For years, the online advertising industry has been under fire for its data collection practices. In response to growing concerns, Google announced that it will be phasing out support for third-party cookies in its Chrome browser from 2023.
Marketing leaders and advertisers are understandably worried about the impact this will have on their ability to reach and target consumers online. But it’s not all doom and gloom – there are steps you can take now to prepare for a future of cookieless advertising.
This article will explore what cookies are, why Google is phasing them out, and what you can do to prepare for their demise.
What are Cookies?
Cookies are small pieces of data stored on a user’s computer or mobile device when visiting a website. They are used to track users’ browsing activity and gather information about their interests, which can then be used to target them with ads.
How Do They Work?
Here’s the simplest explanation:
- User visits website A.
- Website A drops a cookie on the user’s browser.
- User visits website B.
- Website B reads the cookie from website A and uses it to serve targeted ads to the user.
What Can Cookies Do?
- Collect user information like browsing history, demographic data, and interests
- Track user behaviour on websites
- Get hijacked in cyberattacks
- Tell the user’s location and the device they’re using
- Remember the ad or product that the user clicked on
What Can’t Cookies Do?
- Install viruses or malware on the user’s device
- Access the user’s personal information like their name, email address, or phone number
- Access your password
- Track users who have turned off cookies tracking
Types of Cookies
There are three broad categories of cookies:
- Session Cookies: These cookies are temporary and are deleted when the user closes their browser. They’re used to track the user’s session (e.g., what pages they’ve visited, how long they’ve been on the site, etc.), but they don’t store any personal information.
- Permanent/Persistent Cookies: These cookies are stored on the user’s hard drive until they expire or are deleted. They’re used to track the user’s behaviour over time (e.g., what ads they’ve clicked on, purchased products, etc.). They can recognize users, track their viewing patterns, and remember their preferences. Note that these cookies don’t get deleted when users close or restart their browser.
- Browser Independent Cookies: As the name suggests, these aren’t stored in the browser but their respective program files. The most common type of this cookie is the “Flash Cookie” (or “Local Shared Object”), which is used to store user preferences for Flash-based content. They can be used to track a user across different websites that use Flash content.
Even if the user uninstalls their browser or deletes their cookie files, these cookies will still be present on their computer.
How Cookies Started: A Brief Historical Timeline
1994 – The first cookies were created by a programmer named Lou Montulli to keep track of users’ browsing behaviour on the Mosaic web browser.
1994 – Netscape adopts cookies as part of their Netscape Navigator browser.
Side note: Firefox, as you know it, is based on Netscape.
November 22, 1995 – Microsoft introduces cookies to Internet Explorer. Internet Explorer Version 2.0 would be the first version to support web cookies.
2011 – The EU establishes the first cookie law, which requires websites to get consent from users before dropping cookies on their devices.
2020 – Google announces that it will be phasing out support for third-party cookies in its Chrome browser from 2023.
In January 2020, Google announced that it will be phasing out support for third-party cookies in its Chrome browser from 2023. That means that, from that date onwards, websites will no longer be able to drop cookies on users’ browsers using Google’s technology.
Why Google is Phasing Out Cookies?
Google’s decision to phase out cookies has to do with several factors, including privacy concerns and the growth of mobile browsing.
Since cookies were first introduced, they have been largely used for tracking users’ browsing behaviour and targeting them with ads. But with the growth of mobile browsing, that’s no longer feasible.
Cookies are a cringeworthy privacy concern because they allow companies to track users’ browsing behaviour across different websites. This can build up a detailed profile of individuals, which can then be used for targeted advertising.
They are also a security concern because they can be used to track users’ activities and behaviour online and steal their personal information.
What Does this Mean for Advertisers?
Advertisers are understandably worried about the impact this will have on their ability to reach and target consumers online.
But it’s important to remember that cookies are just one of many ways to track users’ online behaviour. Other tracking methods include identity solutions, first-party data, contextual targeting, user identity graphs, etc.
In addition, Google has said that it will not be completely eliminating cookies – just third-party cookies. First-party cookies, set by the website itself, will still be allowed.
6 Things to Know About Google’s Cookie Phase-Out In 2022
Google Won’t Be Banning All Cookies, Just Third-Party Cookies
Nothing about what Google plans to do with cookies spells the end of cookies as we know it. The company plans to phase out support for third-party cookies in its Chrome browse, meaning that websites will no longer be able to drop cookies on users’ browsers without their permission.
However, first-party cookies will continue working as usual.
So, don’t panic quite yet.
Don’t know the difference? Let’s break it down for you:
First-party Cookies: These are set by the website that you’re visiting. Web owners use them to store data on user preferences or keep them logged in to their site.
By default, every website generates a code when someone visits it. The code is then stored in the person’s computer, where it’s used to identify the user and keep them logged in.
Third-party Cookies: Third-party cookies are set by a party other than your website. Advertisers and marketers use them to track people across the internet and serve them targeted ads.
So, when Google says it’s phasing out third-party cookies, what they mean is that advertisers will no longer be able to track users across the internet and serve them targeted ads.
While the Death of Third-party Cookies Might Have Seem Shocking, It Was Inevitable
The fact is, third-party cookies have been on their way out for a while now.
In 2017, Mozilla and Apple announced that they would no longer be enabling third-party cookies in their browsers.
Five years down the line, it’s clear this trend isn’t going away. And now, with the implementation of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), we only expect it to get more stringent with time.
The GPDR ruling meant companies had to get explicit consent from users before collecting, storing, or using their data. That had a huge impact on how third-party cookies were used, as it became much harder for companies to track people without their permission.
It’s Not Just About Data, But the Reasoning Behind the Move
When it comes to data privacy, more is at stake than just cookies.
As we move towards a more data-driven world, the need for better data privacy protection has become increasingly clear. And while Google’s phasing out of third-party cookies might not seem like a big deal, it’s an important step in the right direction.
It’s not about just cookies. It’s about the reasoning behind the move. Google is making this change because they understand that data privacy is a fundamental right that needs to be protected. And as we move forward, we can only hope that other tech companies will follow their lead.
Google Won’t Stop Tracking People Entirely
Google is phasing out support for third-party cookies, but that doesn’t mean they will stop tracking people entirely.
The company has said that they will be relying on other methods to track users. One good example of this is FloC, a new tracking method that uses machine learning to group people together based on their interests.
While this might not be as intrusive as third-party cookies, it’s still an effective way of tracking people. And it’s important to understand that just because Google is phasing out one tracking method doesn’t mean they’re giving up on tracking altogether.
So, What Does This Mean for Marketers?
The death of third-party cookies might spell doom for marketers, but it doesn’t have to be.
Yes, it will be harder to track people and serve them targeted ads across the internet. But that doesn’t mean that marketing is dead. It means marketers will have to get more creative than they have been doing with their strategies.
In a cookieless world, marketers must focus on building relationships with their customers and delivering relevant and personalized content.
And while it might be a challenge to adjust to this new landscape, it’s an exciting one. So, if you’re a marketer, it’s time to get creative and figure out new ways to reach your customers in a cookieless world.
How Marketers and Advertisers Are Reacting to this Phase Out?
While many marketing and advertising agencies were quick to criticize Google’s move, a few remained more measured in their reaction.
Some say that this is simply the response of a company trying to protect its users’ privacy the best it can. Remember, Google is an ad company—it makes the vast majority of its revenue from advertising.
It’s only natural that they’ll have a vested interest in seeing that people continue to use its products. That means adhering to the strictest privacy standards possible.
Others have argued that this could be a good thing for marketing and advertising agencies, as it will force them to develop more innovative and effective ways to reach their customers.
GetApp researched the potential impact this move might have on marketing and advertising, surveying over 300 professionals in the industry.
Here’s what they would discover:
- 41% of marketers say their biggest challenge will be tracking the right data
- 44% of marketers are afraid that that might mean they have to increase their spending by 5% to reach the same goal as before
- 23% of marketers plan to invest in email marketing to make up for the lack of data
As you can see, most marketers are worried about the impact this might have on their ability to track data and reach their customers.
But many people see this as an opportunity to get more creative with their marketing strategies. And that’s precisely what we should be doing.
It’s time to think outside the cookie.
A Brief History of Google’s Cookie Phase-Out
You might be reading about this for the first time, but we’ve been following Google’s cookie phase-out for quite some time.
Google first announced its new initiative to develop open standards that fundamentally enhance web privacy in August 2019.
The company said that its goal was to make the web “a more private place for everyone.” But what did that mean, exactly?
In a nutshell, it meant Google wanted to rid the internet of anything that compromises user privacy, including third-party cookies.
The company has been working on this for a while, and it’s finally starting to come to fruition.
In January 2020, Google announced that its Chrome browser would begin phasing out third-party cookies within two years.
That means that by 2024, they will be gone entirely.
That might seem like a long time from now. But the truth is that the cookie phase-out has already begun.
While Firefox and Safari started blocking third-party cookies in 2013, Google poses the biggest threat to their existence.
Because more than half (56%) of internet users currently browse the web with Chrome.
The Google phase will be the last straw for cookies. That explains why most marketers are calling it the “cookiepocalypse.”
Timeline of Browser Cookie Phase-outs
- 2015: Apple Allows Third-party ad Blockers on their Safari Browser. Users who do not wish to see any more ads have the option to download an ad blocker. And since third-party cookies are usually hidden in ads, this effectively blocks them.
- 2017: Apple’s Intelligent Tracking Prevention 2.0 (ITP) goes into effect. This update to Safari’s ITP blocks all third-party cookies by default. In other words, the browser wouldn’t accept cookies from ad publishers, social media platforms, or any other site that wasn’t the first party.
- 2019: Mozilla introduced an option for blocking/disabling cookies on their Firefox browser. It’s a decision made through the browser’s settings, with the option to apply it to all or a few websites.
- 2019: Google Launches the Privacy Sandbox. That is an initiative to develop new standards for online advertising that don’t rely on cookies. The goal is to create a more privacy-centric ecosystem that still allows marketers to reach their target audiences.
- 2019: Apple’s Intelligent Tracking Prevention 2.2 (ITP) restricts some of the functions of first-party cookies. Moreover, first-party data will only be available for 24 hours unless the user interacts with the site again.
- 2020: Safari’s automatic third-party cookie blocking goes into effect. Safari started automatically blocking cookies from third-party advertisers, social media platforms, and any other site that isn’t the first party. Google’s Chrome will have this same feature in 2023.
- 2020/2021: Google Announces that they will be phasing out cookies in their Chrome Browser in 2023. That will be the final straw for cookies, as it’s the most popular browser in the world. Hence, the name “cookiepocalypse.”
- 2021: Mozilla introduces complete cookie protection in their Firefox browser. This setting will block all cookies by default, including first-party cookies. Users will have to manually enable cookies on a site-by-site basis if they want to allow them.
- 2022: Google abandons FLoC. After much testing and criticism, Google has decided to abandon its proposed solution for less controversial methods of tracking user behaviour.
By the end of 2023, Cookies will have become obsolete. While first-party cookies will still be around, they will be restricted in their functions, and most users will have them disabled by default.
When a user starts an app or visits a website, they’re asked for permission to allow that site to track their activity. As it turns out, users only agree to this 25% of the time. That’s because most people don’t understand what cookies are and how they’re used.
What Does This Mean for Marketers?
In the short term, not much will change. Google has said that it will give marketers and advertisers “a grace period” to adjust to the new reality of a cookieless world.
But in the long term, this could significantly impact how marketers and advertisers reach their customers.
As we mentioned earlier, Google is an ad company, and it makes the vast majority of its revenue from advertising.
That’s why this phase-out is so dangerous for them.
It’s not just that they’ll lose access to user data—cookies are also an integral part of the online advertising ecosystem.
They help marketers track user behaviour, target ads, and measure their effectiveness.
Losing access to that data could significantly impact Google’s bottom line.
But it’s not just Google that’s at risk. All ad-based businesses will be affected by this change.
That includes social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter, which rely heavily on advertising to generate revenue.
It also includes publishers, who use advertising to monetize their content.
The loss of cookies will make it harder for these companies to track user behaviour and target ads.
That could lead to a decline in ad revenue, a major blow to the entire online advertising ecosystem.
18 Things Marketers can do to Prepare for a Cookieless World:
So, what can marketers do to prepare for this cookiepocalypse?
Here are 18 things marketers can do to prepare for a cookieless world:
1) Get to Know your First-party Data
In a cookie-less world, first-party data will be paramount for marketers. This is data collected directly from your website or app instead of relying on data gathered from third-party sources.
First-party data can include:
- User IDs
- Email addresses
- Demographic information
- Behavioural data
- Purchase history
- Engagement data
- IP addresses
- Cookie IDs
- Device IDs
- Location data
- Browser data
- Operating system data
Brands can use a value exchange model to collect this data. This is where the user is given something in exchange for their information. For example, they might be offered a free ebook in return for their email address.
With personalization, customers will feel more recognized and respected when companies already know their name, favourite products, and colours.
The result? Customer lifetime value, repeat purchases, and higher customer satisfaction.
2) Focus on Providing value, and the Rest will Follow
To win customers over in a cookieless world, brands will need to focus on providing value. This can be in the form of exclusive content, discounts, or early access to products and sales.
The emphasis should be on knowing your ideal customer and what they want. Once you understand their needs, you can provide them with the right content and offers to keep them coming back.
One thing we can all agree on is that cookies made us lazy marketers. Instead of trying to understand our customers, we relied on cookies to do the work for us.
Now that cookies are on the way out, it’s time to get back to basics and focus on providing value.
3) Get Personal with Your Email Marketing
An email will continue to be a powerful marketing tool in a cookieless world. We only expect this to become truer as time goes on.
With first-party data, you’ll be able to segment your email list more effectively and send more targeted messages. This way, you can be sure that your emails are going to the right people, people interested in what you have to say.
4) Make It Attractive for Customers to Self-identify
One way to get first-party data is to make it attractive for customers to self-identify. This can be done by offering them incentives in return for their information.
Some common incentives include:
- Free products or services
- Discounts on future purchases
- Early access to sales or new products
- Exclusive content
- First dibs on new products or services
- Customized experiences
- Free shipping
- Contest entries
Making it easy and attractive for customers to self-identify will go a long way in helping you build a database of first-party data.
You can start by defining the customers’ journey and where they see value in sharing their information with you.
It’s also a great opportunity to get creative with your marketing and develop some unique incentives that will make your brand stand out. The idea is to understand your customers to a point where you’ll be present in their time of need and give them what they need before they even know they need it.
5) Use Retargeting to Target those Who have Already Engaged with Your Brand
In a cookieless world, retargeting will become increasingly important for brands. This is the practice of targeting people who have already engaged with your brand.
You can target them with ads on other websites and social media networks. The idea is to keep your brand top of their mind and eyes until they’re ready to buy.
6) Prioritize Consent When Collecting Data
Instead of collecting data without consent, brands must prioritize consent to comply with GDPR and other privacy laws. This means getting explicit consent from customers before collecting any of their personal data.
It also means being transparent about what you’re going to do with that data. Customers need to know how you’re going to use their information and what they can expect in return.
Don’t try to trick them into giving you consent. This will only backfire and damage your reputation in the long run.
7) Create an Immediate Feedback System
You first have to work on getting consent and gaining trust. Once they are comfortable sharing their data with you and have started using it, the next step is to give them immediate feedback on what you have done with it.
Use emails, surveys, or even social media posts to solicit feedback. Ask them how they found you, how they feel about your changes, and what else they would like to see.
The key is to be open and honest with your customers. If you’re not using their data in a way that benefits them, they’re not going to trust you with it.
8) Get Involved in the Community
To build first-party data, you need to get involved in the community. This means being active on social media, attending events, and networking with other businesses.
The more people you meet, the more opportunities you’ll have to collect data. And the more data you have, the better your chances of success.
9) Refine Customer Experience the Old-fashioned Way
As we’ve mentioned, first-party data will be more valuable than ever in the cookieless world. This means that brands need to focus on refining their customer experience the old-fashioned way.
It starts with ensuring every interaction with your brand is positive. That includes your website, products, customer service, and even your social media presence.
The goal is to make sure customers feel valued and appreciated. Once they know you’re serious about providing a great experience, they’ll be more likely to trust you with their data.
10) Consider How the Cookie Phase-Out Will Affect Your Workflow
The cookie phase-out will significantly impact how brands collect and use data. As a marketer, you need to consider how this will affect your workflow and make the necessary adjustments.
This might mean changes to your marketing strategy, website design, or overall business model. The key is to be prepared for the change and adapt as needed.
The cookie phase-out is a challenge, but it’s also an opportunity. Think about what you’ll lose and gain, and make the necessary changes to ensure your brand is ready for a cookieless world.
Does it affect how you communicate or promote your brand to customers? If so, how?
11) Brainstorm New Ways to Connect with Customers
Brands will need to get creative with their marketing efforts after the phase-out. This means brainstorming new ways to connect with customers and collect data.
One option is to offer loyalty programs that incentivize customers to share their information. Another is to create content that’s designed to capture email addresses.
Whatever you do, make sure you’re thinking outside the box. The goal is to find new and innovative ways to reach your target audience.
12) Focus on Marketing Channels that Don’t Require Cookies
Several marketing channels don’t require cookies. This includes email marketing, direct mail, and even some forms of social media.
Focus your efforts on these channels, and you’ll be able to reach your target audience without relying on cookies.
13) Experiment with Different Types of Data
As a marketer, you need to experiment with different types of data. This means trying new sources, such as location, purchase, and even demographic data.
The more data you have, the better your chances of success. So don’t be afraid to experiment with different types of data. You might be surprised by what you find.
14) Use Third-Party Tools to Collect Data
Third-party tools can help you collect data in a cookieless world. These tools include customer relationship management (CRM), lead capture, and social media analytics tools.
The key is to find a tool that fits your needs. There are many options out there, so take your time and find the right one for your business.
15) Hire a Data Analyst
If you never thought you’d need a data analyst, think again. In a cookieless world, data will be more important than ever. This means you’ll need someone to help you make sense of all the data you’re collecting.
Hiring a data analyst is a great way to ensure your data is being used effectively. So if you’re not sure where to start, consider hiring a data analyst. They can help you make the most of your data and ensure your business is ready for a cookieless world.
16) Think of Your Audience as People, not Data
When collecting data, it’s easy to think of your audience as numbers or statistics. But remember, these are people we’re talking about. They have feelings and emotions, and they deserve to be treated with respect.
Don’t forget this when you’re collecting data. Remember that your audience is made up of real people, and treat them accordingly.
17) Build Your Own Community
One way to connect with your audience is to build your own community. This can be done on social media or even on your own website.
The key is to make it easy for people to connect with each other. This will help you build a loyal following and collect valuable data in the process.
18) Use social media to Connect with Customers
You can do a few things to make the most of social media. First, create content that’s designed to capture email addresses. Second, use social media analytics tools to track your progress. And finally, focus on building your community.
While at it, you want to make it fun for customers to connect with your brand. This means using social media to share interesting and relevant content.