The news around Google removing third-party cookies initially send the industry into a tailspin regarding the potential impact.
To help with that process, here we consider:
- Why is Google removing cookies?
- What the updated timeline for cookie deprecation looks like
- How cookies are being used right now
- What the removal of cookies means
- Our guide to preparing for it
Why is Google removing cookies?
There is a myriad of reasons as to why Google is removing third-party cookies but the headline ones are:
- Response to consumer privacy concerns – consumers have become increasingly worried in the past few years about their privacy and how businesses use their personal data. Cases like the one between Facebook and Cambridge Analytica, where the personal data of nearly 87 million Facebook users was used without the proper consent and explicit permission to do so have been followed by a litany of other cases. Involving other larger players including Google, Twitter and Amazon.
They have led to a clamour from consumers for increased levels of privacy – with the Pew Institute uncovering that 81% of users saying that potential risks from companies collecting data outweighs the benefits. And third-party cookies collect a wealth of data on individuals that can be invasive in privacy terms.
- Legal changes – a number of different pieces of legislation from the ePrivacy Directive, CCPA and GDPR have specifically taken aim at how advertisers and brands obtain consent and process data for marketing purposes.
- The regulators are showing their teeth – there is also little doubt that the regulators have been applying pressure that has had a bearing on Google’s decision too. And more recently they have really showed their teeth. In Jan 2022 CNIL, the French data regulator fined Google €150m for violating data privacy rules which is only one of a number of fines that the big platform providers have incurred.
- Concerns around security – this is also a key factor in what is a much more connected and online environment. In fact, 59% of consumers say knowledge of a data breach would negatively impact buying intentions.
Updated timeline for cookie deprecation
So, having looked at why Google is removing cookies – what does the timeline on this look like? This has been a difficult one to nail down as Google has changed the timeline on more than one occasion.
Originally the plan for Google removing third-party cookies had been to fully phase them out by Q4 of 2022. However, the latest timeline has put us on a trajectory towards the second half of 2024 as shown below:
However, based on experience to date we would advise everyone to ‘stay tuned’ as things can be fluid!
One of the reasons for this is the process that Google is going through to consult the industry is getting a mixed reception.
For example, the FLoC API (Federated Learning of Cohorts) which was one of the early cookie replacement proposals was killed off by Google due to industry feedback and now Google Topics is under scrutiny alongside the FLEDGE and Attribution APIs. And all of that is taking time.
How cookies are being used right now
Here are some of the ways that cookies are currently used from a marketing perspective.
- Session management – Recognising users and recalling individual login information and preferences
- Retargeting – Based on behaviours identified from user journey data, propensity to buy and product interest
- Profiling & personalisation – Identifying if users are the right profile to be served a specific ad
- Audience development – Developing look-a-like audiences for better targeted marketing activity
So, Google removing third-party cookies has implications for much of the above.
What will the removal of cookies mean?
On the face of it, cookies fulfil some relatively important functions for advertisers and brands right now.
So, what are some of the key implications of their removal?
- Increased focus on first party data – as access to third-party data wanes marketers are increasingly going to turn their attention to how they collect and analyse first party data
- Targeting will be affected – the ability to delivered targeted advertising in its current format will be affected, particularly remarketing which relies on third-party cookies
- It is forcing marketers to review their options – and consider how they set themselves up for effective targeting and tracking of the marketing activity as third-party cookies are phased out (alongside issues like the impact of iOS 14.5 and the potential illegality of GA)
Our own research on the topic indicates that, while 34% of marketers think that the removal of third-party cookies will have a negative on their business, we are firmly in the camp of the 44% who said they think the change will be positive.
Why? Put simply, third-party cookies do a particularly poor job of attributing complex customer journeys compared to AI and Machine Learning driven approaches to marketing attribution like the one used in Corvidae’s attribution model.
Take the example below, for a leading UK retailer, where QueryClick used Corvidae to uncover the fact that 80% of cookie generated data was being incorrectly by GA 360, which relies on third-party cookies for attribution.
Our guide to preparing for the removal of cookies
As marketers, we’ve relied on cookies as the ‘trusted’ foundation for our analytics for as long as many people care to remember.
But it is clear, as they disappear marketers need to give serious consideration to putting in place solutions for a cookie-less world. As part of that transition many marketers are asking themselves if cookie-free attribution can really be achieved? Or if it is a myth.
So, how do you navigate the situation? A first step would be to download our eBook, Is Cookie-Free Attribution a Myth?, to discover:
- Why AI and Machine Learning are key to achieving post-cookie success
- The main reason cookies are flawed and how to fix your 80% broken data
- Our unique patented technology – and how it completely replaces the cookie
- The commercial impact of cookie-free attribution