The death of implicit consent

The death of cookies makes most users anonymous. If you don't want to break marketing, users need to log in. A new opportunity for loyalty and rewards.

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What do AdTech and one-hit wonder pop star Ashlee Simpson have in common?

They are entirely based on pieces of me. Ashlee Simpson’s Pieces of Me peaked near the top of the pop charts in 2004. AdTech takes pieces of me from my activity all over the internet and uses this to infer and make best guesses about who I am and what I like, buying and repackaging and reselling this data over and over again, all because of implicit consent.

Nobody has heard from Ashlee Simpson since 2004. After 2024, nobody will hear from implicit consent.

The current state of implicit consent

For at least the last decade, implicit consent has driven personalization on the internet. It’s powered advertising and first party personalization like search and site optimizations for relevance.

As a simple example of implicit consent, when I access a website, “pieces of me” – a bunch of information from my browser is visible to the website.  These things include their IP address, screen size, browser version, and cookie identifiers websites or identity resolution providers may have placed on my browser.

In 2017 LiveRamp marketed site optimization without requiring a login.

So when I visit a website, it shares these pieces with an identity resolution provider like Acxiom or Epsilon. These companies track personally identifiable information and behavioral data for nearly every American. That is, while the website only has a few pieces of me, the identity resolution provider has A LOT of pieces of me. Even purchases and browsing activity. The identity resolution provider matches the website’s pieces to its database of Americans and returns an identifier. They’ll often also share insights on my purchases and browsing through an enterprise CDP.

How does the identity resolution provider have all this data? I don’t even know them.

They have it because at some point or another I agreed to use some services whose terms allowed the sale of my data to the data aggregators who then sell it back to all the brands via identity resolution and CDP enrichment.

So when I go to a website without logging in – ostensibly anonymously?? – the website is able to identify the pieces of me and then associate all my activities on their site to this identifier (e.g., with a CDP), all without me having to do anything.

In some ways – this is great!  I get a better experience all frictionlessly.  I don’t have to do anything and instantly every site I visit that uses one of these services can ship a better experience. This has been a core selling point of identity resolution providers. Optimize without requiring a login – pretty cool!

On the other hand, the cookie is going away. Identity resolution providers don’t need the cookie to identify users – they can use IP address, screen size and browser information like type or version.  But soon IP addresses will no longer be visible to websites.

Identity is the cornerstone of marketing and advertising technologies like CDPs. The final Jenga blocks in the tower are getting pulled.

So what's a brand to do?

First, one of the emerging trends is simply asking consumers to log in and identify themselves. At Crosshatch, we expect this pattern to continue as an early attempt by brands to solicit more explicit consent and to collect more data as first-party and owned by the brands.

We can see this pattern emerging with, Zillow, Trip Advisor and Bloomingdales, all prompting site users to sign in and validate their identities upon visiting the respective sites.

Major B2C corporates in travel, real estate and retail now ask users to log in or download the app to get a consistent user identity.

Second, we see many brands considering building out and adding more robust experiences and features to their existing Loyalty & Rewards apps and site features. Although some brands live and die by their L&R programs, for many brand L&R programs have over the past few years taken a back seat to customer acquisition efforts meant to acquire new customers.

In 2024, we expect most forward-thinking brands to reevaluate the untapped goldmines of Loyalty & Rewards programs, and invest more heavily in building experiences for repeat consumers.

The experiences we’re most excited about? Those using AI. The rise of AI offers brands incredible opportunities to create more dynamic and relevant experiences that anticipate consumer needs. The more context AI has about a customer the better it can serve customers. Consumers never consented to being tracked by data aggregators.

How does Crosshatch fit in?

Crosshatch is the digital wallet for consumers to explicitly share data with the brands they like, while maintaining safety and removing implicit consent altogether from the equation. If the deprecation of cookies requires the effort of log in, we believe that log-in should 10x the experiences from before – should deliver 10x personalization. We believe in consumers having one-to-one relationships with the brands they love instead of having one-to-many relationships brands simply buying and resharing consumer data over and over again.

We are taking on early design partners and speaking with marketers, developers, and partnerships teams across the market. We’d love to hear your thoughts.

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