Cookies, QRs, and Communications: The shift towards localised, hyper-personalised multichannel marketing

Ben Walker

With Google’s cookie changes coming into effect, how will marketing communications shift and adapt?

by Ben Walker

Privacy is important. Marketing is important. These two things can work together in tandem. Marketing gets a brand or product to those who’ll benefit from it, whether it’s a healthcare product, food, or something more frivolous.

This creates a need for brands to know their audience, and know their consumer, and by and large cookies were a powerful way to collect this data. There’s a clear incentive for brands to market to those who’ll buy their products, that’s a given, but how that data is collected is relevant, important, and ultimately changing.

Google has announced that third-party cookies will be phased out to a full restriction to 100% of users from Q3 20241 and, wherever you stand on this, it will undoubtedly change the marketing landscape.


How does third-party cookie-based marketing work?

Third-party cookies allow advertisers to collect user information from third-party websites. This means that if you’re looking for a new sofa on Facebook, sofa companies can collect that information and litter your screens with ads on the newest Swedish delight without the meatballs.

It’s a scattergun approach, but it’s effective, and compared to historic marketing methods it’s smart, but compared to where the market is going, it’s not so smart. Sometimes I won’t be in the market for something, but I like to dream big, so it ends up a bit disheartening to see a thousand pretty guitars that I can’t afford, programmatically taunting me, and it also means they’ve beaten out several products that I might actually want and need.

There’s already a lot of noise on the internet, and irrelevant services can make a consumer go ad blind, missing out on offers they’ll benefit from because they’ve seen too many scattered banners, blending into the background of a website.


The changing cookie landscape

Webmasters are used to sudden Google announcements, but that doesn’t make them any more fun. Cookies are also regulated by the ICO, and cookie banners and information must be compliant, so all of this put together often creates a JavaScript race when the regulations change.

It’s not new, therefore, for how cookies are presented, how they’re opted into, and how they’re used by websites to change, and there are groups of people that have been rolling with these punches for several years.

However, phasing out third-party cookies doesn’t just affect webmasters, compliance officers, developers and DPOs, it affects every brand that wants to market its products and services, whether online or offline.

Strategies need to change, as well as the usual cookie collection, opt-in, and declaration changes. Without the collection of third-party data via cookies, the scattergun, wide-net data collection approach will no longer be viable, and brands will need to get closer to consumer needs.


The importance of first- and zero-party data

First-party data collection will be from users that visit the brands’ website, where zero-party data will be from when a user proactively adds their details, such as by filling in a contact form. This massively increases the importance of traffic, as companies will no longer be able to market to consumers generally searching online for a product unless they visit their website.

Subtle jabs at Google potentially having an ulterior motive than consumer privacy aside, online SEM will become more important than ever. However, this won’t be the be all end all. A multichannel approach will bring more users into stores and towards a source of truth, such as your website.

More channels emerge as new technologies emerge, too. It’s only a matter of time before more and more content is tailored to AI queries, chasing hyperlinks from people specifically asking online intelligences for “the best cheese and wine tasting places in Suffolk.” Trust the AI, trust the website. These optimisations mean that content will need to be valid, helpful, readable, and great for a consumer. This should be the case for channels like SEO already, however, never has it been so incentivised to know your consumer.


Tying channels together: QR codes and zero-party data collection

It’s interesting how often online methodology replicates the age-old offline. Microcosmic, virtual economies independently create themselves2, history repeats itself, the wheel keeps on turning. It’s no different for marketing methodologies.

Out of home advertising and door drops target a geography, but not an individual. They’re created to be eye-catching and informative, but if you don’t resonate with the product or ad, you’re unlikely to notice them. These would be like “fourth-party” cookies.

You can also add some minimal targeting to a door drop, such as demographic, bringing it closer to the third-party.

Direct mail, partially addressed mail, and other non-SEM advertising is much closer to a first-party, as they use data on the household or the user that signed up to the service to advertise to them.

These mediums will often have something in common. A QR code.

QR codes are powerful because they tie the digital to the physical. With a QR code, you can hand someone something physical and send them to a website, getting that first-party cookie. With that first-party cookie, you can then remarket to someone who has already shown an interest in your product or brand, decreasing any advertising campaign wastage. QR codes are also growing in ubiquity3.

So, you still have wide net approaches, which are more helpful for some brands than others, and you still have a targeted approach to remove the need for third-party cookies. While it may feel like “you can’t fire me, I quit”, this multi-channel shift in mindset can be made immediately by using other tied together means to get your message out.


How zero-party data continues to change the marketing landscape

Personally, I love data (Trekkies are not part of our online marketing strategy but are more than welcome). Data makes the modern world go round. Without data, online strategies can’t be iterated, improved, refined, and perfected. With data, costs can be lowered and everything can be made that little bit more effective, day after day.

So, yes, the removal of third-party cookies is contributing to more of a multichannel approach, where brands are keen to tie together channels to make each piece of artwork to go further, but it may well work wonders on the quality of content, and how tailored it is towards the consumer.

Massive amounts of data can be helpful, but they can also be misleading or cause complacency. If you’re making money, why iterate? So, if you’re getting 30,000 people on your website via third party means, and 100 are buying, great. What happens if the traffic drops?

Website optimisation has always been a two-front war, increasing the traffic on the website while also improving the likelihood that this traffic will get value from the website. With more and more regulations on cookies, this creates complications, as now users must affirmatively opt-in to tracking. One study found that 95% of users reject additional cookies with privacy-promoting designs4.

The ability to choose to be anonymous is great, but it muddies the waters as it can drastically affect visible traffic numbers. It highlights the importance of knowing your audience, too, because if you’re advertising a VPN… You may not get the best visibility over your onsite users. So, where do you get the data from?

The zero-party pool may be smaller, but those are the people interacting with your brand, and that’s your gold-mine. Not only is increasing the number of ways to reach that zero-party person a great strategy, but reviewing how they interact with your website and where tells you exactly where they’re getting value from.

Budget will still always play a part, but the market is decentralising. With the rise of multichannel, local, targeted (and therefore inexpensive and low wastage) marketing, Davids can smite Goliaths within the household with smart strategies and a smart message.

To find out more about a multichannel approach and how to use marketing technologies to reach your perfect audience, you can contact the precision team at or at 01284 718900, because there ain’t no party like a zero-party party.