Real-time and historical data, machine learning techniques and a multichannel marketing strategy—that’s the recipe for travel marketer success in a cookieless world. But that’s not as simple as it sounds.
NB: This is an article from Sojern
To ensure our customers are ready for this change, we are building automated ways to activate the right data, finding success within walled gardens, maintaining an open web and making complex challenges manageable. It’s a difficult task, but we’re excited about the potential and want to share our thoughts on what the future looks like.
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Our Perspective on the Cookieless World
One of the key market shifts that will impact every travel marketers’ future is the demise of the third-party cookie. Cookies are a 25-year-old technology used by a wide range of internet browsers. A third-party cookie has long been the foundation of “addressable” digital advertising—targeting and tracking consumers on a 1 to 1 basis. Third-party cookies assist in tracking website visitors, collecting data, ad serving, retargeting, cross-site tracking, and most importantly, they help you drive direct bookings to your website.
For years, the advertising industry and internet privacy advocates debated phasing out the support of third-party cookies, challenged with aligning different industry players and their interests in a fragmented ad tech landscape. Motivated by various factors, including privacy and data protection legislation and a desire to identify privacy as a key brand differentiator, Apple stopped supporting third-party cookies in the Safari web browser in 2017 with intelligent tracking prevention (ITP). This change affected around 20 percent of the web browser market.
Google announced plans to no longer support third-party cookies on the Chrome web browser starting in 2023. In contrast to the Safari web browser, the Chrome web browser represents 64 percent of the market, so this move will significantly impact the industry’s ad targeting infrastructure. After Google’s change, the third-party cookie will be effectively dead, meaning the addressable advertising tactics that drive performance for advertisers like you will no longer be effective in the future.
Addressable, Contextual and What Comes Next
While the 3rd party cookie impact won’t completely affect targeting tactics until 2023, smart marketers will get ahead of the curve and start driving demand with a focus on the future. Addressable targeting is targeting people we know are our audience–they can be anonymized–but we know something about them, like retargeting users based on past shopping behavior. The demise of third-party cookies requires a change in addressable advertising tactics in order to sustain healthy revenue streams from direct bookings. For Sojern, that means sourcing real-time data from hashed emails and 1st party cookie IDs, and combining that with historical booking data:
- Hashed emails: A hashed email uses an algorithm to convert an email into a unique, unrecognizable jumble of characters in order to identify and target travelers online. For example, after hashing “Dave@Sojern.com”, the algorithm would change it to an unrecognizable string of characters such as “d7984b9599199b83cc213f19cb2906d2”. A hashed email can be collected a few ways, but namely by prompting a login on your website, or after a traveler completes a booking on your website. Then, as that traveler visits other websites, you can target them using their hashed email instead of cookies.
- 1st Party Cookie IDs: This is a unique ID advertisers share with us to match their consumers’ onsite activity to their hashed emails – thereby enhancing campaign performance. The 1st party cookie ID is something you, as the owner of the website, store and manage. The big value of a 1st party cookie is that once it is captured and associated with the hashed email, it allows us to identify when a user has visited the site without them ever having to login or complete a purchase again. This makes retargeting through the hashed email possible later.
- Historical Booking Data: We ingest this CRM data to enrich your campaign performance. This can be offline data (agents at a desk, call center, walk-ins, etc.) or historical online data–you choose to share whatever data is available to you. By sharing your historical booking data with us, we can enhance our traveler profiles and use that data for more effective targeting.
Other major ad tech platforms such as Google, The Trade Desk (TTD), LiveRamp and Xandr have also announced various initiatives incorporating these data sources as a replacement for third-party cookies: The Trade Desk’s UID2.0, Google Customer Match, and Facebook Audiences. We work with all the major adtech players and also support an open web, so Sojern’s approach will be compatible with many other ad tech ID systems that also rely on these data sets to develop addressable targeting moving forward.
Once we’ve solved for addressable, next up is the expansion of contextual targeting. Our focus on other advertising channels, like contextual programmatic ads, search engine marketing (SEM) and metasearch, will drive cookieless demand for travel marketers in the future. Contextual targeting looks at the category or keywords of the page being viewed by the user and the ad server serves ads that are highly relevant to the content on the site. For example, if someone is searching on the Visit Florida website, then they are probably going to Florida and we can offer them relevant information to help with their search.
Lastly, with change comes new machine learning models like identity-free targeting (example: Google FLOC, which is based on common interests), which are going to be tested. Our longtime relationships with key industry players often give us early access to innovative new solutions.
What This Means for You
We believe that these ecosystem changes support our long-term vision to become the #1 travel marketing platform providing solutions that empower travel marketers around the world. We have been working to expand our capabilities beyond third-party cookies for the past few years, including powerful channels that don’t use third-party cookies (like SEM and metasearch), as well as putting systems in place that will use hashed email and historical booking data as a replacement for third-party cookies.
The new cookieless ecosystem is complex, will continue to evolve, and will prove challenging for some travel marketers to keep up with the pace of change. We are committed to helping our customers by trying to stay one step ahead of the changes, and by simplifying the new world of digital advertising. We will continue to focus on innovative strategies that will help travel marketers drive demand and be resilient to change.
What actions do I need to take?
To prepare now, the first step will be for travel marketers to ensure that their website and booking engine are passing hashed email data and 1st party data. This data will bolster addressable advertising in the future.
The next step is to activate new advertising tactics that will drive demand in a cookieless world.