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Third-party cookies have been an essential part of every marketer’s toolkit for as long as they’ve been around. Businesses and brands have been leveraging these tracking methods to understand their audience’s browsing activities and serve them with relevant ads. Although the removal of third-party cookies will force marketers to revisit their advertising strategies, it will also provide new opportunities for brands to connect with their audience on a more personal level.
If you’re not familiar with how third-party cookies function, here’s a simple breakdown. Say you’re checking out a particular pair of shoes on Nike’s website. Later that day, while scrolling through a different website, you stumble across those exact pair of shoes. Coincidence? It’s not. That’s third-party cookies in action.
Third-party cookies allow the tracking of web users through third-party websites. They’re a piece of code that tracks your web journey and provides data, such as your browsing trends and interests, to other companies.
An increase in online privacy protection laws and regulations has made the removal of this practice imminent. Consumers have felt increasingly uncomfortable with how their data is being used and demand transparency and personalization from the brands they do business with.
Apple’s Safari and Firefox phased out third-party cookies in 2013, but the largest and most significant browser — Google — has yet to officially make the switch.
Google initially announced the removal of third-party cookies from their browser in February 2020, but wanted to make sure it had systems in place for marketers to pivot and to implement its privacy sandbox. At the time of this writing, it seems as if we’re likely to see the removal come sometime in 2023, making the eradication of third-party cookies official.
The good news is that not all cookies are gone. First-party cookies are still alive and well, and they will continue to grow in importance as marketers transition their data strategies.
The increasing importance of first-party cookies
First-party data is data collected by a brand directly from its consumers. This data is exclusively owned by the company gathering it. First-party data can come from your personal website’s analytics systems and can provide information related to users solely visiting your website. This information can include: visitors, time spent on site, bounce rates and other metrics marketers use to measure their online traffic. It can also come from offline data manually collected from surveys or other offline sources.
A study conducted by Google and BCG in March 2021 concluded the following: “Those using first-party data for key marketing functions achieved up to a 2.9X revenue uplift and a 1.5X increase in cost savings. Despite its clear benefits, however, most brands aren’t yet harnessing first-party data’s full potential.”
Tip: A popular method for gathering first-party data can be to encourage and incentivize users to share their data willingly. This can be done by providing valuable content, such as an ebook, in exchange for an email address.
Shifting your strategy and what’s next
Programmatic advertising, social media, and retargeting will be some of the first avenues to take hits once this comes into effect. It is imperative for brands and marketers to avoid relying on third-party data and center their attention on collecting and making use of first-party data.
Moving forward, marketers will continue to invest in email marketing, which will keep serving as a critical direct communication channel between brands and their customers. Additionally, CDP (Customer data platforms) platforms will rise in popularity.
Although the demise of third-party cookies can be seen as a direct threat to your marketing practices, I, among many, see it as an exciting innovation. Many advertisers have been tone-deaf to their customers’ calls for more privacy and personalization. This update will force brands to rethink how they approach and market to their audience and unleash a new wave of marketing innovation.