"Most companies need to completely rethink"

As Senior Sales Lead for Adobe's Experience Platform, Markus Erwin knows a thing or two about managing customer experiences. In an interview with Werbewoche.ch, he explains why this must now function practically in real time - and how the end of third-party cookies could impact the marketing and CXM sector.

Werbewoche.ch: Markus Erwin, there is so much upheaval in digital marketing in general - and in customer experience management in particular - that I hardly know where to start with my questions. Let's perhaps start with the much-discussed end of third-party cookies in Switzerland, which we are facing in 2024: What does that mean for marketing and CXM?

Markus Erwin: Well, this is such an extensive topic, I could talk about it until this evening. (laughs). But I'll try to be brief. The days of just sitting back and saying, "We'll see where the journey takes us" ... those days are definitely over. The end of third-party cookies will herald a paradigm shift in digital marketing and customer experience management. Anyone who does not seriously address the issue now will hardly be able to act professionally and in a structured manner in the aforementioned areas in about a year's time. This is not an exaggeration or a dramatization - it is simply a fact. Targeting without cookies would then still work via large tech companies; but there would always be "gatekeepers" in between who want to promote and sell their own solutions.


Can you use an example to make this easier to understand?

Let's assume you are responsible for a sporting goods brand such as Nike, Adidas or Puma. You already have an enormous level of awareness and potential customers visit your online presence "on their own". But: Everything that people "do" anonymously there after the end of third-party cookies - i.e., what they search for, what they click on, where they spend their time - can no longer be used by you as a brand manager to generate campaigns across other domains. Retargeting as we know it today will then be passé. Incidentally, this is not only a problem for the companies themselves - but also for publishers who create space for automatically generated advertising in their articles. After all, on what basis will this advertising be adapted to the user's behavior if there are no more third-party cookies?


Is there a solution?

In my opinion, there are various strategies to counter the problems mentioned. First of all, most companies have to completely rethink and prioritize first party cookies - in other words, adapt the customer experience to the behavior of users in real time, as long as they are still on their own online presence. The goal must no longer be to retrieve traffic via other domains or to buy via gatekeepers, but to fall back on existing first party data. This requires agile customer experience management that keeps people voluntarily on the online presence. If customers notice that a website always personalizes itself and offers them the things they are most interested in after a few seconds, they are more likely to buy the product. Or, even without retargeting, they'll remember the experience and come back for more. That's one strategy.


What else can you do?

Partnerships will become enormously important, for example with publishers. Since the value of their advertising inventory will drop enormously with the end of third-party cookies, they have an interest in offering at least a certain degree of personalization for their clients. They have login structures for their users, so they know them. What belongs together must come together, and new advertising products must be developed that are tailored to the logged-in users.


You yourself just said that time is pressing - and that some things are not even being talked about yet. Are companies sufficiently aware of what is coming?

I believe that the awareness that a massive disruption is imminent is given. At least among those who deal with the topic of third party cookies, marketing and CXM - even if only very rudimentarily. Most companies also know "that they have to do something". But what exactly? There is often still a need for explanation. We have many conversations in which people ask us: "What software from Adobe do I need to solve this problem? I'm ready to buy that!" And then we have to answer, "You don't need our software until you redesign your entire digital customer experience management." If that doesn't happen, even the best tool is useless.


Redesigning the customer experience - This brings to mind a topic that has been making the rounds for many years. Namely, that the customer data that one already possesses should finally be properly organized, managed, and ultimately used wisely. After all, many companies are sitting on an idle "Data Treasure" ... this could now be of extraordinary importance.

I am convinced of this. Large companies, but also SMEs, have a lot of data, for example, order information, inquiries, newsletter registrations, that people have voluntarily made available to them - but it is rarely used for a holistic, centrally controlled - and above all individual - approach. For example, if you start using Adobe to organize your data - and find that it works well - you can add other campaign tools later; depending on your needs. Mailings, analytics, creative marketing solutions - the basic organized data is already there, you just need to add building blocks.


So you believe that working with platform solutions is - be it those from Adobe or from other vendors - is the key to leveraging idle data ... and thus also an effective "Antidote" for a time without third party cookies?

In the area of marketing technology, I think very highly of modular solutions. After all, who wants to pay twenty or thirty different providers for different applications and consult with each of these providers several times a year? And then these applications often can't even be combined with each other; again, you can't play out coherent and linked campaigns. That's why we recommend a continuously changeable platform adapted to individual challenges as the basis of all a company's marketing and CXM activities.


Earlier, you mentioned a certain willingness to invest on the part of potential customers with whom you have contact. Nevertheless, a new concept for the customer experience strategy and, if necessary, the implementation of a new platform solution cost a lot of time and money. Is it really worth it in the medium term?

This even pays off in the fairly short term. The return on investment is difficult to quantify directly for a project where you first sort through your customer data. You can't say, "If we clean up, it will bring us X amount of additional revenue in the next quarter." But you still have to clean up! And then also work wisely with what you have. Right data in the right channel, segmented incorrectly, will not lead to success. You will lose de facto money as a company as a result. Right data, properly channeled and segmented, but played out at the wrong time, will also mean failure and therefore loss of money. I know that - depending on the CEO's or CFO's understanding of technology - it may sometimes be difficult to justify appropriate projects. But when the machine is running, it usually becomes apparent after a very short time that sales are increasing and that data-driven marketing technology is producing a concrete ROI after all.


Can you give me examples of this as well?

Two user cases come to mind. The first is the "shopping cart abandoner," a classic: someone who has almost made a purchase decision - and then abruptly ends the process. If I understand via data what causes this person to do this and convert some of my "abandoners" into customers, I can significantly increase my sales in a very short time. Bauhaus, for example, has increased sales by using Adobe Analytics to see where customers drop off and when, and then using Adobe Target to adjust the targeting.


And the other example?

The other example takes a different perspective. Data can help me to understand which customers are currently no marketing - for example, because my MarTech platform tells me that this person has already called the hotline three times and complained. Someone like that doesn't want any advertising from me, they just want support. How many Swiss francs could be saved if every company knew who is receptive to what kind of communication.


With all the technology - will the Chief Information Officer become more important than the Chief Marketing Officer in the future?

I wouldn't subscribe to that, but: Marketers without a fundamental understanding of data will hardly rise to C-level in the corporate hierarchy in the future. While it's perfectly fine and desirable for CMOs to continue to be primarily concerned with the creative and strategic parts of advertising communications, they can't do without data-driven structures. They need to test their hypotheses; they need to see when a disproportionate number of customers drop out at some point in the process and identify why. We turn on the red lights in the engine room, so to speak, with our platform, but CMOs need to look. They don't need in-depth IT knowledge to do that. But if someone doesn't subscribe to the premise that data, its management, and its utilization are essential to the success of a campaign - then, frankly, I see black.

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