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What does “the death of cookies” mean to auto dealers?

It’s old news that Google has plans to eliminate third-party cookies, but auto dealers who rely heavily on online advertising need to understand the implications and key actions they should take before this happens.

Here’s what you need to know:

  1. First-party data is the future, but just having it isn’t a silver bullet. 
  2. What inventory you advertise is equally as important as who you target, maybe more.
  3. FLoC is fine, but cannot be your only solution.

Increasing regulatory pressure stemming from a growing demand around privacy and transparency has pushed Google and several other technology giants (ie. Apple, Microsoft and Amazon) to address their data collection, targeting and monetization practices. While some of these new standards like Apple’s ATT and Google’s FLoC aim to increase privacy and transparency, what they indicate is an overall industry shift from data being abundant, inexpensive, and non-differentiating to harder to get, more valuable, and absolutely vital.

Both first- and third-party data are collected via cookies. Cookies are small files that are placed onto websites to track users. They are often used by advertisers looking to learn more about people and their habits across the internet. Cookies have long been an essential part of many marketing strategies because they can be used to deliver targeted ads with record performance. But with Google’s announcement, access to the majority third-party data will come to an end.

Cookie blocking isn’t new in the web browser industry – Apple, Microsoft and Safari already do this – but those changes weren’t as impactful because those companies’ web browsers hold small parts of the market. Google Chrome on the other hand has been the most popular browser since December 2013 and holds, on average, about 60% of the market.

21st century marketing has leaned heavily digital with advertising spend expected to increase by 100% between 2019 and 2024. For years data was readily available to anyone who needed it through purchased audiences, pixels and ad platforms but that’s no longer the case and auto dealers cannot afford to work with subpar data. The key to success is now a combination of first-party data and modern, AI-driven ad platforms.

Unlike third-party data, first-party data is collected in a more transparent and reliable way. Instead of using third-party cookies to track users across the internet, data is collected from the original source, and therefore owned and more accurate. Put into action, this means data comes from someone specific, let’s say a 28-year-old female, living in your city, who visited your website to look at your new 2021 Subaru Outback. Third-party data is often less actionable, for example you might receive data from an adult male who visits Car and Driver regularly, but that’s all you know. Which would you rather market to?

When put into such a direct comparison, it’s obvious that first-party data is preferred to third-party data but what’s not as clear is what to do about it.

For ZeroSum and our clients, the evolution to owning our data was natural. We stopped relying on other people’s information a long time ago and instead aggregate first-party data in our MarketAI platform to analyze billions of data points and find active shoppers looking to buy within the next 14 days. This first-party data is always up-to-date and it's untouchable by Google. 

MarketAI is focused on prioritizing moving inventory – not vanity metrics like impressions, click-thru-rate or cost-per-click. With our data, MarketAI knows what engagement every unit needs and eliminates wasted spend on units that will sell themselves. This level of sophisticated marketing efficiency is 100% unique to ZeroSum and provides unparalleled marketing performance for our clients.

ZeroSum clients can rest assured that all the critical elements of are our marketing campaigns live within MarketAI which means they won’t be impacted by Google’s changes. In addition, years of experience in the data industry has shown us that successful marketing campaigns are about more than just the audience they target, they’re also about the tech.

The digital space is constantly changing and the removal of third-party cookies provides a unique opportunity to overhaul your dealership’s marketing strategy. If you’re looking to get ahead of the industry schedule a demo of MarketAI today. 

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