For years, the amount of data marketers have been able to gather using cookies has been shrinking. In recent years we’ve seen a trend toward increasing privacy and reducing the ability for marketers to use cookies for website visitor tracking, ad retargeting, content personalization, etc. In this article, we will discuss the technical, societal, and legislative factors that are leading to the decline of third-party tracking cookies and what we, as marketers can do about it.

What is a cookie?

Before we get into the death of the cookie, we should talk about what a cookie actually is. At a basic level, a cookie is a small text file placed by a website on your computer when you visit. This file stores information about your activity on the site, such as page views, login credentials, and purchases, as well as any additional information you voluntarily give the website like your email or postal address. This information allows websites to deliver tailored content to their visitors, remember login credentials, set language preferences and a wide range of other functions that generally enhance the overall user experience.

However, not all cookies are the same and an important distinction should be made here. 

First-party cookies are placed on your computer by the website itself for the purpose of providing enhanced user experience (as I described above). These cookies are generally considered “helpful” and as such are currently not under threat of disappearing any time soon. 

But another type of cookie exists that sometimes blurs the line between helpful and invasive – the  third-party cookie. A third-party cookie is essentially the same as a first-party cookie in that it is a text file used to store information. However, these cookies are placed on your computer by advertisers and are used to track your browsing history from one site to the next with the end goal of finding out what your interests are and using this information to serve you targeted ads. I’m sure many of us have noticed if you visit websites with a similar theme (surfing for example) you’ll tend to see a higher percentage of surfing-related ads. While this practice might seem commonplace today, many people find the use of their personal data for advertising to be an invasion of their privacy.

The state of cookies today

There’s no way to sugar-coat it, third-party cookies have been slowly dying for years, and recently, it seems like this decline has been increasing rapidly. But why? Why are third party cookies being picked on? In our research, the decline can be boiled down to three major factors: societal, technical, and legislative.

  • Technological Factors: On the technology side, for the past few years, various browser providers (Safari, Firefox, etc.) have released updates to their services that have drastically reduced the effectiveness of third-party cookies, and more recently, have blocked them all together. But these two browsers only make up about 20% of all internet traffic. The biggest hit to the cookie industry came recently when Google announced it would completely stop supporting third-party cookies. Why is this important? Because Chrome represents around 70% of all internet users globally. One by one the companies that provide the means for everyday people to access the internet are making it nearly impossible for third-party cookies to be used.

    Finally, because cookies operate through the browser itself, the browser providers have always maintained total control over which cookies they allow, and which ones they don’t. And as we’re seeing now, the decisions browser providers are making about cookies can have industry-wide ramifications that have the potential to completely change the marketing landscape at a moment’s notice.
     
  • Societal factors: In recent years, there has been an undeniable trend toward increasing personal privacy. With the explosion of social media, the amount of data associated with each individual person has increased dramatically. However, highly publicized data breaches like Facebook’s Cambridge Analytica scandal have thrown not only Facebook, but other companies that handle individual consumer’s data into the spotlight, and shown that in many cases their means of protecting personal data is severely lacking. This has led to an understandably large public outcry against companies that collect, store, and sell consumer data.
  • Legislative factors: In response to the rising concerns over the vulnerability of individual data owned by companies, a slew of new legislation has passed that will make the use of third-party tracking cookies impossible.

Recent legislation, such as the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), requires websites that collect personal data to disclose to visitors how and why they are using their data – allowing them to opt-out of all non-essential cookies (i.e. the ones marketers use). This has resulted in the rise of many people opting out of cookies, which has caused a dramatic decrease in the amount of information available through third-party cookies in general. 

Furthermore, the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA), which will go into effect in January 2020, will provide Californians with greater control over how their personal data is collected, handled, and sold by organizations.

But there’s a bigger picture here: All of these browser updates, societal shifts, and legislation underscore the growing sentiment and trend toward increasing personal privacy, and in turn, making it much harder for marketers to use third-party cookies to track consumers. 

How will this impact your marketing strategy?

Well, that depends on how you’re gathering information about your target accounts. If you’re currently using IP address intelligence or reverse IP lookup technology for your account-based marketing you are ahead of the game, nothing will change, carry on. However, if you’re currently using cookie-based tracking for content personalization, retargeting, or a myriad of other things we need to make an account-based marketing strategy possible, you might find a bumpy road ahead.

Third-party cookies alternatives

If you’re reading this and a sense of panic has gripped you, I’ve got some good news and some bad news. The bad news is that for B2C marketers that rely on personal data to power their marketing strategies, we really don’t have an answer yet. It’s pretty much that simple. We don’t yet know of any alternative to cookies when it comes to tracking unique individuals or gathering personal data from website visitors. 

However, if you’re a B2B marketer, you can breathe easy knowing that even though third-party cookies are on their deathbed, an alternative exists that can provide the crucial information you need for all the account-based marketing activities your team is doing.

The solution – IP address intelligence

IP address intelligence is the process of translating a company’s IP address into a set of traits about that company, called firmographics. These traits can include things such as company name, employee count, revenue, industry, geolocation, and more. Firmographics are the crucial pieces of information B2B marketers rely on to drive account-based marketing and deliver enhanced user experience on their websites.

What makes Foundry’s IP address intelligence unique is that because it is focused solely on businesses and not personal data or individuals, which makes it the ideal choice in a MarTech landscape that is becoming more and more hostile towards third-party cookies. In addition, because business IP addresses are typically static (i.e. less likely to change), the data collected based on a business IP address is not only more in-depth but is more reliable and less likely to become stale or outdated. 

The beauty of IP address intelligence is that this technology is browser-independent. Why? Because an IP address is associated with the device itself, not the browser. Meaning the dominance browser providers have over cookies, does not, and cannot ever apply to IP addresses. Regardless of the decisions the browser providers make, IP address intelligence will always be able to deliver the vital data marketers need to power their ABM programs. 

Over the years, we’ve witnessed the marketing landscape drastically change, but in our eyes, one thing has remained the same: IP address intelligence is and always will be the way forward for marketers. IP address intelligence is finally taking its place as the leading first-party intent tracking technology for businesses.

As we move toward a world of heightened individual consumer privacy and constantly changing browser restrictions, third-party cookies will soon breathe their last breath, and IP address intelligence will be there to ensure B2B marketers continue to get the account-level data they need to power their ABM strategies and even go beyond what they were able to achieve using cookies.

What is IP address intelligence?

IP address intelligence is the process of extracting valuable company data (called firmographics) from a website visitor’s IP address. By leveraging IP address intelligence technologies, B2B marketers can identify the real companies behind anonymous website traffic and gain a much better understanding of exactly which accounts are visiting and engaging with their digital content.

How does IP address intelligence work?

The process of gathering intelligence from an IP address involves two distinct steps. First, an IP address vendor uses proprietary technology (like Foundry Intent) to systematically analyze every IP address in existence. These IPs are then associated with firmographic data (company name, industry, location, employee count, etc.) and stored in a database for later use.

Next, an IP address intelligence tag is placed on a website to detect the IP address of every website visitor. These IP addresses are then used to query the vendor database of IPs and firmographics and return a list of the companies visiting and engaging with the website. This intelligence can be used to power a wide range of account-based marketing strategies, including on-page content personalization, targeted ad campaigns, website attribution, and more.

Common B2B use cases for IP address intelligence:

Enhancing website analytics

Platforms like Google Analytics or Adobe Analytics are excellent web analytics tools, but they have their limitations. When it comes to B2B traffic, these platforms may only tell you the total number of sessions or impressions your pages are getting but lack the deeper insights that make account-based marketing possible. However, integrating IP address intelligence into your current website analytics platform can change this.

By leveraging IP address intelligence within your Google or Adobe platforms, you can see a detailed breakdown of the exact companies visiting your website as well as valuable firmographic data including: 

  • Company name
  • Industry
  • Revenue range
  • Employee count
  • Headquarter location
  • And more!

This data will transform your website analytics platform into an ABM powerhouse and drive more conversions.

Build target account lists

Building an ABM target list can be a daunting task, so many companies out there, how do you narrow it down to create 1:1 messaging? 

Looking deeper into the firmographic breakdown of your website traffic can give you valuable insights about the companies that are actively engaging with your content and are in the market to purchase. These are the companies you want to target. 

By looking at things like industry, revenue range, geolocation, etc. you can build much more effective target lists on which you can create more effective sales marketing campaigns. For more tips check out our blog post on How to build a better ABM target list using firmographics.

Personalizing website content

Website content personalization involves displaying customized website content based on visitor data to deliver a better, more engaging user experience. Leveraging personalized content on your website is one of the most effective ways to deliver 1:1 marketing at scale and drive higher website conversion rates. IP address intelligence allows B2B marketers to leverage firmographic data to customize everything from a simple banner or image to unique navigation and content for high-value target audiences.

Here’s how website personalization works: IP address intelligence technologies determine what company the visitor is coming from and provide firmographic information (industry, revenue, location, and more) in the time it takes for a web page to load. This data is then used by platforms like Google Optimize and Adobe Target to personalize your website by showing relevant content to the visitor based on their firmographic profile.

Creating custom sales and marketing outreach

If ABM has taught us anything it’s that one size fits all messaging just doesn’t work. 

Different companies can have widely varying goals, budgets, needs, etc. that must be addressed if we want to create content that resonates with them. 

By looking at a firmographic breakdown of your website visitors, you can see which industries, company sizes, etc. are showing the most intent to purchase your solutions. This will give you a good sense of who you should be crafting your messaging for to maximize the impact of your sales and marketing campaigns.

Retargeting high-value website visitors

On average, only around 2% of your website traffic will convert into a lead via a contact form, direct email, etc. Retargeting ads are highly effective in re-engaging with accounts that have visited your website but have left without reaching out. IP address intelligence can gather website visitor information, including their IP address, which is then leveraged to serve ads directly to those IP addresses associated with accounts that have visited your site.

Monitoring website attribution

Just as IP address intelligence can be used to identify new potential in-market buyers, it can also be used to make sure that your marketing campaigns are bringing in the right traffic. Looking at a firmographic breakdown of the companies visiting your website, you can see the real-time impact of your marketing efforts.

Detecting and preventing website fraud

Website fraud can take many forms including phishing, credit card scams, ad fraud, and more. IP address intelligence can be utilized to detect fraudulent activity on your site by uncovering the IP addresses of your website traffic and allowing you to set up defensive measures against online fraudsters.

What makes Foundry’s IP address intelligence different?

Website analytics

Website analytics refers to the practice of tracking a variety of behaviors of visitors to a website including traffic, clickpath, conversion rates, attribution, and more.

You might be familiar with Google Analytics or Adobe Analytics platforms. These are fantastic tools for providing insights into website traffic volume, but they have their limitations. For effective account based marketing to take place, B2B marketers need to know exactly which companies are visiting their website. By integrating reverse IP lookup data into your website analytics platform you can not only see sheer traffic volume, but you can dive deeper into your traffic to see exactly who is visiting your site.

Data integrity

Data integrity doesn’t just happen. It requires a skilled team of Data Integrity Specialists working on updating, maintaining, and normalizing the data constantly. Here are just a few of the many factors that contribute to our data integrity process.

Data normalization

If we asked 1,000 different people to type “United States”, most of the time it would come out just fine, but undoubtedly we would see at least a few like this:

  • USA
  • United STates
  • United States
  • united states
  • UNITED STATES
  • United States of America
  • US

The list could go on, but the point is that if we simply left it up to each individual person to type it out on their own, we’d be in trouble. The same goes for company data. If we just took all the company data at face value without doing the legwork to make sure it’s clean, accurate, and normalized it would be a mess and nearly useless to our customers. However, our team of Data Integrity Specialists follows strict standards set by ISO (International Standards Organization) to make sure that every company name, address, SIC/NAICS code, phone number, etc. is usable right out of the box. This makes life much easier for Developers that might otherwise spend hours cleaning, organizing, and normalizing the data. 

So, when you want the company names of your website visitors uploaded into your CRM, for example, you don’t have to go through the thousands of entries one by one to see if they are all spelled correctly. Instead, your Dev team can simply copy and paste them knowing that they’re going to be accurate and up-to-date.

Artificial intelligence vs. human intelligence

While we love our machine learning algorithms, there are just some elements of the IP analysis processes that require a human touch. For example, to do their jobs properly, machine learning algorithms require vast amounts of data that they consume to train themselves on what to look for. This training process must be overseen by a team of data experts whose job is to ensure that the data our algorithms are trained on is good and will result in an algorithm actually learning. 

Once an algorithm is operating on its own, it will inevitably run into something it hasn’t seen before. When this happens, our data experts step in to analyze and train the algorithm on the new data. This helps the algorithm improve while further ensuring that we only pass along accurate data to our customers.

Real-time analysis

The world never stops changing, so we never stop listening. In our research, roughly 7-10% of IP addresses change ownership every month, as companies are bought, sold, acquired, dissolved, and change names every day. All of these events have an impact on the data we provide to our customers. Because we report on more than 26 different company data points, we have to be constantly listening to and reporting on what’s happening in the corporate world 24/7.

Confidence scoring

Around our office, you’ll hear this phrase all over the halls: “no data is bad, but bad data is worse.” At Foundry, we won’t give bad data. We only pass along IP data we are confident about. We have a complex system that produces a confidence score, which measures how confident we are that a certain IP address is in use by a specific company. 

Moving beyond public IP address data and elevating your business intelligence can significantly enhance the effectiveness of your campaigns and increase revenue generation at all stages of the funnel. However, when choosing an IP data vendor, picking the right one can mean the difference between success and failure. 

[Originally published on kickfire.com]

Ready to see how Foundry Intent, our all-in-one platform, captures buying behavior where it happens, at the contact level?