For those of you who read our blog, you know we’ve been talking about the end of third-party cookies for quite some time. This is a huge deal for marketers everywhere because let’s be real—we’ve all been heavily reliant on cookies to create better experiences for our customers.
This reliance is a key driver why the cookieless future has been delayed by Google. While browsers like Firefox and Safari have already made the change, Google is taking a 2-year phase-out approach to gradually allow marketers to adjust their programs.
By 2023, we expect cookies to only exist as a first-party publisher tool (to personalize your experience and track users across their owned media) and in the form of delicious desserts. Read on to hear our predictions for what this cookieless world will look like, and how marketers will be able to create personalized experiences for their audience.
A Brief History On Third-Party Cookies
Before we dig into the future, let’s take a quick trip down memory lane to understand more about third-party cookies and how they grew to be such an integral (and now controversial) part of modern day advertising.
Third-party cookies are created by domains other than the website you’re visiting and are used for tracking activity to serve up more targeted ads and personalized user experiences. Let’s review the three most common third-party cookie sources:
- Email: Almost anytime you receive an email with an image embedded in the content or footer, a cookie is being dropped into your browser. Many can be third party cookies that track your online behaviors, including links you might click inside the email content.
- Advertising services: Ever view an item on an ecommerce site only to have it appear as an advertisement on every other site you visit? This is called retargeting, and is an effective advertising strategy. The idea is to serve up ads that are relevant to the consumer based on their personal browsing history.
- Social media buttons: Social media buttons have many advantages including: allowing new users to bypass registration and seamlessly login, easily share website content on their social platforms, and more. These buttons also drop cookies in the browser since they must capture and track user information to function.
Third-party cookies are useful, but here’s why they’re also controversial—they collect personal and behavioral information to identify users and track them online. It is often hard to identify the source of the data being used and they are hard to block or permanently opt-out of tracking.
The phase out of third-party cookies is being driven by a shifting mindset of regulators and consumers demanding more data transparency and control.
Our Predictions for the Cookieless Future
Marketers; it’s time to breathe a collective sigh of relief and know that you will still be able to leverage user data to run most of your existing marketing programs. The difference? Where and how you go about doing so.
With that in mind, we predict there will be several key sources for where marketers will access audiences:
- Google: Leveraging something called the Federated Learning of Cohorts, Google will analyze user browser activity to gather audience insights. From there, they’ll create anonymized modeled audience cohorts based on similar browsing activities that you can advertise to.
- Facebook/Instagram: The social media platform will still remain a great place to run targeted campaigns via look-a-like audience modeling due to the sheer amount of audience data they capture daily.
- Apple: We’re predicting Apple to be the dark horse audience behemoth, by closing off third-party apps from collecting user data and creating their own advertising platform loaded with rich geolocation and mobile app usage data.
- Unified ID 2.0 (UID2) : Arguably the most pivotal component of targeted advertising across the open web (i.e. websites and publishers that are available outside of walled gardens),. Unified ID 2.0 is an identity platform developed by a company called The Trade Desk meant to be the transparent and privacy-complaint answer to third-party cookies. We’ll dig into this more below.
How Marketers Can Succeed Without Cookies
All four of these solutions will still be able to identify users and tie activity back to them—just in a much more transparent and privacy secure way. The first three audience hubs collectively form the largest “walled gardens” of user data. Marketers and publishers alike will need to rely on each tech giant’s personal user data (and deal with their data gatekeeping) or upload their own.
For traditional digital marketing activities across the open web, UID2 works on an open source framework and provides publishers, DSPs, and first party data owners with a way to identify users without third-party cookies.
In short? UID2 will require users to directly consent to publisher tracking by providing their email address. And while there will be people who will never opt-in, the idea is for publishers to reiterate the value of opting-in to their users—to provide the tailored and seamless experience they desire. Users must see the value in order to opt-in, which long term should translate into better web experiences for everyone. And opting out of a UID2 world will be much more effective than a web powered by third-party cookies.
With the above in mind, below are 3 things you can do today to prepare for a cookieless future:
3 Things Marketers Can Do To Prepare Today:
- Compliance Gut Check: Spend adequate time and resources analyzing your customer data to ensure compliance with all current and future regulations, including the phase out of cookies.
- Partnership Audit: Start discussing the end of cookies with your data partners to get an understanding of how much they’ll be impacted by the change and how they plan to adapt.
- Reset Expectations: Recognize that the audience data you do capture will be less substantial in volume but more accurate. A post third-party cookie world is all about quality over quantity.
In the world of marketing, change is constant, but never easy. The cookieless universe doesn’t have to be scary if you’re prepared. Our team at StatSocial have also been preparing and are proud to say that we are both Neutronian and cookieless certified to help our customers usher in this new reality.
Unlike many data companies and some competitors, StatSocial has never relied on third-party cookies to function. As a result, we are already fully compatible with UID2 and can seamlessly integrate to ensure you’ll maintain a holistic view of your audience across various social platforms in the cookieless future. Our cookieless use cases include:
- Audience Intelligence: Easily understand your audience’s preferred media consumption to better align your advertising
- Market Research: Conduct stronger, more comprehensive market research surveys
- Attribution: Gain a holistic view of your social and influencer campaigns by connecting them back to household purchase data
- Social Audience Retargeting: Run comprehensive retargeting campaigns using lookalike audiences
If you’re ready to still run powerful, targeted marketing campaigns and know your audience in the cookieless future, let’s chat.