If your marketing and technology teams haven’t started preparing for a future without third-party cookies, you may be falling behind. It’s not too late to start, but it’s certainly time to begin thinking about how you’ll replace third-party cookies in your marketing attribution.
Third-party cookies will be obsolete by the end of 2023 or perhaps early 2024.1 This means that marketing leaders across all industries and sectors need to work closely with IT leaders to set things in motion so they can continue targeting their customers, meeting customer demands for increased data privacy and transparency, and still effectively measure the success of marketing efforts.
This article will guide you through key steps your organization can take to prosper in a world without third-party cookies.
Goodbye cookies, hello enhanced MarTech stacks
Clearing cookies, browsing with ad-blockers, and operating in incognito modes are the most common ways to prevent third-party cookies from being able to track you. These strategies have all contributed to third-party cookies being a less-than-perfect method for marketers to track users’ website activity. Nonetheless, marketers have relied on third-party cookies for many years to better understand customer behavior around the web, use that knowledge to segment users into audiences, and send them personalized campaigns based on their being members of those audiences.
While third-party cookies themselves are fairly innocuous, a few high-profile scandals involving leaks of personal data2 have turned both the public and the government against them as a marketing resource. Over the last decade, customers have become increasingly concerned about their privacy and distrustful of third-party data collection. Additionally, many countries, states and regulatory authorities have passed laws regarding data protection (e.g., The EU’s General Data Protection Regulations (GDPR) and the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA)).
As a result of this increased pressure, Google, owner of the Chrome browser, announced in 2020 that it would eventually stop supporting third-party cookies within its browser. This was supposed to take effect in 2022 but has been pushed back to 2024.3
Other major browser companies had already blocked third-party cookies in their browsers (Safari, Firefox and Edge, respectively). But since Google Chrome is by far the most widely used browser (with a 65 percent market share), its decision to stop supporting third-party cookies brought the topic front and center.4
The elimination of third-party cookies means that organizations will need to think long-term about updating their technology and skills so they can better cultivate good first-party data, and also incorporate second-party data into their marketing strategy.
The different classifications of data
In addition to third-party cookies, marketers also rely on first- and second-party data:
First party data: First party data is the data a company collects itself. The data is created when customers make a purchase at a store or by visiting the company’s website. The website can collect analytics data, remember language settings, and perform other useful functions that help provide a cohesive customer experience. Without first-party cookies, users couldn’t log back into an ecommerce shop nor add items to their carts because all of their information would be forgotten with each new page load.
Second party data: This is data you get or can purchase if you sell items through, for example, a wholesaler, a retail store or e-commerce retailer that sells your product. Or you can get second party data from alliance vendors that you do business with.
Clearly, with the disappearance of third-party cookies, organizations will need to be more reliant on first- and second-party data.
Some companies already operating without cookies
Several companies already operate without using third-party cookies. For example:
- A media streaming service provider simply has customers sign up for their streaming service. They don’t feel the need to use third-party cookies. Their brand is so-well-known they utilize word of mouth and social media ads as their marketing strategy.
- The website of the world’s largest tech company doesn’t contain a single type of tracker. They believe that their products speak for themselves.5