Cookies, also known as HTTP cookies or internet cookies, are designed for internet browsers to track, personalize, and save information about each user session. Every time you visit a new page on a site, the information is saved to use for decision-making purposes at some point in the future.
Cookies were developed in the early 1990s, and have become an integral part of the digital marketing process.
But something has changed recently that has made digital marketers stand up and take notice. Google announced its Privacy Sandbox initiative to create technologies that both protect people’s privacy as well as give companies and developers the tools necessary to thrive in a digital world. Chrome will be phasing out support for third-party cookies by late 2023, and won’t be pursuing other technology that identifies individual users.
What does it mean for digital marketing as we move towards a cookieless future?
Google will never abandon its ad platform, and will shift to other ways of marketing and advertising. While it’s too soon to understand what that may look like, as a marketer, there are things you can implement now to begin preparing.
Understanding first-party and third-party cookies
First and third-party cookies are designed to track user behavior. How they collect data is different.
First-party cookies are used by the website you visit. The site owners collect data as you move around, to provide you with a better user experience. When you visit Amazon, for example, you login and store your credentials. Every time you visit, it retains your information, keeping your clicks and preferences in storage to make it easier to shop.
Third-party cookies are created by sites outside of the domain you are currently on. They are used for digital marketing purposes. As you shop Amazon, you may browse an item, then leave the site without making a purchase. A third-party cookie can be set by a third-party server, such as an ad vendor, using the code to further market the searched product to you as you move to other sites also using the code.
A handful of first-party data drivers control a dominating amount of online data – Apple, Amazon, Facebook, and Google. Their data share is massive, relying on internal accounts, subscriptions, and purchases to keep them afloat.
For everybody else, it means moving forward into a world with increasing challenges to build and grow. Prices for access to these giant’s databases will most likely continue to swell.
What does that mean for you right now? How do you plan for a cookieless future?
Do your research
Third-party cookies are going away. They will soon be a thing of the past. If you rely on them exclusively for traffic to your site, and revenue for your company, you will be impacted heavily in the not-so-distant future.
Now is the time to start branching out and finding other ways to reach out to your customers. A great place to start is by getting to know your customers better. Who are they? Why do they like your brand? What are their interests, goals, and desires? The more in-depth you build your customer avatar, the more you’ll discover about where they hang out and what they like to do. Start building other ways of communicating with them for a stronger first-party relationship in the future.
Start using first-party cookie technology
We mentioned first-party cookie technology being used by the behemoths in the industry. You can use the same technology yourself. Contextual targeting uses display ads based on what visitors search for while on your site. If you sell clothing and a visitor lands on a page selling jeans, a contextual ad will allow ads for that pair of jeans to follow visitors as they move to other sites. Because this data was captured by a visitor on your site, it’s considered first-party data.
Invest in creating your own content
As you start to build a stronger relationship with your audience, it’s equally important for you to grow your own lists. Find new ways of getting people to sign up for your email list and build your subscriber database. Adding value will win every time.
This can work hand in hand with your contextual targeting strategy. When they visit your site and spend time on a page, you can gently remind them of that product as they surf around on other sites.
Use first-party data to learn more about who they are and what they desire. This gives you more information to personalize your offer.
Work to create more eye-catching visuals that will attract new visitors to your site. Now is the time if you haven’t updated your site, graphics, and landing pages in a while. You can even A/B test different resources by using contextual targeting strategies to determine what your audience wants.
Create a strategy that helps you grow in a cookieless future
Always be learning and growing. Those words are an integral part of any marketer’s plan, but right now, for digital marketing, it’s mandatory.
The world of marketing is changing fast. There will be challenges as you find new ways of moving past relying on cookies to advertise and reach out to your prospects and clients. Yet as one strategy moves away, others will come to light.
By staying on top of both your short and long-term strategies, you’ll find new ways to get closer to your customers, and give them what they’re looking for from a company. We won’t go back to a time without digital marketing; it’s just going to change the way we track audiences and serve them ads.
If you haven’t invested in learning more about the digital marketing process before, there’s never been a better time. Choose a partner that can help deliver on your goals in a variety of ways, helping you build out your long-term goals.