Understanding consumer behaviour in a cookieless world

Is Open Data the new ‘cookie’? Can Open Data substitute cookies?
09 June 2023

Product Lead, Digital Mirror

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Until now, consumer brands and marketers had relied on third-party cookies to gain visibility on consumer’s digital behaviour and journeys. It allowed them to understand who was doing what, when and where online, helping reach consumers at the right time and place, with the right content and frequency. 

However, with Firefox and Safari having phased out third-party cookies and Google completing this move by the end of 2023, understanding consumer context and interests, therefore reaching the right people with relevant content, will be a challenge that advertisers will need to solve for.  

A lot has changed since the launch of cookies back in 1994, primarily the access to personal open data at scale. We are sitting on self-reported, real-time, contextual, and unprompted personal information of billions of consumers. This enables us to understand who the consumer is while unravelling their relationship with media and influencers, across categories and brands. Yes, we are talking about social media platforms. Twitter was officially launched in 2006 and today it has 450M active monthly users. Meta on the other hand has 2.1 billion users and was officially launched in 2004. 

Why does this matter? Open data from social media platforms can be the solution in a cookieless world, providing context about consumption and relevant media investment opportunities beyond the obvious. Here’s an example using two consumer segments; those that want to drink beverages to relax and unwind and those who want to do so to celebrate occasions. Through open data, we are able to uncover that the ‘relaxation seekers’ are more likely to have an affinity with Bloom Gin, Tesco, and Ben & Jerry’s and that they are likely to watch National Geographic and BBC Strictly Come Dancing. Whilst ‘occasion celebrators’ are more likely to have an affinity with Tiger Gin, BrewDog, and Waitrose and that they are likely to watch BBC Springwatch and I’m A Celebrity...Get Me Out of Here! Beyond that, we are also able to tap into their specific interest such as science, pets (dogs, cats, birds?) the specific types of content that makes them tick and even personality traits. 

Kantar’s Digital Analytics team has leveraged open data to help advertisers in a cookieless world, launching Digital Mirror. Digital Mirror was developed through iLab – the company’s open innovation ecosystem – in partnership with start-up Audiense and Coca-Cola. By decoding digital footprints using AI, brands can now understand people more holistically, from unknown personality traits to emerging trends and detailed media consumption habits. Digital Mirror’s unique insights have proven to be a game changer in accelerating product innovation, anticipating potential market disruptions, reimagining brand communications, and targeting strategies through social media and Demand Side Platforms (DSPs). 

“Consumer brands need to develop a good data strategy, enhance their databases and integrate not only internally but also externally, creating systems that can ingest, analyze and make data actionable through on-going ‘feedback loops’. Open data from social media platforms could be essential in a cookieless world providing context about consumption and relevant media investment opportunities beyond the obvious to understand real-time behaviours and motivations of consumer segments without using third-party data. Companies that do not start working with a clear north star on their First Party Data Strategy, will be the ones that suffer the most when third-party cookies go away.” Nelson Loaiza, Head of Media, Analytics & Digital, Insights Division

Will open data replace cookies? Not fully. But it will help consumer brands and agencies to have a more people-centric approach to not only media and advertising strategies but also innovation through a better understanding of people and their needs, not just cookies. Through open data we know the advertising context for any category and need. We can connect this consumer understanding to DSPs to target the right consumer with the right content and context.  

In the new cookie-less world, new solutions for ad tracking, frequency measurement and capping, online session information, location and search history will still need to be filled. However, new avenues and sources will continue to provide a more personalised online experience that, at some point, will culminate in instant purchasing behaviours as we see in China with WeChat. 
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