Digital marketing is about to get a whole lot harder for hotels. Privacy laws are tightening, and third party cookies are disappearing fast. To succeed during the change, it’s time to refocus efforts on your guests and their data. If you do it right, you’ll have access to an audience that is engaged, knows your brand and is more likely to book.
For years travel marketing has relied on third party data, by way of cookies. Cookies are small text files that store and retrieve information on browsers, so certain functions can perform.
Cookies count the number of website visitors your hotel website gets, as well as provide detail on their demographics and website interactions. Most importantly, they let us target remarketing advertisments to potential bookers after they leave your website.
What is the difference between all these different types of data?
>> First party data – You collect data directly from your own customers (in our case hotel guests).
>> Second party data – two companies sharing first party data. E.g. a hotel group and an airline could share their first party data to expand what they know about their customers. Important note – Under GDPR, these companies can only share data between them if customers explicitly offer permission.
>> Third party data – Data pulled from a data partner, to fill gaps in your data. The most common third party data provider is Google Analytics.
Why third-party cookies are being retired
Cookies are an example of third party data. In March 2020 Apple blocked all third party cookies in its Safari browser and Firefox did the same. In January 2020 last year Google announced they are also phasing out third party cookies by 2022.
Third party cookies are disappearing because:
>> Privacy concerns and GDPR legislation
>> Rise of ad blockers in browsers
>> They don’t work across devices and browsers
Their announcement wasn’t a surprise. Privacy laws began tightening in May 2018, when the GDPR rolled out. As people opt out, they become “invisible.” These invisible website visitors are going to increase as privacy laws get stricter. We need a solution for travel marketing before Google’s 2022 deadline.
Prepared to be “FloCd.”: What are Google and the other tech giants doing to solve the issue?
If not cookies, then what? Google is currently working on one of the answers. One acronym we’re going to hear a lot about while they do is FLoC – Federated Learning of Cohorts.
The FLoC algorithm will be used to work out your ‘interest cohort’ as you browse the web. Your browsing history will always remain private, but the browser on your device will use it to dynamically assign you to a group with similar qualities and online behaviours.
For hotel’s, this means a shift in advertising focus. Instead of remarketing, we’ll be showing ads to people in a relevant cohort. This won’t be as perfect a match. Instead of targeting potential guests who’ve been on your website before, you’ll be targeting people with similar online behaviours to previous website visitors.
That basic knowledge of your brand is no longer guaranteed, meaning you’ll have to work harder to forge a connection through your adverts.
The immediate alternative to cookies is first party data.
First-party data is critical to better understanding customer behavior and intent. This raw material forms the basis of personalization – an approach that allows brands to deliver relevant experiences at multiple points along the guest journey. At Avvio we know this translates to higher basket values and cost efficiencies for hotels as we prioritise the right message at the right time. The shift away from third-party cookies makes the case for better on-site personalization even more critical.
Over 80% of users are willing to give permission to use their data if they perceive some value in return. Personalization is arguably the best reflection of that type of value exchange. It creates more than just convenience but a real sense of hospitality when brands plan and execute around this on behalf of their guests.
Specifically, lists of customer emails and data that your team gathered in a GDPR compliant way. The possibilities are endless for travel marketing. Not only can you enrich ezine strategies, if you have over 1,000 emails you can load them to Google Ads and Facebook Ads for cookie-free remarketing.
To allow secure sharing of these customer lists, Google Ads developed a free API to link CRM systems to Google Ads. If your CRM connects, you can publish audiences directly & securely. If your CRM is still developing this, password protected files & data privacy agreements are a good alternative.
Since over 1,000 email addresses are needed per audience, it’s time to start working on incentivising database sign-up. Easier said than done.
How to build your first party data strategy:
Focus on incentivising your guests to share email addresses
>> Live chat
>> Newsletters sign up
>> Loyalty programs
>> Cart abandonment emails
Avvio’s key takeaways
>> Cookies will be gone soon and you need to start thinking about the future, now.
>> Prioritise building your first party data strategies. Supplement with second and third party data as needed.
>> Your absolute focus should be on capturing email addresses – they are the “connective tissue” that we (as consumers) use across multiple channels.
>> Do everything in a GDPR compliant way and respect your guests privacy. You might have a smaller pool of people, but they will be engaged brand advocates.
Travel marketing can no longer require cookies to guide the way. We need to make sure we’re complying with privacy laws, and focusing on first party data alternatives. Incentivising database sign-up, and using these to target campaigns is the way forward.