What a privacy-first future without third-party cookies means for APAC marketers

Jessica Martin, Alessandra Alessio / February 2021

Keeping up with shifting data guidelines and browser policies is crucial for brand leaders looking to revitalise their businesses or meet consumers online for the first time. Here, Google’s Jessica Martin and Alessandra Alessio break down APAC’s privacy progress, how Google is working with the larger industry to build a safer web, and advice for staying ahead of the evolving, nuanced landscape.

People around the world are becoming more aware of how their personal information is used — so much so that searches for “online privacy” grew more than 50% year over year (YOY) globally in 2020.1 Preserving our open, ad-supported internet comes down to meeting people’s rising expectations for control over their data. As more and more businesses look for ways to show up for consumers online, our industry is increasingly realising how critical users’ trust is to effective digital advertising.

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But while the European Union, for instance, has uniform data regulations, APAC has varying guidelines across the region — which means people’s expectations about consent and privacy differ from country to country. Without overarching privacy regulations in APAC, it’s even more important for the ads ecosystem, industry bodies, and the web standards community to work together and align on effective best practices.

APAC has varying [data] guidelines across the region — which means people’s expectations about consent and privacy differ from country to country.

How we’re keeping up with evolving browser policies

Many brands have long used third-party cookies to serve people personalised ads based on their browsing behaviour. But because third-party cookies are used as people move from site to site, it can be difficult for users to set helpful controls on how their information is being used. Most web browsers are moving away from third-party cookies, but blocking them without privacy-forward alternatives in place can inadvertently lead to more opaque workarounds.

To help marketers and publishers gradually phase out third-party cookies, the Chrome team kicked off a set of privacy-focused proposals called the Privacy Sandbox in 2019. These proposals offer technologies for serving personalised ads, detecting fraud, and measuring ads without third-party cookies — ultimately improving user privacy while continuing to ensure the free and open internet thrives.

For instance, the Federated Learning of Cohorts (FLoC) proposal outlines how brands could serve relevant ads to groups of people with similar interests without revealing information that could be used to identify individuals. This would enable businesses to better protect users’ privacy without significantly sacrificing performance. Google ads teams’ initial tests of FLoC show advertisers can expect to see at least 95% of the conversions per dollar spent when compared to cookie-based advertising.

Shaping a safer web together

We’re excited to build on promising Privacy Sandbox proposals with the wider industry. Companies including Yahoo Japan are preparing to test initial solutions, and developers in APAC are trying out new technologies through Chrome’s origin trials. The Chrome team also plans to make external testing available for more proposals later this year.

In APAC, readiness for a future with less cookies is as diverse as the region itself. Considering privacy-forward marketing is an imperative for our industry, it’s no surprise that we’re hearing education is a top priority throughout our ongoing conversations with the region’s advertisers, adtech companies, and agencies.

In APAC, readiness for a future with less cookies is as diverse as the region itself.

It’s important for all of us in the industry to be vigilant about keeping up with the privacy landscape. Joining web community discussions on platforms such as the World Wide Web Consortium’s Improving Web Advertising Business Group is a great way to help shape inclusive solutions. The Chromium Blog is also a handy resource for anyone who’s looking to stay up to date with the Privacy Sandbox. We’re confident that by working together, we’ll be able to create a more privacy-forward web that benefits marketers, publishers, and users alike.

Embracing first-party data responsibly in APAC

Making the most of the data people feel comfortable sharing can help businesses stay relevant — and drive better performance — while abiding by evolving regulations and policies. Research shows APAC brands that used first-party data to create personalised experiences drove an average of 11% more annual incremental revenue and 18% more cost efficiency.2

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First-party data has become a bigger priority for more businesses as they explore ways to increase performance without sacrificing privacy. But while 87% of APAC brands think first-party data is important to impactful marketing, more than half believe they’re below average or average at using it.3

Although some of APAC’s biggest barriers to a robust first-party data strategy are organisational, such as a lack of skilled internal talent, the top ones are tech-related — especially the inability to link technologies for collecting and using data. Overcoming these challenges will understandably take time for many businesses, but leading brands are already getting started.

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Experimenting with machine learning

As working with less data becomes the new norm, embracing automation will be critical to growing first-party data capabilities. Some brands are building predictive models to gauge consumer behaviour and reduce customer churn. Others are teaming up with Google Marketing Platform partners such as Kasatria, Happy Marketer, and MightyHive to make the most of Google’s existing event-level data and develop more personalised campaigns. With some help from automation, marketers are finding new ways to stay ahead of consumers’ fast-changing needs.

As working with less data becomes the new norm, embracing automation will be critical to growing first-party data capabilities.

Considering 1 in 3 consumers will choose their second favourite brand over their first just because it’s present, it’s critical for brands to show up in the right moments while continuing to prioritise privacy. From fuelling an automated bidding strategy with a data-driven attribution model to responding to consumers’ needs in real time, there are plenty of ways brands can harness automation as they gradually hone their first-party data strategy.

Preparing for a more privacy-focused world

To gear up for what’s to come in the privacy landscape, here are three steps you can take with your teams:

  • Build direct relationships with customers: Offer valuable services that enhance people’s shopping experiences, such as loyalty programs or back-in-stock notifications, while using their data responsibly.
  • Invest in privacy-forward technologies: Use automated and cloud-based solutions to organise data, surface insights, predict performance, and optimise revenue without compromising privacy.
  • Establish clear privacy policies: Earn people’s trust by empowering them with transparency, choice, and control over their personal information and data.

By focusing on ways you can protect user privacy, you can deepen your customer relationships, improve performance, and better navigate the privacy environment — all while helping to protect the open web we know and love.

First-party data playbook for marketing: A guide to inspire APAC brands