How to Continue Marketing Without Third-Party Cookies

How to Continue Marketing Without Third-Party Cookies

So, third-party cookies are going away.

But why does it really matter? And what can you do to plan for marketing without third-party cookies – and minimise the impact on your own marketing activity during what is a fairly seismic change to the marketing measurement and tracking landscape?

Read on as we provide you with:

Quick overview of key points on the removal of cookies

This is a topic area we have already given quite a bit of column inches to before now.

However, by way of a quick summary, here are the headlines that we have covered in some depth previously (when it comes the implications of marketing in a cookieless future):

Why are third-party cookies are going away?

Some of the key reasons for the demise of third-party cookies include:

  • User privacy – consumers have undoubtedly been affected by some of the higher profile misuse of personal data and are demanding more control over how their data is collected and used
  • Worries about security – cookies open up the potential for a number of security risks including data breaches
  • Impact of legislation – compliance with requirements like GDPR and CCPA have had significant impact on how consent for cookies and the data they collect is managed
  • Pressure from the regulators – it is impossible to ignore the likely impact of interventions by the regulators which are ongoing, like the recent Irish Data Protection Commission (IDPC) investigation into Google’s online advertising approach. Which resulted in a fine of €390m

Why does it matter?

In broad terms, Google’s decision to remove third-party cookies matters for a number of key reasons, including:

  • A really significant chunk of existing media plans have relied on cookies for targeted, behavioural based advertising which simply isn’t going to be possible in its current form once they go away. And certain types of advertising, for example retargeting and display (programmatic), will be particularly badly affected.
  • Also, Google are slightly late to the party here. Players like Apple (Safari) and Mozilla (Firefox) took the decision to block third-party cookies in their respective browsers some time ago. So, Google’s decision is part of a wider trend that was underway already that effectively closes the door on third-party cookie use.
  • The decision also matters due to the sheer scale of penetration of the Chrome browser amongst internet users. According to Statista, Chrome has seen stellar growth in the last 10 years with an incredible market share of 67% in 2022. That is 67% of the market that is currently a pivotal cog in much of the ad targeting and tracking that brands use on a daily basis right now.

Timeline for the end of third-party cookies

The actual deadline that you need to be set up for cookie-less marketing has moved around a bit and gone back a few times but according to Google’s Privacy Sandbox this will now happen in Q3 2024.

4 tips for marketing without third-party cookies

So, how do you set yourself up for success in a cookieless world? Here is your starter for ten:

1. Make sure you fully optimise your first-party data

The changes bring what you are doing with your first party data into even sharper focus than before.

While third-party cookies are impacted, it is still going to be possible to continue to collect first-party data using cookies.

And, in a lot of ways, that type of data is always going to be preferable.

For a start, it is data on prospects and customers that are operating a lot closer to home – on your website, in your apps and interacting with your email campaigns – as opposed to third-party data which is much more distant in origin.

By definition, it is potentially more accurate than third party data and can allow you to really live the mantra of ‘know your customer’.

By enabling you to build unique customer profile data and highly accurate personas that give you a competitive advantage that isn’t available to your competition. In the sense that third-party cookie generated data is.

So, make it a priority to bring your first-party data – that is hidden in plain sight in platforms from CDPs to marketing automation tools and your analytics packages – together to provide high quality insight to drive your strategy.

2. Make sure you have the right to activate it

And make sure you can use your data.

You need to be 100% on top of compliance and have the correct consents in place to ensure you have the right to use it. Which means revisiting signup processes etc to ensure they are watertight.

And compliance really matters in a privacy focused world – even for the big players like Google themselves.

A case in point here is the recent furore around the potential illegality of Google Analytics which has effectively seen Google having to sunset Google Analytics Universal and force a move to GA4.

In order to take account of concerns raised by a number of regulators in the EU around the lack of GDPR compliance of the existing solution.

3. Look at your options outside of behavioural targeting

So, some of the targeting opportunities that were enabled by third party cookies are going – but there are alternatives available for marketing in a cookieless world.

Here are just some of the options worthy of a look right now:

  • Contextual advertising – this is already something we are seeing our clients explore more. Contextual advertising changes the focus for targeting away from individuals to targeting based on context. For example, showing ad content based on what other content is on a specific page where ad is shown or based on keyword to ensure relevancy
  • Google’s replacement solutions – Google will not stop tracking altogether. They have a number of proposals on the table as part of their privacy Sandbox initiative – including Google Topics API, Google FLEDGE API and Google Reporting API. Details continue to emerge on this and it will pay dividends to keep up with developments here
  • AI driven attribution – despite the popularity of cookie-enabled analytics solutions they are not the only game in town. AI and Machine learning enabled solutions do not have the same dependence on cookies and actually do a much better job of effective attribution – by stitching data right across the customer journey together. So it is worth exploring those

4. Take the opportunity to rebuild your analytics data

Far from the end of third-party cookies being a marketing disaster, it actually presents the opportunity to explore the potential in cookieless marketing and revisit your strategy around data analytics.

Did you know that a huge percentage of your marketing data – which is collected by third-party cookie enabled solutions like Google Analytics – is actually incorrectly attributed? Which is due to the poor job that cookies do of tracking cross device journeys.

Take the example below, for a leading UK retailer, where Corvidae uncovered the fact that 80% of cookie-generated data was being incorrectly by GA360, which relies on third-party cookies for attribution.

How our Corvidae platform helps in a post-cookie world

Corvidae is our patented approach to attribution and is the only solution on the market which uses AI and Machine Learning to completely replace the cookie. 

It effectively replaces the broken cookie-based approach by using AI and Machine Learning – which is capable of rebuilding raw, cross-channel analytics data. And unifies online and offline data before applying neural network processing to provide highly accurate attribution. 

Corvidae’s cookieless attribution allows digital marketers to: 

  • Break down siloed data right across your marketing channels
  • Gain an understanding of the complete customer journey
  • Refocus marketing spend in the most profitable areas
  • Achieve greater ROI from your marketing efforts

To learn more about the future of attribution in a cookieless world, download our eBook: Is Cookie-Free Attribution a Myth?

Is Cookie-Free Attribution a Myth?