In January last year, Google announced its plan to phase out third-party cookies on the Chrome browser over the next two years. This change will mean that in one year all major browsers (Google Chrome, Firefox, Safari) will have blocked the use of third-party cookies. All of which will impact future digital marketing efforts. Let’s take a deeper look at this upcoming change, as well as how to prepare for the impending cookieless future.


Cookies Today

Today cookies are used as tools to identify individual users online, allowing for targeted advertising and helping to generate higher conversions. This ability to track and collate information on users’ web searches and sites visited has been seen by many as an invasion of privacy. This has led to new regulations and laws being passed in the last few years such as the EU ePrivacy Regulation in 2017 and the California Consumer Privacy Act in 2020 which restrict the usage of cookies.

What does this mean for businesses? For certain companies, such as Google and Facebook, the reduction of third party cookies can actually be positive.

Both have access to vast amounts of their own first party information, which can be used to identify users. The removal of third party cookies means that first party data from Facebook and Google will be even more valuable. But for smaller businesses that don’t have this luxury, there are a few alternatives already being proposed:


Going Cookieless Alternatives


1. Utilising First-Party Data

With the reduction of third-party cookies across all browsers, first-party data will be an even more valuable commodity for businesses. First-party data can also come from a host of different sources, meaning that both large and SMBs can potentially look to leverage this as a future alternative for cookies. For instance, membership/account data is a perfect example of this option where individuals provide identifying information (email addresses) through offering of incentives such as discounts and exclusive offers on products/services.

2. Contextual Targeting

As the name suggests, the targeting involves reaching out to consumers based on keywords or topics that they search, rather than their purchasing behaviour. Whilst not as individually focused, compared to behavioural targeting, it does allow for grouping of individuals around particular interests. This type of targeting is particularly prominent on Google PPC ads and will more than likely become increasingly popular as third-party cookies diminish.

3. New Identifiers

The disappearance of third-party cookies opens the door for a range of different unique identifiers which can be utilised by businesses. A few examples of current options being discussed are highlighted below:

IP Address Tracking: Tracking of an individual’s IP address can link back to an IP address provider and find out where they are searching from. But, this option is still quite limited as it cannot provide individual information on the user.
Single Sign-On: This option allows a user to verify who they are across multiple sites through one login, allowing for one single identifier.

Consent Management Platforms: Already being explored in Germany, these platforms will allow users to select which information they share with specific businesses through a tick box system.

Google’s Privacy Sandbox: A new open initiative looking to be rolled out in 2021 by Google that will look to replace third-party cookies with fingerprinting. Fingerprinting involves taking several smaller pieces of data about users to create a unique identifier that can be seen across multiple websites. However, this solution is already facing some backlash due to the amount of power the solution can provide Google.

Universal ID: Similar to the Single Sign-On, Universal IDs are a single identifier individuals can use across multiple websites. Several companies are already in the process of creating identifiers.

With 2022 only one year away, it is important that businesses begin to explore what a cookieless future will look like. Consumers are becoming increasingly aware of data privacy, which coupled with the reduction of third-party cookies, is made all the more delicate. It is important to implement strategies to not only ensure customer data is protected, but also so that positive data usage and transparency with customers is maintained. The most important tips for any business is to focus on first-party data and explore alternative solutions to ensure that you are well prepared for the 2022 change. To find out more about how your business can prepare contact the team at Redline Digital.