The End of Third-Party Cookies: What Should You Do?

Apr 15, 2021 | Blog posts & News

By Helle Vad Jespersen


Reading Time: 5 min

You probably recognize this omnipresent feeling of being chased with ads wherever you turn online. As part of a bigger movement towards a more privacy-preserving future, Google has recently announced that they “won’t be building “alternate identifiers to track individuals as they browse across the web, nor will we use them in our products”.

This is quite the gamechanger since Google accounts for 66 % of the global market share. If you are relying on revenue from ads (you probably are, since we have your attention) that use third party identifiers to track potential customers or visitors across the web, this will – for sure – affect your bottom-line.

So, what should you do? The clock is ticking and by 2023, Google’s plans to exit third-party cookies are realized. In this blogpost, you get three concrete actions to take today.
This way you will be armed, prepared and able to survive the fast-approaching death of third-party tracking.

NB! If you need a quick breakdown of the different types of cookies, head down to the end of this blogpost for more details.

If you are already panicking and thinking that all your cookie-fueled marketing strategies will soon disappear into thin air, take a deep breath. This is not the end of cookies, or advertisement altogether, but it is a phasing out of cookies handled by third parties – and with that, also the end for private users to be kept in the dark about where their personal data are placed and who is using them online.

First-party cookies, used only on your own website, are still safe. These are the ones Google (and other browsers) want to promote to meet users’ increasing demands for more privacy online. In fact, Google called first-party relationships vital for online businesses in the future.
So, this is where you want to be heading; towards data, you gain across paid and owned channels, towards creating relationships with your visitors and customers and increasing loyalty, so the customer considers the exchange of data to be transparent and fair.

Why You Need A Customer Data Platform Before Google Kills Of Third Party Cookies

When third party cookies are gone, tracking of users’ behavior across digital platforms will change. Not to say new alternatives are not going to emerge (they are probably already in the making), but they will be different to what we know. To help you prepare for a third-party cookie free world, here are three actions you can take today:

1. Recognize the phase-out as an opportunity

While Googles’ announcement might seem shocking, it certainly was not a surprise. With both GDPRD and CCPA rulings, governments around the world have had their eyes fixed on data privacy issues for years. From a private user’s perspective, you probably appreciate the fact that your personal data is being guarded and protected from floating infinitely through the internet space.

As a marketer in a company or an advertiser, however, you are most likely more skeptical (let’s face it, nail bitingly anxious) about the changes.

Rather than seeing this as a final stop, you should look at this as an opportunity. Join the game, embrace the opportunities within a persistent first data and consider how your business can become more privacy friendly. Talk to your trusted partners or advisors about how they are handling third-party cookies to plan for a different future. Maybe your website needs to be updated or you need new marketing strategies – now is the time to act.

It is important to keep in mind that third-party cookies are incredibly short-lived. Anything between instantly blocked to 30 days (depending on your browser). This makes it impossible to recognize a returning customer, and thereby even harder to predict behavior or personalize content for future visits.

First-party-cookies, however, can be stored indefinitely (if you have good reason for it) and thereby provide you with the opportunities to dive deep into your customer data, connect behavior across products, audiences, channels and platforms. If you know how.

So, the phase-out is not only inevitable, but also a step in the right direction – companies need to spot this too and start considering the changes as a new era in which customer data lives longer, but requires more loyalty-focused content in order to gain.

2. Start collecting data today

“What’s the rush?” You might be thinking.

The fact is that the longer you wait before you start collecting first-party data, the more ROI you risk losing in the marketing budget to any competitor who realized the need for customer data before you did. It can take years to build a solid base of customer data (e-mail, phone number and customers ID’s) and it requires a solid effort from your marketing team that need to know, how to exchange value for customer data.

So, while your competitors have used the last year to stock up on e-mail addresses, create member clubs, loyalty programs or other campaigns to attract leads, you waited around to see if everything stayed the same.

Start today and consider the collecting phase necessary for when “winter is coming”.

Do have in mind that you have to offer your visitors and customers something in return for this exchange. Customers need to understand why they are giving marketers their data – it emphasizes relationships and encourages trust as they will know this permission also benefits their experience on your site, through personalization of content.

3. Consider a Customer Data Platform

A Customer Data Platform (CDP) enables marketers and advertisers to unify first-party customer data across identities, platforms, and channels – both offline and online. These are necessary in a future, where third-party cookies are banned.

Why Would I Get A CDP – 3 Questions To Ask Before You Buy

The shift in digital marketing requires companies to have total ownership of their data, from collection to activation. With a CDP, this is possible because everything is stored and used through a Single Customer View. While a CDP can make use of third-party cookies, it is mostly a piece of technology for handling persistent customer data, like e-mail addresses, website traffic, SoMe etc. In other words, a CDP relies on a relationship between a business and its customers, as data is the fuel that keeps the engine running.

Clicks in e-mails, clicks on site, interaction with customer support, purchase in shops, profile data and other types of information from different sales supporting systems across your business are merged into the platform to understand behavior and personalize experiences. This allows a more qualified tracking, and as a result a more accurate communication to customers.

CDPs should not be considered a replacement to third party-cookies, but an alternative that allow marketers to proceed in engaging customers, but in the light of building trust and personalized experiences.

Want to know more about a CDP?

Get a free 1 hour talk with our Director in Omnichannel Excellence, Anders Spicker.

Anders Spicker

Director, Omnichannel Excellence

Phone: +45 53 67 57 55

So, these are some action points for you to consider now that you know change is coming. We strongly emphasize that you start considering your third-party exit plan today (or soon, anyway), as now is the time to collect customer data that can replace any third-party tracking you are currently depending on.

We promised you a breakdown of the different types of cookies – here you go:

Not all cookies are the same

Essentially, cookies are pieces of code that are saved by websites onto a user’s web browser. Not all cookies are the same. Some are downright essential for every webpage to function properly, while others only serve advertisement purposes. Cookies are managed differently depending on the browser and have different permissions.

Third-party cookies

Third-party cookies are tracking codes set by domains other than the ones the visitor is currently visiting. These occur when a publisher adds third-party elements to their website. You probably recognize them as the ads that follow you from page to page after you have visited a webshop.

As an advertiser or someone working in marketing third-party cookies allow you to learn about your web visitor’s online behavior (such as visits, purchases and other data reflecting your behavior). Once third-party cookies are installed, they track users and save their information. With this data, you can build profiles and gather these into audiences for you to retarget your products.

First-party cookies

When you visit a website, a first-party cookie is set on your browser. First party-cookies collect data about visitors’ behavior, such as clicks on site, abandon basket, transactional data, calculating the number of users and sessions, which products are most popular etc. The purpose of these cookies is to collect data for several purposes such as customer experience. First party cookies are responsible for remembering passwords and other user data about the visitor and his/her preferences on the site.

Other types of cookies…

Session cookies

Session cookies are essential for customer experience. These usually expire immediately or a few seconds after a visitor leaves the web browser. Without session cookies, e-commerce websites would not be able to remember a product placed in the basket before the user reached the checkout page. These are critical for the webpage to work properly.

Persistent cookies

Persistent cookies can be stored on a user’s device for years to help remember information, settings, preferences, or sign-in data that a user has previously saved. When users visit a website, these choices are saved and can help the user experience. An example of persistent cookie is Gmail who remembers your passwords and email address long after you have closed the tabs and turned off your computer. These are a major help for users who go back forth between webpages. Again, this us user experiences, and while you can easily do without them, their basic functionality is what helps smoothens your user experience online.

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