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How Travel Marketers Can Personalize the Online Experience in a Post-Cookie World

The cookie apocalypse certainly doesn’t signal the end of digital advertising, but marketers need to find some new tech solutions for understanding their customers and targeting them with the messages that are most relevant to them.
a plate of chocolate chip cookies

Third-party cookies used to be the primary way travel and hospitality companies collected the consumer data they need to deliver targeted ads and personalize customer experiences online. These little data packets track users’ activity across the web and give e-commerce businesses and marketing teams insights on what consumers are browsing and buying, along with when and where. When a consumer visits a website for the first time, a third party can place a cookie file on the person’s device and when the user returns to that site, their browser sends the cookie to a server, allowing companies to use the data to personalize the user’s browsing experience.

But the ability to track individuals’ online activity over time spurred privacy concerns among both consumers and regulators, eventually leading Apple, Mozilla and Google to announce they would stop automatically allowing the use of third-party cookies in their browsers—a move that would eventually lead to 'the cookie apocalypse.'


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The demise of the third-party cookie leaves the travel industry without one of the best tools it has had to ensure online ads reach their intended target audiences and achieve their intended results as well as guarantee that the entire online journey through checkout and post-purchase is personalized for users. Although cookie trackers could never follow consumers across different devices, they helped ensure that companies could present ads for a five-day trek across Iceland to those travelers most likely to be interested in such an adventure, while presenting those looking for a long, leisurely weekend in Aruba with the offers that were most relevant to them.

The cookie apocalypse certainly doesn’t signal the end of digital advertising for travel and hospitality companies, but it does mean that marketers need to find some new tech solutions for understanding their customers and targeting them with the messages that are most relevant to them personally.

The Death of the Cookie = Less Relevant Offers

Although Google announced last year that it would delay eliminating the use of third-party cookies in its Chrome browser until late 2023, Apple first blocked them by default in Safari in 2020 and Mozilla prevented cookies from tracking users from site to site beginning in 2021.

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The European Union moved even earlier to protect consumers’ privacy, enacting the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) way back in 2018. The GDPR requires that websites accessible in Europe clearly share their privacy policy and allow users to reject or accept cookies. In the US, the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) gives Californians a way to know what personal data companies are collecting on them as they travel the web. The law also enables consumers in the state to prevent companies from selling their personal information and even force them to delete it in certain instances.

For travel companies, these corporate policies and regulations make it much more difficult to link purchases directly to individuals in order to target them with relevant messaging and track other metrics like cost per acquisition and ad spend ROI.

The good news is that many consumers seem to value the level of personalization that third-party cookies provide and are choosing to accept them by clicking a button in the “cookie banner” that now appears on most sites the first time a user visits. But even though the death of the cookie hasn’t proved as apocalyptic as many once feared, marketers that have long relied on third-party cookie data to inform their business decisions are now adding new tools to their kits to ensure they can understand what their customers want and build stronger relationships with them.

Post-Cookie Strategies

Here are some of the ways travel and hospitality companies can ensure they still capture the information they need to create winning strategies and personalize the customer experience:

·             Gather and leverage first-party data: Plenty of consumers are willing to log in, subscribe to receive content or identify themselves in other ways in exchange for a more personalized experience. There are data technology solutions available that leverage the personal details consumers choose to share and rely on a single, persistent customer identity, such as an email address, to deliver more insights to marketers. Travel companies can then use the insights to segment and target customers, while also measuring the effectiveness of their marketing spend.

·             Supercharge the loyalty program: Consider rewarding customers with loyalty points or discounts when they respond to questions or complete surveys that provide insights into their travel and hospitality needs and preferences. Fun, interactive experiences that keep consumers in control of their own privacy can be rich sources of data insights and drive engagement long term.

·             Focus more on contextual ads: These ads relate specifically to the content on a particular web page and can be a useful tool for travel companies. The risk with contextual ads is that too many of them can clutter a page and annoy consumers looking to immerse themselves in specific content, like travelogues, photo albums and local restaurant reviews.

The death of the third-party cookie means travel companies will need to find ways to capture and leverage first-party data from consumers. For many in the industry, that will include shifting ad spending away from social media sites and toward digital marketing and ad tech partners that specialize in gathering the kinds of data that help travel companies better understand their customers and target them with personally relevant messages and experiences.

About the Author 

Holly Aresty is  Deputy Chief Commercial Officer at Rokt. Aresty leads and executes the strategy for Rokt’s global account management teams. She started her career at Rokt as a Commercial Director, based in the Los Angeles office.  Holly subsequently led the account team for Rokt’s global Ticketing clients before moving into SVP of Customer Success, and then Deputy Chief Commercial Officer. Prior to joining Rokt, Holly spent her career in the fast-paced startup world of early-stage tech businesses in Los Angeles. Don’t let the American accent fool you, Holly was actually born in Sydney and has dual Australian-American citizenship 

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