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How can fintechs continue to deliver personalised experiences once cookies are gone forever?

Fintechs rely on data and testing to build standout customer experiences that disrupt the market by challenging the status quo. But with the impending removal of cookies, how can they mitigate the risk of losing valuable data insights?

Google has officially released their timeline for the complete removal of third-party cookies in their Chrome browser. Originally quoting 2023, the transition is now expected to complete in 2024, meaning companies have two years to prepare.

So what does a cookieless world mean for fintechs in the tussle for market share and how can they stay ahead in a rapidly changing digital landscape?

The rise and fall of cookies

Since they were introduced in the mid-90s, cookies have raised sceptics’ eyebrows due to their conflicting nature with data and privacy. But it took 23 years for Apple to become the first company to shine the spotlight on this concern and remove their use with their Mac Safari update.

Then in 2020, Apple introduced further adjustments to their digital environment with their IOS 14 tracking changes, and accompanying marketing strategy, which further highlighted the importance of customer privacy.

Fintechs need to be customer obsessed to grow and compete in a crowded market but, due to Apple and now Google, customers have also become much more savvy about their own privacy and how their personal data is being used.

This shift in customer mindset culminated in Google phasing out cookies in Chrome and others will no doubt follow in their footsteps.

The removal of cookies has raised three big questions:

  1. Will website tracking stop working?
  2. How will this affect digital advertising performance?
  3. What does this mean for personalisation strategies?

Let’s look at each of these areas of concern separately.

Tracking website data

In July 2023 Google will sunset Universal Analytics in favour of Google Analytics 4 (GA4), which has been designed to combat the removal of cookies as it can operate fully without them by using machine learning to fill the data holes left buy the absence of session cookies.

The main difference between UA an GA4 is that GA4 uses event parameters rather than a session cookie to track visits and actions on a website. This means you may find disparity in user numbers when comparing GA4 data with UA data although a reported difference in the region of 10% is acceptable.

There is one thing to be mindful of with GA4 – the quality of its data is directly correlated with the quality of your account set up. Building an effective measurement strategy to implement as soon as you set up your GA4 account is paramount to making sure your website data is a) accurate and b) useful.

I’ll also provide some extra insights later in this article on how you can ensure your GA4 account is optimised to collect the most important data for your business.

Digital advertising performance

Fintechs that use paid media will be conscious of the impact cookies removal will have on their digital advertising campaigns. Paid media is a crucial tactic in fintech marketing with eMarketer estimating that financial services will represent 12.9% of total digital advertising spending in 2022. And this shows no signs of slowing down in 2023.

I’ve talked about the session-based cookie which Google Analytics uses to track visitors as they browse a website but what of persistent cookies?

Persistent cookies are used for remarketing and remain in a user’s browser after they leave a website. So, as users continue to browse other parts of the web they can be remarketed to, which is a key marketing tactic to reengage potential customers early on in the buyer’s journey.

Google made $209billion from its ad platforms in 2021 and will want that growth to continue in 2023. To achieve this, they’ve developed targeting methods to negate the need for cookies. Instead of using cookies or fingerprinting techniques to identify customers, they place users in groups of similar customers.

These groups are split by:

  • Affinity segments – based on what users are passionate about and their habits and interests.
  • Custom segments – these help reach your ideal audience by entering relevant keywords, URLs and apps.
  • Detailed demographics – these reach users based on long-term life facts. Like life events (e.g. a wedding) or in market audiences (based on purchase intent).

Google also recently announced that, in August 2023, they’re ending ‘similar audiences’ which create lookalike audiences from data provided to Google. This news demonstrates how much faith Google has in their audience segments.

Similar audiences are still working on Facebook and LinkedIn – for now – and you’ve still got the option of uploading CRM data across other digital platforms. Interest audiences on these platforms were impacted by the tracking changes in IOS 14 so similar audiences may work better in these circumstances. As long as you have good quality data!

One thing I predict happening with paid media as a result of all these changes is ad creative being placed firmly in the spotlight. As audiences become larger and less precise, it’ll be harder for ads to stand out and hit home. Having memorable and distinctive creative for your paid digital advertising will pay dividends over the longer term. Testing multiple variants will be crucial to see what works for your audience.

Personalisation strategies

According to digital experience experts Coveo, the financial services sector is seeing a trend in moving from personalisation to hyper-personalisation and fintechs are taking advantage of this.

Personalisation solutions like Google Optimize use cookies to operate and, although they will be updated to work without them, they are unlikely to work at the level hyper-personalisation demands.

Forrester believes that using the right technology and aligning this with your business strategy is crucial to future proofing personalisation solutions in a world without cookies.

First and foremost, you need to have an effective data strategy but personalisation also needs to be a core business goal tied directly to customer outcomes to see the best results.

Coveo also suggests that acquiring data should be easier for financial services firms going forwards, as people are more likely to share personal information with them. Generally speaking, financial services firms with a clear privacy policy tend to incite a higher level of consumer trust because customers understand what happens with their data.

With further changes to guidelines and legislation expected from regulatory bodies and governments about how data can be used and the permissions needed to use it, staying tuned is essential.

Three ways to prepare for the removal of cookies

 1/ Develop customer personas

A deep level of understanding and empathy with customers is how successful fintechs deliver a great digital experience for them. Cookies gave us a simple way to identify, personalise, and remarket to them as individuals.

But, as we explained earlier with Google’s advertising approach, grouping potential users will be the future of advertising. So having detailed personas will make this targeting much easier over multiple digital platforms, as well as linking with a cohesive marketing strategy.

These personas will also tie into measuring the effectiveness of personalisation strategies.

The more accurate your personas, the more effective this approach will be.

2/ Optimise GA4 tracking with user journeys

As I mentioned previously, GA4’s out-the-box reporting is pretty limited so time and effort will be needed to set up reporting manually.

Having accurate personas means you can link this to your event tracking to see how users move through the site so you can set up funnels for each customer profile, resulting in more accurate reporting.

This solution will augment the basic GA4 set up and be much more useful than custom reports as you’ll be able to see how different groups perform overall – and where groups may be dropping off. So you’ll have clear signposts of how or where to make improvements to the site or app.

3/ Refresh digital marketing plans

With the changes in Google’s targeting discussed earlier, there’s a high chance that your campaign targeting will need reassessing.

Revisiting plans in line with personas will ensure digital campaigns reach the right audience and those customers that do visit your site or app will be tracked effectively.

As remarketing will be limited without cookies, having your data strategy confirmed an in place will give you lots more options to re-engage interested users.

Your privacy policy will need to be update in line with industry changes and you must make sure that you’re only using the data of people who have opted in.

If your current campaigns are performing well, A/B testing with the new targeting may be a better option. You don’t want to disrupt your best campaigns but not testing new audiences holds the risk of not having solutions to performance problems in the future.

Final takeaways

The changes in data tracking and removal of third-party cookies might seem a long way off - problematic even - to delivering personalised experience for fintech users. But, like anything, if you take the time to prepare it won’t be as disruptive for your business as feared.

To thrive in a cookieless world, there are three key takeaways for you to get going with:

  1. If you haven’t already, set up your GA4 account and develop your data measurement strategy.
  2. Review or create your customer personas so they align with your GA4 audiences.
  3. Update your digital advertising campaigns to use your own data and align with your GA4 audiences to make targeting and tracking more effective.

 

Just some of the customer data fintechs can hold.
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Comments: (3)

Ketharaman Swaminathan
Ketharaman Swaminathan - GTM360 Marketing Solutions - Pune 29 November, 2022, 10:35Be the first to give this comment the thumbs up 0 likes

AFAIK, Google is only removing THIRD PARTY cookies from Chrome. Not first party cookies. 

Helen Walters
Helen Walters - Distinction - Nottingham 30 November, 2022, 10:32Be the first to give this comment the thumbs up 0 likes

Thank you, I've made that clearer in the article.

Ketharaman Swaminathan
Ketharaman Swaminathan - GTM360 Marketing Solutions - Pune 30 November, 2022, 10:53Be the first to give this comment the thumbs up 0 likes

Cool.

In the absence of third-party cookies, data broker / enricher is one more avenue for brands to source data in order build out customer profiles.

I've heard of services that provide 70+ datapoints around demographics / psychographics / firmographics per individual / company based only on an email address e.g. RapLeaf, Clearbit.

PS: Such services may not be legal in some jurisdictions. As such, this is not legal or marketing advice.

Helen Walters

Helen Walters

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Analytics in Banking

This is for discussion and sharing of views on trends, practices and views in analytics in banking and financial industry


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