What Will the World Look Like Without Third-Party Cookies?
Key points summary
Third-party cookies are every advertiser’s favourite and a popular tool when it comes to tracking a person’s movements on the Internet.
However, they have long annoyed privacy advocates. For this reason, the requirements for the use of data protection-compliant cookies are constantly increasing: just the number of necessary consents from the user is already slowing down some sites and worsening their performance.
This is a problem that will soon (partly) be a thing of the past, because what some browsers like Safari or Firefox have done, Google will emulate.
The software giant’s browser will soon stop supporting third-party cookies. As Google Chrome is still the most widely used browser in Spain, this will have a significant impact on the online marketing landscape.
In the following article, we show you what the removal of third-party cookies really means for you and how you can offset the loss of this marketing tool.
What are cookies and why is there talk of “A world without cookies”?
When we talk about cookies in relation to the Internet, of course, we don’t mean actual biscuits. In their purest form, cookies are small data cards that are stored on the user’s computer by a specific website. Through this, the website operator can store different data and information. The user of this website must accept the storage of the cookies; only then is data collection permitted.
Cookies that are placed by the website itself and only store your behaviour during this session on the page are called first-party cookies. These will continue to exist. The cookies that will disappear from the network in the near future are the so-called third-party cookies. These are cookies from a third party that interacts with your page. For example, there is the option to place a Facebook pixel on your page, through which Facebook has the opportunity to store data from your visitors.
What are third-party cookies? Third-party cookies are the cookies that are heavily criticised by privacy advocates. They make the user transparent and ensure that, ultimately, every step of a person on the network can be traced. This, in turn, is a dream for advertisers. Because they can read a person’s interests, preferences, and search intentions just from their complete online profile.
As online marketing has primarily been based on these cookies in the past few years, many experts speak of a world without cookies. This is not entirely true, because first-party cookies will continue to exist, and can become a powerful tool to replace third-party cookies.
What is the difference between First and Third-Party Cookies?
As I mentioned, first-party cookies are created and filled with data on your own site. Things stored include products the customer has added to the shopping cart, or product pages the customer has visited. This information is only available to you and is used, for example, so that a customer who has prematurely abandoned a session, upon returning to your page, will still find the same products in their shopping cart.
Third-party cookies are provided by third parties like Facebook, Google or similar companies, and are primarily used for advertisers. Some even sell the data obtained here. The fact that the customer can be completely tracked through third-party cookies is a problem for privacy advocates, as well as the fact that companies like Google or Meta are anything but transparent in the way they use the obtained data.
This is why Third-Party Cookies were an Important Tool for Marketing
Third-party cookies offered the opportunity to launch individualised advertising. You could personalise offers for a visitor to your page, even if this user had spent very little time on your page. For the background information, data stored in third-party cookies were analysed, showing what else your potential customer was doing on the Internet.
Therefore, you had the opportunity to offer products quickly and without complications to people who came to your page, which corresponded exactly to their previous searches. If you had created and used an identity chart of your customers, you could easily compare the data stored here with the data from third-party cookies, and finally obtain all the relevant information for a successful advertising campaign.
Third-Party Cookies weren’t always the last word in wisdom
Third-party cookies cannot be assigned to specific people, but only to devices at the beginning. Therefore, if someone browses on a mobile phone and visits pages completely different from the ones they visit on their personal computer or laptop, the advertisements shown on different pages on the mobile phone will be different from those on the laptop.
In the past, it was difficult to link the information from cookies from different devices. This is one of the reasons why many experts today say that third-party cookies were a good tool, but they did not take over advertising for you. In fact, even in a world without cookies, if you will, there are excellent opportunities for advertising and individualised communication with customers. You just have to obtain the data in another way, and the customer really has to give it to you voluntarily.
Can you obtain the most important information about your customers without Third-Party Cookies?
One of the most important factors significantly hindered by the removal of third-party cookies is active retargeting. With retargeting, we refer to a marketing strategy that aims to convert so-called “warm leads”. Warm leads are people who have been on your website or online store and left it without performing the desired action.
The intention of most e-commerce sites, for example, is to encourage people to make a purchase on their site. If a user has been browsing your site without buying anything, that’s initially a warm lead. With retargeting, you can increase the customer’s interest in a purchase before the contact cools down and the customer forgets about you.
For this, very specific advertising offers are used in retargeting, which are presented to the user on social networks like Facebook, YouTube or Instagram or in advertising banners on Google or other Internet sites. This connection and, therefore, the advertising approach aimed at these customers on other sites or on social networks is no longer possible without third-party cookies.
What are First-Party Cookies?
This is where your first-party cookies come into play.
First-party cookies offer you the opportunity to store the behaviour of visitors to your page on your own website and thus obtain valuable information. However, this data alone is usually not enough to create really interesting and attractive individualised offers for customers.
For many providers, there is a very simple way to directly and voluntarily obtain from the customer the data that in the past was laboriously collected and analysed through third-party cookies.
This can be, for example, through questionnaires. Of course, a real added value must be offered to the potential customer. If, for example, you offer hair care products, you can ask the potential customer several questions about their hair and shopping habits.
As a “reward” for answering the questions, you can offer the customer a deal that fits exactly their needs and expectations. The advantage: if a customer has once stored this data with you and has agreed to the storage of their data in the context of using first-party cookies, you can use it over and over again to send them individualised information.
Good customer relationship management (CRM) is the key to the problem
A CRM is a database where you can store all the data from your own website or external actions with users and then compare them. For this to work well, you first need to be able to identify your visitors. The best way to do this is through registrations and logins. Because when a customer creates a profile in your store and connects here, you have completely different comparison data.
In this case, on one hand, you can access information from your own database. On the other hand, you have the possibility to identify users and reveal their usage behaviour through the use of a large customer data platform (CDP). For this to work, ideally, you should encourage your visitors in the first step to create a user account with you. You can achieve this in several ways. For example, through:
So, what will a world without third-party cookies look like?Building an identity graph was already an important element in order to really use third-party cookies. Now it becomes the only reasonable option to collect and process the most important information about your potential customers. Since tracking cookies, as this variant of the “little data cookies” was also often called, will no longer be available, you will need your own well-established user database to use for online marketing and retargeting.
This also offers you the opportunity to optimize your retargeting very specifically. For example, you can exclude from the retargeting program customers who have already placed an order with you and therefore already have the status of actual customers. In this way, you focus on the users who you have not yet managed to completely convince of your brand or products.
Customer experience should be the central focusTo convince your visitors and effectively increase your conversion rate, even without the support of third-party cookies in your marketing, you can examine your website and your online store in the framework of a possible conversion rate optimization (CRO) for possible improvements. This includes factors such as the readability and search engine optimization of your product texts and your landing pages.
But also the performance of your page itself and the duration of the loading time of your page or the subpages of individual products. What is the search experience of visitors on your page and how good are the representations of your products? Do product images directly appeal to your customers or were they done in a hurry? A good product presentation should leave no question unanswered for your potential customer.
Marketing without third-party cookies will not be easier, but it will be more transparentOf course, we must acknowledge that third-party cookies have significantly facilitated the lives of advertisers. However, although targeted and personalised advertising will not be easier with the elimination of tracking cookies. The use of data and, above all, the exact amount of data that is available to you and the advertising platforms with which you work, are more transparent for the customer. This generates more trust. It’s not uncommon to hear from users that the deluge of cookies on the internet scares many consumers. The fact that one still sees advertising banners from companies whose pages were once visited, even days later, also does not inspire much trust. The elimination of third-party cookies can therefore strengthen the trust of many users again. If you take the opportunity to further improve the customer experience of visitors to your page, the disappearance of third-party cookies can be a real opportunity for you to gain a small advantage in terms of individual customer focus in combination with optimizations on your page, ahead of your competition.
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About the author:
CEO & Co-Founder
Dirk has over 30 years of experience in management positions in IT, telecommunications, consumer goods and consulting, including as CIO of the Paulaner Brewery Group and T-Mobile (UK and Germany).
Since 2012 he has focused on customer data as a strategic asset and basis for omnichannel marketing, data-driven business models, data protection and marketing consent (GDPR).
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