• Although most cookies are safe, they have recently come under scrutiny due to new privacy risks associated with widespread public access to digital mobile networks and the internet.
  • To prevent privacy law violations, today’s software and service platforms make it easy for website owners to deploy a cookie consent generator or pop-up.
  • According to Keypoint Intelligence’s Marketing Communications research, personalized and relevant content was the top factor that prompted consumers to read their printed direct mail.

By Eve Padula


Many of today’s businesses have copious amounts of data about their customers. Unfortunately, having access to all this information can be a double-edged sword. Data can vastly improve the quality and relevance of customer communications when it is used correctly, but too much information can make implementation cumbersome. Furthermore, taking the wrong approach can quickly lower the value of the information. Adding to the complexity of using data, consumers are becoming more vigilant about safeguarding their personal information due to increased awareness about data privacy and security.

There’s no question that effective and customized marketing campaigns improve response rates and return on investment. Data management can be difficult, but it is critical for creating engaging campaigns that prompt customers to act. The good news is that an ever-increasing range of software solutions and platforms make it possible to use data intelligently and truly connect with the intended audience.

Milk is Fine…But Careful with the Cookies!

Let’s start with a definition. Cookies are small files stored on a computer’s browser that are generated whenever you visit a website. Basic cookies are essential for websites to function properly. When used responsibly, they enable brand owners to provide prospects and customers with highly relevant communications and offer a better customer experience. Although most cookies are safe, they have recently come under scrutiny due to new privacy risks associated with widespread public access to digital mobile networks and the internet.

Many consumers are concerned that cookies will enable businesses to track their internet activity without their consent. As a result, some individuals choose to open their browsers in incognito or private mode. These options make it possible to browse privately, so their online activities can’t be tracked. Websites see the visitor as a new user and won’t know who they are unless they sign in. Even in these modes, however, not all cookies are completely blocked. Browsers will still temporarily accept cookies according to the user’s regular preferences.

Data collected by cookies counts as personal information. Due to heightened awareness about technology tracking, consumers are increasingly turning off location services, downloading personal VPNs, and monitoring the output of their personal information. Some major browsers like Firefox and Safari already block all third-party cookies by default. In response to stricter data privacy laws, Google plans to phase out third-party cookies in its Chrome browser by the end of 2023. Google remains the most popular browser on a global basis, capturing nearly 64% of market share.

Some businesses are panicking over a shortage of cookies due to these increased data privacy regulations, but the situation is not as dire as it might seem. For one thing, there’s a big difference between first-party and third-party cookies. Specifically:

  • First-party cookies are placed on your computer if you visit a website. They represent data that has been directly obtained from a customer’s relationship with a company, and they will often “remember” users’ personal settings so they don’t have to enter the same information multiple times. Businesses will still be allowed to use first-party cookies, even as third-party cookies are being phased out. Responsible website owners are transparent about the cookies that are placed and will provide options so visitors can limit the information that is collected, if they so choose.
  • Third-party cookies are first-party cookies that have been sold to or collected by other marketers. They are used by advertisers to track a visitor’s activity across various websites. Pop-up ads are a good example of third-party cookies—it’s no coincidence when a pop-up ad suddenly features a product that you just happened to be browsing on another website. Although third-party cookies have been a reliable source for marketers to target ads in the past, the increased focus on privacy suggests that first-party strategies will be better suited for data collection in the future.

As is the case with everything, it’s important to understand the specifics of today’s data privacy rules and how they will affect your business. To remain compliant with the latest data privacy and cookie laws, you should:

  • Notify visitors that you use cookies on your website
  • Share what types of cookies you are using
  • Inform visitors about why you use cookies
  • Let website visitors know how they can opt out of having cookies placed on their devices

This might seem intimidating, but the good news is that you don’t have to go it alone. To prevent privacy law violations, today’s software and service platforms make it easy for website owners to deploy a cookie consent generator or pop-up. There are literally thousands of programs to choose from based on your specific needs.

For collecting data through list service providers, third-party options are still available. Well-established data suppliers can connect you with a general audience or your target demographic. Some printers may even have their own databases available as an option for their clients. In all cases, a keen understanding of where the information is sourced from, how recent it is, and how exclusive it is to you is imperative to maintaining compliance with today’s privacy rules and regulations.  

Maximizing Campaign Effectiveness

So how do you develop the most effective campaign possible in today’s brave new world of heightened data security? That all depends on the intent of your campaign. If you’re hoping to maintain or strengthen customer loyalty, analyzing the audience’s habits and knowing when to act will yield better results than simply using a name to suggest personalization. By leveraging behavioral data, you can personalize touchpoints and imagery for each buyer during every phase of the purchasing process.

If the goal of your campaign is to cultivate new prospects, pictures that relate to the recipient’s location, occupation, or purchasing history will be particularly meaningful. By analyzing spending habits, you’ll have more opportunities to upsell or cross-sell with tailored complements to their potential purchase. Customized prompts, offers, and assistance are crucial to the customer experience. By staying relevant, you can encourage continued business transactions and help foster loyalty.

Personalization Increases Engagement!

Despite the challenges associated with heightened data security concerns, businesses and consumers still expect a personalized purchasing and marketing experience. Personalization is a proven way to increase customer engagement. According to Keypoint Intelligence’s most recent Marketing Communications research, personalized and relevant content was the top factor that prompted consumers to read or review their printed direct mail.

Figure 1. Factors that Prompt Consumers to Read Direct Mail

N = 1,472 Consumers in the US and Canada who read/review printed direct mail before throwing it out

Source: Annual State of Marketing Communications Consumer Survey; Keypoint Intelligence 2020

We all see personalized print in our daily lives. A postcard will remind you it’s time for an oil change, and it might even include an image of your car's specific model. The graphs on a bank statement will show you how your financial situation has changed over time. Variable data marketing enables efficient advertising that is designed around a prospect’s or client's individual needs.

Applying data for one-to-one marketing use is the driving force in appealing to a customer’s sense of loyalty and satisfaction. There are many ways to use personalization to attract your customers into willing participation. Explore the new techniques that can be incorporated and consider revisiting more established techniques like personal QR codes that link to a personalized video or message. Today’s marketing professionals understand that distinctive and exclusive correspondence can have a positive effect on customer loyalty.

The Bottom Line

It appears that the proverbial third-party cookie is indeed crumbling, but brands can still create personalized campaigns that strengthen their connection with clients. People want more control over their personal data, and regulations like the European General Data Protection Regulation and the California Consumer Privacy Act are designed to protect their privacy.

With today’s volatile data market, it is important to form new habits and evaluate your existing ones. Businesses must inform consumers about the personal information that is being collected about them, and enable them to opt out of data tracking. The death of third-party cookies will shift the focus to first-party cookies, which relies on publicly available information or data that a customer has willingly provided to a business. Fortunately, businesses and consumers understand that the companies they do business with have access to their personal data, and they have come to expect a personalized experienced that is based on this information.

Eve Padula is a Senior Consulting Editor for Keypoint Intelligence’s Production Services with a focus on Business Development Strategies, Customer Communications, and Wide Format. She is responsible for creating many types of content, including forecasts, industry analyses, and research/multi-client studies. She also manages the writing, editing, and distribution cycles for many types of deliverables.