Cookie Apocalypse: Steps to prep your Dealership

Has your dealership data and marketing strategy been thrown into confusion by any of these statements recently?

“It’s a cookie apocalypse.” “Digital marketing won’t survive the cookie crumble.”

Any data and digital marketing vendor worth its salt has seen this day — where consumer privacy moves into the driver’s seat — coming. Safari and Firefox cut ties with third party cookies years ago. Now, that the day is in sight (early 2022) when the big guy (Chrome) will follow suit, many dealers are starting to pay attention. Add in the full rollout of California’s Consumer Privacy Act, and (non-California) dealers are now anticipating when similar legislation will expand to them.

The trouble is not that dealers are waking up to this reality. It’s that this heightened awareness is surrounded by rhetoric which inflates what is a necessary sense of urgency. Urgency is fine, but it’s important we don’t confuse urgency with panic.

I can understand how a dealer who doesn’t think about this every day might be caught in the space in between. People like me, who are fixated on helping dealers maximize their opportunities with consumers through online data and digital marketing, have been thinking about and planning for this for years. We have been looking ahead, proactively addressing privacy and building solutions for digital advertising, targeting and attribution on foundations that do not crumble when the cookie does.

The truth is the deprecation of the cookie does require changes for your dealership and you DO need to make preparations. But we are not facing an apocalypse, as some vendors might say.

There is more to cover on this topic than one article can address, but you must start somewhere. So, let’s back away from the panic button and walk through three steps your dealership can take right now.

1. Push the accelerator on your first party data collection, specifically email addresses

I’m not going to hit you with tech speak, but I am happy to unpack it with you one on one. Suffice it to say, there are ways to identify consumers for 1:1 marketing that are derived from an email address. At Client Command, we proactively built a solution that is not reliant on the 3rd party cookie to be effective in the digital space. The reality is most dealerships have been relying on cookies for their ability to re-target online shoppers and are now playing catch-up. We’ll dig into partners in a minute, but for now, let’s stay focused.

What’s a major thing you can be doing? Double down on email. I know it’s a challenge getting sales teams and service advisors to input data into the CRM. However, the cost of updating those email addresses goes up every day. Every year, 1 in 3 people change their email address. Not only that, most consumers have more than 3 email addresses at any one time. These are data connection points which will drive efficiency when the cookie crumbles. And I don’t have to tell you that 30% or more of DMS or CRM data is inaccurate or incomplete. Moral of the story: If you are not already, build systems (and incentives) for your teams to update and gather as many current email addresses for your customers as possible.

2. Get a partner entrenched in data privacy and identity resolution

The rate of change in data privacy regulations and how providers are responding is consistently accelerating. This is bad news for any marketing, advertising or data vendor with solutions that are 100% reliant on 3rd party data. It is especially concerning for vendors who are relying on 3rd party data to reach those who have never done business with your dealership. Why? Their solutions were built to meet a standard for a specific time in history and they are likely scrambling to figure out what’s next.

Sounds easy to fix, right? This is where it gets muddy. Not all vendors are transparent about the data they use and where it is sourced. You must dig in and understand if they use 1st party data. And if the answer is yes, you must find out if that 1st party data comes exclusively from your dealership. If that answer is also yes, we’ll get to that in the next section.

If they have other 1st party data sources, that’s good news for you. Partners entrenched in data privacy and identity resolution have been proactively working towards today’s reality for years. These are partners equipped to serve you and a consumer’s best interest now — and they are already innovating to remain ahead of the changing landscape.

3. Resist the urge to make dramatic overhauls of your digital spend

Chances are, you are working with at least one marketing vendor who is relying 100% on tactics which utilize data provided by 3rd party cookies. Put your attention here. Start by asking each of your vendors and assessing each of your tactics through the lens – what data makes this work? If the marketing is dependent on 3rd party cookie data to be effective, begin to wean yourself off now. Direct that investment towards partners and digital strategies that are using first party data.


If you feel as though we barely scratched the surface of the conversation, you are right. And I agree. My goal here is to offer a starting line for those trying to discern where to start. Saying goodbye to the 3rd party cookie does require changes for your dealership. The key is to not hit the panic button but take measured and intentional steps now. After all, every day you wait, you fall farther behind in your ability to shape your dealership’s future.

Schedule a demo today.

Give us 15 minutes of your time and we will show you how to engage with real shoppers as soon as they enter the market.

See firsthand:

  • How many people are actively shopping for a vehicle or looking to schedule service right now

  • How to reach them with highly efficient 1:1 marketing

  • How to drive more sales in less time with 27:1 ROI

Start building your audience today.

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