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A Cookieless Future 

Significant changes are coming!  

Support for third-party cookies is being phased out by the main internet browsers, in a move that is shaking up the world of digital marketing. 

Here is everything you need to know about the upcoming cookies, the upcoming cookie changes, and how they may impact your marketing strategy. 


What are cookies? 

Cookies are small text files placed on your computer by the websites you visit, storing information about your visit and activity, such as the pages you went to, your preferences, and a hash of your login details. 


What are third-party cookies? 

Third-party cookies are created by domains other than the one you are visiting. 

They work by embedding JavaScript from one website into another, where they accumulate data gathered between browsing sessions and map a clear picture of the user. 

Advertisers, marketers, social media platforms, and other services use third-party cookies to track online activity, e.g., which ads a user has seen, how often they have seen them, and whether they have clicked on them. 

Third-party cookies can also track a user's browsing history and build a profile of their interests to target adverts. This can be through PPC or retargeting through remarketing, with display and text ads based on the products and services the user has visited or viewed. 


What are the upcoming cookie changes? 

The most significant change is that from mid-2023, the internet's most used browser, Google Chrome, will no longer allow third-party cookies. No more Google cookies, and no more Chrome cookies means marketers will no longer be able to target individuals with personalized ads based on their browsing history. 


Why are these changes happening? 

There's been growing concern over online privacy in recent years, and the use of third-party cookies has been a flashpoint. These cookies have been used to track people silently, without their knowledge or consent, and are considered an intrusion into people's privacy. 

Security risks have also been identified, with examples of cookie-stealing Trojans enabling hackers to control victims' social media accounts, exploiting session ID cookies that social media sites use to identify users in the future, and bypassing logins. 

As a result, the advertising industry has been under increasing pressure to clean up its act. In 2019, Google followed the lead of the other most popular browsers, announcing plans to phase out third-party cookies in its Chrome browser. 

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When are these changes happening? 

Google said it would phase out third-party cookies in Chrome by mid-2023. This move follows the direction of Apple's Safari, Microsoft's Edge, and Mozilla's Firefox browsers, which already block third-party cookies. 


What impact will this have on marketing? 

There are a few key impacts that these changes will have on marketing. 

1. Reduction in personalization 

The primary function of third-party cookies is to enable targeted advertisements and personalized communication based on behavior and interests. In a cookieless future, targeting individuals with personalized ads will become more challenging, and marketers must find other ways to reach their target audiences. 


2. More first-party data collection 

There will be a shift towards first-party data. First-party data is a company's information about its customers, users, or audience, collected through website visits, purchases, events, and other forms of engagement. First-party data is valuable as it provides insight into customers' behavior and preferences and can be used to improve the customer experience, drive sales, and inform marketing strategies. When used effectively, first-party data can give organizations a competitive advantage in the marketplace. 

Some examples of first-party data include: 

  • Demographic information: age, sex, employment, education, home address, work address, IP address, location data, etc.  
  • Interests: written content, product categories, service categories, marketing content, information sources, web activity, and website searches. 
  • Engagement: marketing content engagement, email engagement, engagement analysis, engagement times. 
  • Technology: devices and browser used. 
  • History: purchase history, subscriptions, customer duration, loyalty, membership status. 
  • Social media: social platforms, account information, social interests, social engagements. 


3. Move to contextual targeting 

There will be an increase in the use of contextual targeting. Contextual targeting is a form of advertising that targets people based on the context of their current situation - for example, what they're doing, where they are, or what type of device they're using. Contextual targeting doesn't require cookies and is considered a more privacy-friendly way to target ads. 


4. Move to alternative targeting 

There will be a move towards alternative ad-tracking methods including server-side and client-side tracking. 

  • Client-side tracking records individual user behavior through JavaScript in a client's web browser. The data is highly accurate when collected, but the monitoring requires users to have JavaScript enabled, which not all users do, as ad blockers and other browser extensions often block it. 
  • Server-side tracking requires the server to send a request instead of the client. The request does not use JavaScript or come directly from a client's browser. The monitoring is less resource-intensive, more reliable, and ideal for tracking when dealing with sensitive information. 


5. The rise of second-party data 

When a company shares its first-party data as a first-party data provider, the data becomes second-party. When you purchase data from a reliable second-party source, you can be confident that the information is accurate and of high quality. It can be very costly to generate first-party data, but working with a first-party data provider, you can access similar high-quality information faster and more cost-effectively. 

Second-party data can help you reach new audiences that you may not have been able to target with your own first-party data. This can expand the reach of your marketing campaigns and help you to connect with more potential customers. Whilst also offering more valuable insights into consumer behavior, trends, and other important information that can help you to make more informed marketing decisions.


How prepared is the advertising industry for cookieless tracking? 

Many marketers are still trying to figure out how to adapt their businesses to this new landscape. While there is no silver bullet solution, there are several steps that marketers can take to lessen the blow [Qualifi - 7 steps to thriving in a cookieless world]. 

One of the most important things the industry can do is to invest in new technologies that will allow for more effective targeting and measurement in a cookieless world. This includes developing new ways to track conversions, such as using first-party data and verifying users through email addresses or phone numbers. 


What does this all mean for marketers? 

The upcoming cookie changes will significantly impact the world of online advertising. Marketers will need to find new ways to reach their target audiences, and there will be a shift towards privacy-friendly forms of advertising rather than covertly collecting data. This could involve surveys, loyalty programs, or working with reliable first-party data providers. 

Whatever the direction, marketers will likely need to get used to being upfront and transparent with data intentions. Marketers will need to use alternative tracking and data collection methods, which may lead to a reshuffle in the digital data industry. 

A cookieless world presents both challenges and opportunities. While these changes may initially add complexity, they also allow marketers to be more creative in their targeting and focus on building relationships with their customers through first-party data collection. 


How we can help

If you are looking to set your business up for a cookieless world, get in touch. Our data activation platform is built on first-party data safe from impending changes. It's collected by us, owned by us, and rigorously checked by us. We provide access to uniquely qualified audience built from this first-party data and partner with clients to execute full-funnel strategies that unlock their value.