How to reduce the impact of the loss of 3rd-party cookies

Future cookieless worries marketers

The cookieless future is a topic of concern for many marketers who have so far focused their efforts on strategies dependent on ad tracking and the possibilities of third-party cookies. It is therefore important to understand the context of this future, what exactly is meant by the so-called “death of cookies” and which cookies will live on in brands’ web ecosystems. As well as understanding what solutions can be implemented right now to reduce the impact of the loss of third-party cookies, better understand consumers, deliver fully personalized communications and enable real-time experiences that respond to their needs.

Apple, Google and the end of third-party cookies

To understand the context in which we find ourselves, we have to go back to the entry into force of the GDPR. This regulation did not only focus on cookies, but put the focus on how data is collected, how it is processed, what it is used for and with which permissions all these actions are performed. This regulation therefore puts at the center of the issue what data owners, brands and advertisers, do with the data they track, for what purposes and with what permissions users need to have.

At the same time, Apple has placed itself in an advanced position in terms of defending users’ privacy with what it has called ITP – Intelligent Tracking Prevention. This regulation has ended up with the blocking of third-party cookies by Safari and a high level of restriction on first-party cookies. To keep third-party cookies, it is necessary to activate a few settings in the browser, and as for first-party cookies, Safari restricts the retention of information to a maximum of 7 days for standard JavaScript cookies or only 24 hours if they pass information through link decoration -a process generally used to pass customer IDs to Google, for example-.

On the other hand, from an advertising perspective, Google has also joined in the elimination of third-party cookies in its Chrome browser -first in 2022, then in 2023 and finally at the end of 2024-. In this sense, Google has launched the Privacy Sandbox initiative with the aim of creating web standards to facilitate the use of user information without compromising their privacy and, in this way, also facilitate online advertising without the use of third-party cookies.

Technological, behavioural and mindset changes

In combination with both these regulations and technological changes, the pandemic has changed the shopping behaviour of many consumers in recent years, with online sales growing by 20% in just three months. These consumers have not only moved online, but have stayed online and even changed their behaviour. In this sense, it is key to understand how they now behave across different browsers and devices.

With these four elements with a strong behavioural component, the path ahead of marketers is one of data analysis and the development of experiences and customer journeys with a completely customer-centric approach. This is why the objectives of Digital Marketing strategies have to be customer-first rather than looking to exploit all their data.

Are we facing the death of cookies?

There is often talk of the death of cookies, but this is not really the case. Cookies will continue to exist. In fact, the biscuits that will be on the table from 2024 onwards will be first-party HTTP cookies – also known as server-side cookies. This is a type of cookie that is more secure than JavaScript cookies, which obtain information through a call between the website and the browser, and which are not included in Apple’s ITP restrictions and are therefore not subject to expiry after 7 days.

The main technical derivative of this scenario is that brands should already be thinking about generating their own first-party cookies in the most elegant way possible, for example by having a collection of server-side data and mitigating the effects of ITP in the process. And they should be thinking about how they collect, share and exploit information, how they find alternatives to browser ad blockers, and how they can make data collection more robust for brands and more reliable for consumers.

The opportunities of first-party data

In a scenario where it has to be made clear what is being tracked, for what purpose and what the added value to consumers of these actions is, brands are faced with the opportunity to be honest with their customers by telling them what information they want them to provide and what they will get in return. In other words, the opportunity lies in moving from collecting as much as possible to soliciting relevant information from customers where there is a reason to do so and where something of value can be offered in return.

What about advertising? For paid media and ad campaigns, the opportunity lies in precision. It is true that with third-party data you could cover a very wide range of potential customers, but the precision in ad targeting was rather low in general. By gaining accuracy because we start from first-party data, in addition to building better targets, brands can also be more efficient in terms of investment.

No need to wait

Against this backdrop and the opportunity provided by the exploitation of first-party data, the short-term actions for brands are as follows:

  • Modify your own cookies to HTTP cookies.
  • Have a server-side data collection system that provides security and integrity to the data collected.
  • Encourage consumer sign-in by incentivising the possibility of having a first party binding key.
  • Use 1st party data in media and advertising for more accurate targeting.
  • All those brands that do not face the challenge of focusing on the points listed above and continue to work client-side with old methods linked to traditional cookies, will be losing accuracy in the attribution of the marketing channel in sales, accuracy in reporting to optimize consumer experiences and accuracy in the stitching of customer data necessary to optimize customer journeys.

    Two paths with immediate benefits

    The approach to start taking action to reduce the impact of the loss of 3rd-party cookies can take two forms. On the one hand, there is what we can call “Marketing Performance Optimisation”, which focuses on event-forwarding and server-side migration. The aim is to send all the data that needs to be sent in a simpler and more secure way. By gaining security and overcoming some mitigations, brands can gain 10-20% in data accuracy when creating audiences.

    And on the other hand, we have the “Customer-first strategy & Real-time targeting” route that focuses on re-orchestrating the Customer Experience by adapting Customer Journeys to first-party information, generating segments capable of saving up to 30% of paid media investment by performing media suppression and boosting revenue growth by up to 7.5%.

    Paving the way to the Customer Data Platfor

    As they say goodbye to third-party cookies, marketers find themselves in front of small actions aimed at getting to know their consumers better, offering them something in return and gaining efficiency, accuracy and results in all their actions; while building high-value relationships based on trust.

    But they are also facing a major technological challenge in how they work with their customers, putting them at the very center of their brand experience. All this while paving the way for the implementation of a CDP -Customer Data Platform- that enables a unified view of all customers, collecting first-party data from all their interactions in order to build complete customer profiles, create truly personalized experiences that improve customer trust and increase the return on marketing investments through visitor stitching.

    Digital marketing
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