In the near future, cookies will no longer be the crutch that marketers and advertisers can depend upon. With this comes a new dawn; particularly if marketers want to deepen their relationships with customers to drive growth.
For years, marketers and advertisers have relied heavily on cookies to track website visitors, collect user data, to target ads to specific audiences and improve the overall digital experience.
Marketers have a short time to adjust to a new era of the internet, a cookieless one. In this article I will examine what this statement means and what might come next as marketers head into what is to many, the unknown.
- The Cookie 101 (I had to)
- Why are we saying farewell?
- OK, Google. What’s the hold up?
- iWin says Apple
- What are modern marketers doing?
What is a cookie?
Cookies have been around for decades and are small text files that are stored within a user’s browser that are used to collect user data and information relating to their preferences when browsing websites.
In short, these cookies can track a user’s shopping cart, keep the user logged in while traversing through the website, as well as record the user’s page history and preferences.
There are two types of cookies. First-party cookies and third-party cookies. Let’s look at each one individually.
First-party cookies are directly stored by the domain that the user is visiting, and these help website managers and software developers collect analytics data as well as site settings e.g. language preference, etc.
Third-party cookies on the other hand are a little more cunning in that they’re used to collect marketing data such as age, location, gender and user behaviour. These are also stored within the user’s browser but are generated by a different domain. In essence by virtue of their name, third-party cookies are used by relevant third-parties such as advertisers to gather user information.
In a practical sense, these cookies are used by marketers and advertisers to collect data that allow them to build an overall picture of a user’s online behaviour e.g. frequency and recency of visits, products viewed and purchased as well as time spent on pages.
The main difference between first and third-party cookies is that while first-party cookies are normally accepted by the vast majority of users, third-party cookies require user consent prior to being accepted and thereby stored within the user’s browser.
Given their usefulness, why are we saying farewell to the third-party cookie?
Digital marketers and advertisers have been working tirelessly over the last couple of decades on audience segmentation initiatives to target customers with more relevant content and advertising as well as being able to attribute credit to subsequent sales resulting from various advertising campaigns. The latter being a subject in of itself which we will not cover within this article. The crux of the matter is that we are ultimately talking about data collection and this has, is and will continue to be a topic of discussion for many years to come.
For many, the idea that third-party cookies are collecting data and tracking users without transparency or any form of declared consent by the user, is one of great concern which lead to the industry as a whole becoming acutely aware of the implications of this when it comes to privacy.
Due to recent data protection regulations e.g. GDPR, it is no longer acceptable for a website to simply declare that third-party cookies are being used, rather, visitors must now not only acknowledge the presence of such cookies but must proactively accept them before proceeding to using the site in question.
Google recently announced its plans to end support for third-party cookies, which is indeed one of the very final nails in the coffin for the previously reliable third-party cookie. This follows similar moves made by other tech giants such as Apple, who themselves implemented an anti-tracking tool within their own browser, Safari. All of these moves have been designed to respect consumer privacy.
OK, Google. What’s the hold-up?
It feels a little bit like Groundhog Day but Google has yet again announced a delay in the depreciation of the cookie.
Google insists the delay this time is due to industry pushback, as many advertisers are simply not prepared for the impact that the removal of cookies from Google’s Chrome browser will have on their businesses. While the user-based trials on Privacy Sandbox have begun, there’s still a big question mark over the performance and reliability of this solution.
Even with Google’s delay, there’s still an urgent need for a consumer-consented data privacy solution. As The Trade Desk pointed out on its most recent earnings call.
“The uncertainty around Google’s decision-making is only hardening the resolve of the rest of the industry to develop new approaches to identity. It is short-sighted to think about this work as simply a replacement for cookies.”
iWin says Apple
As the industry as a whole continues to stall, tech giants like Apple are lining themselves up to own the rails.
DigiDay recently broke the news that Apple is back in the AdTech game with a new DSP in the works. While not a surprise, Apple is positioning themselves to have complete control over identity across the web.
Apple has eliminated cookies and IDFAs and their ‘Hide My Email’ product further eliminates persistent identifiers across domains — giving only Apple the ability to connect user behaviour across the web, which we can only imagine is contributing the enormous projected growth for Apple’s ad business at the expense of others.
What are modern marketers doing about all this?
It’s no secret that marketers deeply rely on data for audience segmentation and targeting. So what’s next given the cookie’s pivotal role in the collection of all this data? Well, I believe the answer in part lies within your own first-party data.
Since iOS 14.5 landed, back in Apr-21, there’s been a swelling need for first-party audience solutions to plug the targeting gaps appearing in ad platforms like Meta, TikTok & Snapchat, etc.
The technical approaches I’m seeing are:
- Server-side tracking e.g. Conversion APIs
- CRM first-party data activation
- CDP first-party data activation
- MDS first-party data activation
However, all of these technical approaches fail the marketer when it comes to helping them with 3 very important jobs-to-be-done:
- Prioritising &
- Experimenting with first-party audiences
Yes, first-party data will plug the targeting gaps created by cookies. But knowing where to start and which audiences to experiment with in order to find winners — that’s where all of these technical approaches fall short.
You’re not alone: our founder has written a ‘how to’ guide for marketers on this very topic, right here.
P.ai was founded using cookieless technology. It has server-side connectors that join-up all of your first-party data, then it uses machine learning to suggest the audiences worth experimenting with, so all you need to do is consider launching them. And guess what? Activating them is done server-side, too!
Fear not, if you’re already using a Customer Data Platform (CDP) or you’ve in-housed the Modern Data Stack (MDS), P.ai works the same and is complementary to your data stack choices.
P.ai is affordable and offers rapid time-to-value, so we’ll help you make that substantial return you might been lacking.
As the cookie continues to crumble, server-side first-party audiences need to be presented to you in abundance. Because let’s face it, marketing isn’t simply about data pipelines and activation — it’ll forever be about performance.
P.ai is synonymous with performance.
Grab yourself a slice. 🥧