By Victoria Stapleton, VP Digital Analytics, Acronym

In the digital marketing industry, there has been much lament about the impending demise of the cookie and how this will change the way marketers measure and optimize their campaigns. With digital ad spend projected to exceed $600 billion, the ongoing concern around cookies isn’t going anywhere soon as marketers brace for this shift and have concerns about how to adjust.

The Great Cookie Divide: First-Party vs Third-Party

It’s true that the longevity and, therefore, reliability of both first- and third-party cookies are changing. However, there is a distinct difference in the changes between third- and first-party cookies. Here are some essential differences to understand:

  • Third-party cookies have been phased out by Google in the Chrome browser for 1% of users starting January 4, 2024, with the goal being a full phase-out by the end of this year.

However, Chrome is the only major browser left that hasn’t substantially phased out third-party cookies; so, for 34% of browsers worldwide the present-day scenario is currently ‘third-party cookie-less’.

  • For both first- and third-party cookies, browsers that clear cookies automatically after a set number of days, such as Apple’s Safari browser, will influence long-range user tracking. No cookies are safe from this type of restriction.

The Winds of Change: Legislation, Litigation, and Consumer Pressure

These changes are primarily driven by increased legislation, numerous lawsuits, and consumer pressure along with some existing measurement challenges. Below are some of the most recent changes impacting the shifts in data analytics restrictions for marketers:

Legislation: Privacy laws around the globe that restrict the use of cookies without user consent, such as GDPR, CCPA, ePrivacy Directive, and a plethora of others. These laws require marketers to obtain explicit and informed consent from users before collecting and processing their personal data, which can reduce the reach and effectiveness of cookie-based advertising and analytics.

Industry: Browser policies that block or limit third-party cookies, such as Safari’s Intelligent Tracking Prevention (ITP), Firefox’s Enhanced Tracking Protection (ETP), Chrome’s Privacy Sandbox, etc. These policies aim to protect user privacy and security by preventing cross-site tracking and fingerprinting, which can undermine the accuracy and reliability of cookie-based measurement and targeting.

Consumer: User preferences and behaviors that favor more privacy and control over their online data, such as using ad blockers, deleting cookies, or opting out of tracking to various degrees. These preferences and behaviors reflect the growing awareness and concern of users about how their online data is collected and used, which can reduce the availability and quality of cookie-based data and insights.

Navigating Through Challenges: The Bright Side of the Post-Cookie Era

There’s plenty happening simultaneously, but the sky is certainly not falling. This transition provides marketers with an opportunity to become more sophisticated in the way they analyze and optimize marketing programs. Traditional last-touch attribution models are just not cutting it anymore.

Medium to large-size businesses with a multi-pronged strategy have a plethora of options to assess spend effectiveness outside of cookie-dependent platform data, including marketing mix modeling, conversion, brand lift studies, data clean rooms, multitouch attribution models, and many other methods.  Additionally, there are technologies to help target your most valuable audiences including contextual advertising, cohort-based advertising, and device graphs.

With these tools, marketers do not need the invasive, granular tracking that cookies have so notoriously enabled to make smart investment decisions. Embracing the increased restrictions on cookies as a clear signal from your customers for a less invasive digital experience shows them that you understand their concerns and want to earn their trust.

Strategies for Success: Best Practices in the Post-Cookie World

To successfully navigate the post-cookie era, marketers should consider the following best practices:

  1. Utilize first-party data and consent management platforms to collect and store user information in a compliant, transparent manner.
  2. Explore alternative methods and technologies, such as contextual advertising, cohort-based advertising, and device graphs, to effectively measure and target audiences.
  3. Embrace a customer-centric and value-driven approach to marketing that focuses on building trust and loyalty with users, rather than relying on intrusive and irrelevant ads.
  4. Don’t tackle it alone, seek expert help. Refine your strategy and update your implementation rapidly by getting assistance from a trusted digital marketing agency like Acronym, which specializes in digital intelligence. Contact Us today!

The hero image is not attention-grabbing enough. The color and imagery is a bit dull. Could we have something more dynamic? Either something that reads “digital marketing” or a workplace image with people in a creative meeting?