harder, and their data, a lot broader.
The future for sales teams: Sales Triggers
As third-party cookies take their final bow, the sales industry doesn’t have to look far to find the next rising star. Sales triggers have become increasingly crucial for sales teams, especially in a landscape where privacy regulations and browser changes are limiting the availability of traditional intent data collected through cookies. As cookies face restrictions and users become more conscious of their online privacy, sales triggers offer an alternative and effective way for sales teams to identify and engage potential customers. So, why are sales triggers becoming the future for sales teams?
Perhaps most importantly, with the death of third-party cookies, which don’t rely on cookies. These triggers can be sourced from various channels, including social media, webinars, content engagement, and event registrations. Sales triggers not only present intelligence that will be unaffected by Google’s cookie ban (and anyone else's), but also serve as an earlier trigger lead that allows sales professionals to act at the earliest stage of the buying cycle.
The insights sales triggers offer allow sales teams to identify qualified prospects based on market indicators that position them for potential change. Rather than waiting for intent data to indicate a prospect is looking for a solution, sales triggers can notify you when a company is aligning for growth and change. This means sales outreach can be initiated earlier in the process, allowing sales reps the chance to get ahead of their competitors and be the first point of contact. Not only are these higher quality leads (because they indicate a high level of user need rather than just their browsing history), but these leads will have a higher chance of conversion, allowing sales teams to prioritise these leads over others.
Sales triggers can also allow for more personalised outreach and engagement. Not only does the intelligence they offer get your foot through the door first, but it also provides sales reps with the perfect warm opening. This personalisation enhances the prospect's experience and increases the chances of meaningful engagement while also building trust and rapport. This intelligence also can help sales reps to understand a prospect's specific needs and pain points, and address these with targeted messaging and solutions.
Amidst the dynamic evolving landscape of data privacy and online behaviours, sales triggers present sales teams with an innovative way to identify and engage potential customers while respecting their privacy preferences. By integrating sales triggers into their outreach, sales teams have can be agile enough to adapt to changing data dynamics, engage in value-driven conversations, and drive successful outcomes in the sales process.
Points to take away
According to a recent Datonics study, many ad marketers have already raised concerns over impending disruptions to their data flow and have expressed fears that the ban of third-party cookies will dramatically impact their ability to effectively target their desired audience. And concerned they should be. Victor Wong, Senior Director of Product for the Privacy Sandbox on Chrome and Android, has also stated the impact sales and marketing teams can expect:
“Not everyone's going to be equally prepared for third-party cookie deprecation. That's just going to be the reality... Obviously, this is one of those moments, I think, for the industry where everyone has to make very tough strategic choices about how they want to prepare for privacy.”
So, it seems those salespeople that make the leap from intent data to sales triggers (pre-intent data) now will be the smart cookies standing out from the crowd. The benefits of getting ahead of the curve here are two-fold: 1) sales triggers provide market intelligence on prospects earlier in the buying cycle than intent data – meaning you can easily get ahead of the competition by switching from intent data to sales triggers; 2) it’s likely that sales, marketing, and ad companies will find a way around the cookiepocalypse one way or another, but rather than waiting for a solution and falling behind, take advantage of an existing solution now and keep your team and your funnel full throughout the cookie crumble.
Companies like Selligence that specialise in sales triggers can deliver pre-qualified leads straight into your CRM. So, no need to worry about your stream of leads drying up. Sales triggers won’t be impacted by any changes to cookies, so you can rest assured that the leads you see today are only going to get you further ahead when Google does finally join the club and cut the cord on third-party cookies.
Intent data is on the out, but you don’t have to be. Selligence’s sales triggers can get you ahead of the curve and keep you there. Don’t take the biscuit, sales triggers are the way forward so get in touch for a demo today – it's just the way the cookie crumbles.