What Marketers Need to Know About the Demise of Third-Party Cookies

Posted by David Terry on May 18, 2021

For many years digital marketers have been able to use cookies to track website visitors, improve the user experience (UX), collect data for ad targeting, as well as learn more about what visitors are viewing online.

Yet all this is set to change. With the move to address online privacy concerns, a number of platforms are moving to eliminate (or have done so already) third-party cookies from their products in the future. 

Last year, Google announced that it will phase out the use of third-party cookies on Chrome browsers by 2022. 

A Google blog announcing the move stated: “Users are demanding greater privacy--including transparency, choice and control over how their data is used--and it’s clear the web ecosystem needs to evolve to meet these increasing demands.”

It’s not just Google who’s working on phasing out third-party cookies. Both Firefox and Apple’s Safari have already updated their anti-tracking technology to block out all third-party cookies by default.

What is a third-party cookie?

A third-party cookie is placed on a website by someone other than the owner (a third party) of the domain. These cookies are essentially little bits of information that third-parties store on a person’s computer when they visit a website.

Third-party cookies allow businesses to track people’s traffic, when they are not directly using their website. These snippets of information can help digital marketers see what a user is looking at and interacting with, and this provides insights into demographics, geographical location and other information about the user’s behaviours and interests. 

Why is the end of third-party cookies important for digital marketers?

Third-party cookies have primarily been used by digital marketers to collect marketing-relevant information such as age, gender, location and user behaviour. This can help guide a marketing strategy, but most importantly it has been used for personalized advertising.

In fact, third-party cookies are largely to thank for the huge growth in online ad revenues experienced over the past 20 years. They allow digital marketers to segment and target audiences through behaviour data, and are used for targeting, retargeting, display advertising and behavioural marketing.

While the death of third-party cookies is likely to result in some big changes into how digital marketers target customers, it isn’t a move that comes out of the blue. Privacy has been a huge issue in the online space over the last few years, and it always seemed inevitable that cookies would be a part of that conversation.

With that in mind, it’s likely that we will see platforms develop new tools that help digital marketers track data, and it’s likely we will see digital marketers innovate the methods they use to reach the right audience.

A few reasons why you shouldn’t panic about the demise of third-party cookies

The end of third-party cookies will certainly have some huge affects on how digital marketers collect information moving forward, but it’s not the end of the world. In fact, this could be an opportunity for companies to improve the relationship they have with their prospects and customers.

Here are just a few of the reasons why you shouldn’t panic about the death of third-party cookies:

1 - First-party cookies are still available

First-party cookies, which are essentially the same as third-party cookies, but designed for your company’s own website, aren’t being phased out at all. First-party cookies provide your business with huge amounts of valuable data, including what a user did while on your website, how often they visit, as well as other insightful behaviour while they are on your domain. 

While first-party cookies don’t allow you to see data related to your visitor’s behaviour on other websites, they still give you enough valuable data to create effective marketing strategies around them. 

2 - There are other ways to collect data

When third-party cookies cease to exist, it doesn’t mean digital marketers no longer have ways to collect data. Instead, they must adapt to new mechanisms, methods and tools to collect that data.

First-party cookies, interactive content, Google’s Privacy Sandbox and content marketing are all ways to ethically collect data about your audience, and they can be used to build highly-effective marketing and advertising strategies.

3 - There’s still time to find new solutions

Firefox and Safari have already blocked third-party cookies by default, but Google won't be following suit until some time in 2022. Since Google Chrome accounts for more than half of the web browser market, this is the main one that digital marketers need to prepare for. The advantage of that is we have had two years since they announced the move to find a solution. 

Digital marketing changes constantly, and digital marketers have learnt that they should never be too reliant on one method or technology. There’s no doubt that, before the third-party cookie is phased out, that marketers and developers will have found new ways to effectively target prospects with marketing and advertising campaigns. 

Do you have any further questions about how these changes could impact your digital marketing program? Contact the Brit Agency today. We have years’ of experience designing  highly-effective Inbound Marketing strategies in the B2B space. 

Topics: Content Marketing