Preparing for a Future Without Third Party Cookies
December 2021 Article Update: Google plans to delay by more than a year its plan to block third-party cookies from within its Chrome browser. Google announced in June 2021 an extended timeline for its cookieless changes, saying they will begin in late 2022. During that period, publishers, advertisers and adtech vendors can migrate their services to work with new technologies. The next stage is the cookie phase-out, expected to start mid-2023 and finish later that year.
Cookies have been a part of online existence, pretty much since its inception, so most users barely think about them anymore. Marketers, however, have relied on both first- and third-party cookies to collect data, tailor advertisements and better understand the consumer’s user experience on a daily basis. So, on January 20, 2020 when Google announced plans to phase out third-party cookies within the next two years on Chrome, it caused quite the stir. Because the Safari and Firefox browsers have already blocked third-party cookies, by 2022 nearly 100% of the internet will be third-party cookie free.
Of course, this decision will force some necessary changes across the industry. This will include how information is obtained, experiences are personalized and how display advertising is tailored moving forward.
What does this mean for marketers and the future of collecting information?
What Are Cookies and How Do We Use Them Today?
Third Party Cookies
Third-party cookies are small text files stored on a browser directory initiated by domains other than the one a user is visiting. They are used to track user behavior for online advertising purposes or to allow websites to provide outside services, like live chats. For example, if a user was visiting yourwebsite.com, ad.doubleclick.net will create a third-party cookie to track the user’s session. There are a few ways that marketers use third-party cookies to understand user behavior.
- Behavioral targeting
Are third-party cookies bad? In a word, no. These cookies collect data that make it possible to tailor marketing to the user, automatically auto-populate forms and re-engage users later. However, as they are gradually phased out, it’s time to use different methods to understand user behavior. However, for those who diligently protect their online privacy, third-party cookies may seem like an invasion.
First Party Cookies
First-party cookies are created by the domain a user is currently visiting, also called the host domain. These cookies provide a better user experience by remembering key information including usernames, passwords, preferences and site behavior. Because a first-party cookie is created by the host website, they are usually considered less intrusive.
With the phase out of third-party cookies, marketers must rely more heavily on the data relayed by first-party cookies. By leveraging information on visits, interactions, and session length, effective marketing strategies can still be developed, but the ability to track a user’s behavior elsewhere will be lost.
4 Ways Marketers Can Prepare for a Future Without Third-Party Cookies
With third-party cookies on their way out the door, what can marketers do to prepare? It’s time to get creative and explore new ways to personalize experiences precisely tailored to the consumer.
1. Prepping for Prospecting
As third-party cookies start the process of phasing out altogether, the audiences will start getting smaller until there’s no data available to initiate media buying activities. This means advertisers must rely more heavily on other tactics to develop prospecting strategies.
Using data capturing mechanisms will ensure that there is robust information available for targeting and personalization for users who have already engaged with your brand. Also, many sites, like Google and Facebook will continue to deliver audience data through media buying platforms through first party cookies.
2. Rethinking Retargeting
We’re used to the concept of ads from a site that was just visited following us to the next site. But, without the ability to use backend embed code to drop cookies onto a visitor’s browser, it will be more difficult to retarget a user when they leave one site and move on to another.
It will be more important than ever to establish and maintain trusted relationships with users through consumer-provided information, rather than using tracking data. This information will also be valuable in developing lookalike audiences to use contextual targeting. Opportunities like device recognition and algorithmic retargeting are on the horizon, but we’re not there yet.
3. Meaningful Measurement
With third-party cookies in the rear view, measuring conversions will become more difficult. Specifically, multi touch attribution, view-through conversions and post impression/click activity will no longer exist without a unified tracking solution. Without access to this tracking data, ad exposure and the site action it spurs will be tough to calculate.
Instead, the system of measuring conversions will need to evolve to meet the new limitations. It is likely that models of measurement will move to lift studies and revert to last-click metrics at first, until KPIs are adjusted to fit the new system.
4. Purposeful Data Collection
If the focus pivots toward first-party data, how does a marketer collect and integrate this data? First, it’s important to understand the local data regulations. It will be essential to not only become familiar with these rules, but also diligently enforce adherence across the board. Next, build your first-party data pool in a fair and transparent way, so users consent to giving up the user data you’re collecting. Third, consider innovative collection methods by having genuine interactions with customers. Establishing meaningful relationships are more important than ever to truly understand a user.
Next Steps to Prepare for a Future Without Third Party Cookies
As third-party cookies are being phased out of the system, the opportunity for growth is larger than ever. With ample time to anticipate challenges and build out innovative solutions, now is the time to start planning. Partner with Noble Studios to develop a digital marketing strategy that will excel even without the existence of third-party cookies.
A cookie-less future may seem daunting, but it gives marketers an opportunity to provide more personalized experiences while safeguarding consumer privacy. Let’s navigate towards creating these meaningful relationships together.