In 2023, third-party cookies are going away, whether hotel marketers like it or not.
This is a fundamental shift away from a 30-year-old technique that marketers have relied on to track potential travelers across sites. In our last article, we discussed the cookie, how a cookieless world will impact marketing strategies, and why first-party data and people-based marketing strategies are so important for future success.
Capturing first-party data is critical to a cookieless strategy, but marketers can’t just collect that data, they must properly activate it.
Here’s a breakdown of first-party data, why you need it, and how you can activate it to create personalised experiences, increase brand loyalty and capture direct bookings.
Future success starts with data collection
Collecting the right data is key to building a full-funnel advertising plan and creating deeper connections with guests. Unlike third-party cookies, first-party data isn’t anonymous, which makes it an incredibly powerful tool for understanding traveler behavior and creating campaigns that deliver the right message at the right time.
Hashed emails, first-party cookie IDs and historical booking data are all types of first-party data that work in tandem to paint a complete picture of the traveler and their journey. Let’s do a deeper dive into each and highlight ways to use this data to create successfully cookieless campaigns.
Connecting online and offline with hashed emails
In an anonymous world, cookies are essential. But today, a significant portion of a consumer’s time is spent in a logged-in environment.
They log in using their email addresses, which act as their digital passport to make online purchases, such as making hotel bookings. While cookies can be helpful in a logged-in environment, other ID approaches, including hashed emails, are more accurate and aligned with consumers’ desire for consent and control. The key is finding ways to connect with users in those authenticated places.
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A hashed email uses an algorithm to convert an email into a unique, unrecognizable jumble of characters in order to identify and target travelers online. For example, after hashing “Dave@Sojern.com,” the algorithm would change it to an unrecognizable string of characters such as “d7984b9599199b83cc213f19cb2906d2.”
Hashing an email turns a unique email into a pseudonymized string of characters that enables hoteliers to continue targeting effectively without third-party cookies. They also respect client privacy without sacrificing accuracy.
Hashed emails are the new addressable identifier for a traveler, allowing marketers to connect online and offline activity and communicate with them across all devices. A hashed email can be collected a few ways, but the primary way is to prompt a login on your website or after a traveler completes a booking on the hotel website.
Then, as that traveler visits other websites, marketers can target them across the customer journey using their hashed email instead of cookies. Marketers can incentivize travelers to provide emails through methods such as loyalty programs, and then use that information to deliver personalized experiences.
Goodbye third-party cookies, hello first-party cookie IDs
A first-party cookie is an ID that hotel marketers, as the owner of the brand website, store and manage. These cookies are what allow visitors to use the hotel website without relogging in on every visit. They aid in collecting data, remembering language settings, and overall ensure that travelers have a personalized website experience.
Just like hashed emails, first-party cookie IDs are unique. These IDs can be shared with marketing partners to match travelers’ onsite activity to their hashed emails, which can enhance campaign performance. The big value of a first-party cookie is that once it is captured and associated with the hashed email, that partner can identify when a traveler has visited the hotel site without them ever having to log in or complete a purchase again. This enables marketers to use hashed emails to retarget travelers who have visited the site.
Leveraging historical booking data
The third key dataset marketers need in a cookieless world is historical booking data. This is data hotel marketers collect in CRM or other systems, including past stays or amenities booked. Historical booking data also incorporates offline booking data into the mix, such as agents at a desk, call center or walk-ins, creating more robust traveler profiles. Using past stay history and a database of guest profiles, hotels can segment their list and send promotions to smaller targeted groups of travelers, which can capture more bookings and reduce the number of people who unsubscribe from marketing promotions.
While most CRMs allow hoteliers to score their guests on recency, frequency and monetary spend, some systems allow hoteliers to perform advanced segmentation, like cancellation percentage and upsell conversion rates. This information enables marketers to send deeply targeted promotions, such as to travelers within a 100-mile geographic radius who haven’t visited in six months but rarely cancel their bookings and always purchase breakfast. These types of personalized offers not only increase conversions, they build brand loyalty.
Sharing historical booking data from CRM systems with partners can also enrich campaign performance. When coupled with hashed emails and first-party cookie information, partners can use historical booking data to further enhance traveler profiles for more effective targeting.
Collecting and activating the right data is key for cookieless success. Together, hashed emails, first-party cookie IDs and historical booking data form the three pillars of data marketers need to create effective campaigns.