This month Google announced it was removing its support of third-party cookies for Chrome users. Why is Google doing this? Not purely out of user privacy concerns and government regulations. The search engine giant simply no longer needs third-party cookies since it already has the largest first-party database in the world and, together with Facebook, already controls more than 50% of advertising spend worldwide.

Google and Facebook have built humongous “walled gardens” with billions and billions of logged in users and their first-party data and they know exactly who their customers are.

What does the elimination of third-party cookies mean for hotel marketers?

The privacy moves by Google, Firefox and Apple, as well as government privacy regulations like EU’s GDPR and California’s CCPA underscore the importance of first-party data, which allows hotel marketers to establish direct relationships with their potential, past, present and future customers.

Will the elimination of third-party cookies affect the major hotel chains like Marriott with its Everest-sized first party data derived from its 192 million loyalty membership? Or Expedia with their 185 million reward members? Hardly.

So who will be the biggest losers from the elimination of third-party cookies? Independent hotels, midsize and smaller hotel brands and chains that do not have well-structured, well-centralized first-party data and the technology to manage and utilize it across the organization, including in marketing, customer service, operations, and revenue management.

First-party data in hospitality is the customer data (past guests, website users, opt-in email subscribers, lists of corporate travel managers, meeting planners, wedding and event planners, SMERF group leaders the property has been doing business with or at least in communications with, etc.) that comes from the PMS, CRS, WBE, CRM program, from the property's website, opt-in email sign-ups, even customer lists sitting on laptops of sales and marketing personnel.

How do you manage your first-party data?

The answer is very simple: by investing in CRM technology and guest appreciation/reward program.

The CRM system allows the independent hotel to collect, store and manage all of the property’s first-party customer data – online and offline data - and have it cleansed, de-duped, enriched and appended automatically in real time thus creating “a single source of truth” of the customer. The CRM data feeds can be used in guest communications, guest services, CRM communications and marketing automation and drip marketing campaigns in the pre-, during- and post-stay, email marketing, personalization and digital marketing, loyalty marketing initiatives, etc. to improve dramatically the customer experience, efficiency and profitability.

Industry examples of CRM technology are Cendyn CRM, SHR Allora CRM, Revinate CRM, etc.

Max Starkov