The Demise of Third-Party Cookies: Retaining the Sweet Spot Despite delays and hurdles, the third-party cookie is still on death row. What happens after it is gone? What new strategies will digital marketers need to put in place to continue with the cookie's advantages?
Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.
Before any end, a period of questioning is natural. So, why do third-party cookies need to go? The answer could be a sordid saga of untamed and unfettered access to data for unlimited marketing strategies, and let's say not everyone approves of this freedom. For years now, companies have been able to track website visits and prepare a blueprint of customer online surfing and preferences, using this data to craft targeted strategies. But with data becoming a very sensitive commodity in a world where it's almost priceless, the death of an easy data-catcher cookie was inevitable. Savvy marketers are already prepared with alternatives that will allow for sensitive and more compliant data collation for marketing uses. However, smaller businesses, whose marketing is dependent on third-party cookie data, will find it an uphill job.
Four years ago, social media and online giants fell from grace rapidly after scandals like Cambridge Analytica shook the world. Though it was not directly related to cookies, it indeed drove privacy as a critical topic of discussion. Suddenly, the methods that tech companies used to harvest user data became a concern, and public awareness increased. Several massive data breaches that put user data on the dark net sealed the fate of these methods. There were questions of faith, trust and whether consumers and users would be comfortable sharing their data. GDPR sealed these doubts — there was no way privacy could be compromised, and this was the death knell for third-party cookies on online platforms.
Amid the giants, Google quickly decided to do away with third-party cookies from 2020 as a step toward peace between consumers, lawmakers and technology companies. But, what next? What would a cookie-less future look like to marketers? Certainly not bitter! There are undoubtedly alternate solutions, some even more effective than cookies.
Planning for a better connection in a cookie-less world
Even before this change was planned, marketers knew that customers would not trust anything that was not authentic and personal. In the real world, removing third-party cookies from the equation will be the catalyst for marketers to look for alternatives to reach the consumer. With the absence of the complacency that cookies brought in, this could be the best thing for innovation, new strategies, and the start of a better customer experience. Video ads are becoming more popular and effective, and keyword targeting has become a more robust tool than ever before, thus creating more meaningful interactions and delivering higher personalization than ever before.
It's time for real-time
The removal of cookies will force brands to create real-time, authentic connections with customers. Marketers who have a plan in place will benefit from faster action. First-party cookie data will probably be the first mover after the phase-out of third-party cookies. Google is not planning to phase out all cookies — first-party data should still be accessible. All it means is: direct connect. It will also drive new ways to measure customer interaction, often much more accurate. Creating messaging in the proper context will be the latest trick all marketers will have to learn and work on its enhancement.
Marketers could also ask politely! Yes, they could ask their customers and visitors on digital platforms for their contact details, if they are interested in getting more information about the product. People may share. It's trust and confidence that their data will not be misused, and yes, companies have to earn their trust. This holds more for highly customized product companies or smaller sellers.
More authentic marketing strategies will be the dawn of an era that looks beyond blind data to be a source of value addition to customers, which they can use to make informed decisions. With these differentiated methods, there will be much more transparency, much higher effectiveness and much better engagement.
How technology will help
The single most significant strength of technology-focused minds is their ability to innovate, compensate and move on. With bosses at Google announcing they will not replace third-party cookies with anything similar, it is really up to businesses to develop creative ideas for un-intrusive data collation.
Contextual advertising could be one smart step forward. With targeted messaging, it is still possible to get a more granular view of the market interest and reach out to customers. Content creation will be a critical factor in the success of this activity.
There have been promises of new technologies. One would be Federated Learning of Cohorts — a type of web tracking. It still appears to be in testing. The basic idea is that the Chrome browser will track customers' browsing habits and help target messaging for marketers. There are pros and cons to this concept, and in the end, the question will always be about power play. The Big Four will always find ways to grab the king's share of the market, and here, their need for customer data is worth its weight in whatever is more valuable than gold, currently! While customer data could be stored, this could also mark the marketer's identity and data buildup.
But at the end of the day, whatever replaces cookies could resemble the departed cookies in some way or form. Publishers could be working on new forms of identity-based web tracking; Google could launch a FLoC, and brands could be planning to strengthen their first-party data to replace the third-party cookie. In my mind, all of these solutions spring from the same root — data analytics, which will always be the driver for marketing outreach.
I also feel that the demise of the third-party cookie as a data hunter and gatherer could be an opportunity in disguise. It would undoubtedly be a driver for new ideas and innovation and ultimately give birth to more inventive tools. What comes after this demise could be more robust, reliable, agile and a perfect boon to marketers across the globe. It could be eons ahead of the cookies and enable marketers to deliver much more personalized, focused messaging, aiding in much better marketing impact.