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The End of Third-Party Cookies Will Hit Independent Hotel Owners Hard. Get Ready Now.

The End of Third-Party Cookies Will Hit Independent Hotel Owners Hard. Get Ready Now.

Brian Fitzgerald
Brian Fitzgerald April 24, 2024
The End of Third-Party Cookies Will Hit Independent Hotel Owners Hard. Get Ready Now.

The days of relying on third-party cookies to attract and book prospective guests, track conversion data, and gauge ROI for your advertising campaigns are coming to a close. The time to prepare for a cookieless future is now. Google already has phased out third-party cookies for 1% of its Chrome users.

For independent hotel owners — as well as mid-size and smaller hotel chains — the demise of third-party cookies will be extra challenging. But there are steps you can take to soften the blow, including a renewed focus on your website, investing in first-party data, and some alternative data collection and conversion methods. 

Let’s look at why third-party cookies are getting phased out, as well as what you can do to continue tracking and nurturing your future guests to get the most out of your hospitality marketing dollar. 

It’s Real This Time: Third-Party Cookies Are Going Away

For years Google officials have warned about the coming death of third-party cookies. The end of third-party cookies poses a particular challenge for independent hotel owners, who have relied on this technology to track user behavior and target potential guests. 

3 Challenges of Marketing Your Independent Hotel Without Third-Party Cookies 

Without the ability to leverage third-party cookies, you can expect to face several key obstacles:

  1. Reduced targeted advertising capabilities. Third-party cookies have allowed independent hotels to target ads to users based on their browsing history and interests across the web. As this capability disappears, you will need to find new ways to reach and attract potential guests who aren’t already seeking your specific brand.
  2. Difficulty measuring marketing effectiveness. Third-party cookies have provided valuable data on ad engagement, conversion rates, and your customer’s journey. Losing this insight will make it harder for you to understand which marketing tactics are working and how to optimize them.
  3. Increased reliance on first-party data. Without the ability to leverage third-party data, you’ll need to focus on collecting and leveraging your own first-party customer data through tactics like email sign-ups, loyalty programs, and direct bookings. This requires significant investment and a shift in strategy.

The challenges are real, but making plans now to adapt to post-third-party-cookie life will give you the best chance to continue seeing returns on your marketing strategy. 

Barely a Bump in the Road for Big Hotel Chains

While Google frequently cites government regulations and user privacy concerns as its reasons for dropping third-party cookies, the fact is the company no longer needs them. It has the world’s largest first-party database and, along with Facebook, commands more than 50 percent of global ad spending.

It’s a similar situation for the Marriotts, Hiltons, and Hyatts of the world. The loss of third-party cookies will barely register for them since they have already collected massive amounts of first-party data through their hundreds of millions of hospitality and rewards membership rosters.

But smaller, independent chains don’t have the luxury of leaning on such large customer bases. That means you have to be diligent about how you manage the information you’ve already collected and explore ways to gather more valuable data on prospective customers.

So How Can Independent Hotels Thrive in a Digital Landscape Without Third-Party Cookies?

To overcome these challenges, you need to focus on building your own first-party data assets and leveraging emerging cookieless targeting solutions. This includes:

  • Enhancing your website experience. Ensure your hotel’s website provides a seamless, personalized experience that encourages direct bookings and captures first-party data. We developed our Guest Experience design methodology specifically to address this challenge. 
  • Prioritizing email marketing and CRM. Build a robust email list and customer relationship management (CRM) system to nurture your leads and stay connected with past guests. Offer incentives for prospective guests to sign up and share their information.
  • Leveraging contextual advertising. Instead of relying on behavioral targeting, consider advertising options that allow you to reach users based on the content they’re consuming, rather than their personal data.

Collaborating with industry partners. Explore opportunities to pool first-party data and leverage shared insights with other independent hotels or industry associations. Creative collaboration can help offset the loss of third-party data.

“Alternative Data” May Provide an Alternative 

Without the ability to capture data from third-party cookies, you need to consider other avenues for gathering information you can use to hone your marketing strategy. 

One area to consider is “alternative data,” a research method long used by the investment and hedge fund industries to get a leg up on competitors who were still using traditional data such as quarterly reports, company statements, and other publicly available data. 

Alternative data is anything outside those traditional sources, including the internet, mobile app data, credit card transactions, satellite imagery and so on. The emergence of AI technology has made it easier to layer tools on top of this alternative data to gain new insights into consumer behavior.

While it’s still gaining traction in other industries, alternative data is expected to increase dramatically, with one Deloitte study predicting that it will reach $137 billion by 2030, roughly 30 times its size today. For the hospitality industry, alternative data could provide a viable new resource for creating targeted advertising, such as:

Geospatial data

  • Analyze foot traffic patterns, demographic information, and points of interest around hotels, restaurants, and other hospitality venues. 
  • Use this data to identify high-traffic areas, popular destinations, and potential customer segments to target with location-based advertising.

Social media data

  • Monitor social media conversations, reviews, and user-generated content related to the hospitality industry.
  • Identify trends, sentiment, and preferences that can inform the development of targeted marketing messages and campaigns.
  • Leverage influencer marketing by partnering with relevant social media personalities to reach specific audience segments.

Online booking and transaction data

  • Analyze booking patterns, guest preferences, and spending habits to create personalized offers and recommendations.
  • Use this data to retarget potential customers who have previously interacted with your brand or shown interest in similar offerings.

Weather and environmental data

  • Incorporate real-time weather information, seasonal trends, and environmental factors (e.g., events, festivals) into advertising campaigns.
  • Tailor your messaging and promotions to match the current or anticipated conditions, creating a more relevant and timely experience for customers.

Competitor and market intelligence

  • Monitor the activities, pricing, and promotions of your competitors in the hospitality industry.
  • Use this data to identify market gaps, pricing opportunities, and potential areas for differentiation in advertising campaigns.

Internet of Things (IoT) data

  • Leverage data from connected devices, such as smart hotel rooms or in-venue sensors, to gain insights into your customers’ behavior and preferences.
  • Use this information to personalize the guest experience and create targeted advertising campaigns that address specific needs or pain points.

By integrating and analyzing alternative data sources, you can develop a more comprehensive understanding of your audience, their preferences, and their behavior. This can enable you to develop effective advertising campaigns that resonate with customers and drive increased engagement and conversions.

Positioning Your Hotel to Thrive in a Post-Third-Party-Cookie World

The end of third-party cookies is a tough blow for independent hotel owners. But if you can adapt your strategies, including a more user-friendly website and customer journey plus a renewed focus on building robust first-party data, you can still position yourself to thrive.

If you’d like to hear more about how O’Rourke is advising independent hotel owners on post-third-party-cookie strategies, we’d love to hear from you.