Jan 24 2024
Eric Nelson

Cookieless Advertising for Restaurant & Dining Marketers


We hate to say “restaurant and dining” in the same breath as “cookies going away”… but at least it’s only the third-party kind of cookies, right? We know—that’s not much consolation, given the critical role third-party cookies have historically played in digital advertising functions. But Google Chrome’s cookie deprecation isn’t the only force pushing digital advertisers towards a privacy-first approach: marketing teams have already had to deal with signal loss in recent years due to factors like the uptick in digital advertising regulation, Apple’s App Transparency, and consumer demands for data privacy.

In 2024, however, the pressure will really be on for industry marketers to implement privacy-friendly solutions that not only identify, target, and convert potential or repeat diners at key decision-making moments, but also make up for the attribution capabilities enabled by third-party cookies. Moreover, marketing teams will need to maintain the personalization that consumers crave.

To help advertisers find their footing this year, we called on restaurant and dining marketing expert Vanessa Allen, Basis VP of Integrated Client Solutions. Read on for her insights into navigating the cookieless landscape, as well as her top recommendations for cookieless advertising solutions that can turn prospects into customers and visitors into regulars.

What’s your top piece of advice for restaurant and dining advertisers going into the cookieless future?

Vanessa Allen: In today’s digital age, cookie deprecation and signal loss are leading to an eroding internet-based identity. To mitigate this, my top piece of advice for marketers going into the cookieless future is to prioritize the collection and use of first-party data in a compliant, privacy-friendly way. The good news is, the restaurant and dining industry has several consumer touchpoints where businesses can collect first-party data: point-of-sale systems for transaction data, loyalty platforms for behavior and interest tracking, and reservation systems for timing and frequency of visits. Marketers can then use a customer data platform (CDP) like LiveRamp to turn that data into audience segments for ad targeting and to find lookalikes of existing customers.

What cookieless marketing solutions are particularly useful for restaurant and dining advertisers?

VA: In addition to first-party data, there are quite a few cookieless and identity-friendly strategies available for restaurant and dining marketers.

Contextual targeting provides a great opportunity to capitalize on clear customer signals. For instance, the person reading a blog post about the best restaurants in Denver will get value from seeing ads for dining options in Colorado’s capital, and the aspiring cook reviewing online pasta recipes might be convinced to order in from the Italian restaurant advertising its delivery options. Contextual targeting can be especially effective for lower-funnel activities: There’s a lot of intent behind researching menus and reviews, as people are viewing that content at or near the moment of decision. Another benefit of contextual advertising is that it tends to be less expensive to deploy programmatically than other solutions, but still allows marketers to measure lower-funnel metrics—like cost per acquisition to generate orders for fast-casual or quick-serve restaurants, or cost per landing page view for fine dining.

Geotargeting a relevant location is another cookieless solution that is ideal for prospecting, as it can make locals and travelers aware of nearby food and drink options. It can even cause a change in buying behavior, as advertisers can geofence their competition and advertise on their customers’ phones. For example, the coffee lover who’s in line at a coffee shop could see a geofenced mobile ad for a discounted drink across the street, which could potentially intercept that sale.

Attribution is going to change, too, once the third-party cookie is gone, but there are solutions when all the stakeholders learn how to work together. For instance, businesses can share sales data with their advertising partners, and with the right formatting and FTP setup, that sales data can blend nicely with ad campaign data in the same dashboard to show how advertising efforts are influencing sales.

Could you provide some specific examples of how restaurant and dining advertisers might approach the cookieless future?

VA: Let’s take a fast-casual restaurant as the first example. To collect and activate their first-party data effectively, they can collect data at the time of purchase and send it into a CRM. That data can then be activated strategically based on dining behaviors—for example, fast-casual customers aren’t likely to dine there again for about a week, so they can be put into a seven-day lookback window. They aren’t targeted programmatically or on social media until a week after their last purchase, which ensures budget is spent efficiently. When they see your ads a week later, they’re ready to buy again.

Next, let’s look at a fine dining restaurant. A marketer for this kind of business can generate awareness with location targeting, which reduces reliance on cookies, and Census data, which can show customer affinity for these restaurants. Contextual targeting is also effective for finding people researching tentpole events like Valentine’s Day, Mother’s Day, graduations, and other times when people might spend more money on a nice dinner out. If some of that research happens on more premium websites, a private marketplace deal can use a certified publisher’s first-party data to create interest with the right audience. For a cookieless attribution method, advertisers can measure cost per booking, including calls, which are also prominent in search ads, or online reservations, which are often two of the biggest success signals. Then, retargeting can kick in, with longer lookback windows of around 21 days or 30 days, since most people aren’t dropping $200 on fine dining takeout once a week.

Wrapping Up: Cookieless Advertising for Restaurant and Dining Marketers

The loss of cookies in Chrome means that the need for restaurant and dining marketers to adopt privacy-first advertising will reach a boiling point in 2024. By collecting and activating first-party data and leveraging privacy-friendly media tactics such as contextual and geotargeting, and by using the examples outlined above to tailor their strategies to specific businesses, industry marketers can place themselves at the head of the table.

Want to learn more about the state of identity in 2024? We surveyed over 200 marketing and advertising professionals to discover how they’re navigating signal loss, third-party cookie deprecation, and the shift towards privacy-first digital advertising. Check out all the latest data and insights in our in-depth report.

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