Preparing for a post-cookie future
What is a third party cookie?
A third party cookie is used for cross-site tracking, so that data can be harvested as you surf the web when the browser is not on the tracking website’s domain. Web browsers will store a cookie of what you have been interacting with across websites that advertisers, marketers and social media platforms can then utilise to tailor ads, content and recommendations to your preferences. Unknowingly, the browser creates a “trail of crumbs” including previous websites and searches that they have used prior to coming onto your site.
Why should I care about cookies?
Third-party cookies have been a talking point with Digital Marketers for years now, but recently it was confirmed that the love affair with third-party cookies would be coming to an end. Google was always going to begin the rollback of third-party cookies in February 2020, however Google accelerated plans last month, by announcing that they won’t be building “alternative identifiers to track individuals as they browse across the web, nor will we use them in our products”.
With nearly 65% of browser users going through Chrome, Google’s decision not to have a significant replacement to the third-party cookie should be a topic on any marketer’s agenda, as it will have a direct impact on strategies and the way in which we harvest data. Firefox and Safari have already phased out third-party cookies, so Google’s announcement reinforces that third-party cookies will soon be a thing of the past.
The removal of third-party cookies means that websites can no longer harvest or utilise browser data if the individual is searching outside their own domain. As a result, activities such as personalisation will become difficult if you rely on third-party data to provide these 1:1 experiences. Since companies will no longer have access to such a large pool of data, marketing strategies will need to be rethought. Beginning the transition towards first-party data now is imperative, so that organisations can determine how and what to do with their new data pools and where there may be gaps that need filling and therefore require additional on-site resources.
What can I do to ensure that experience doesn’t suffer due to limited data?
What can be done to replace the insights on prospects that we are losing, without worrying about invading the privacy of users?
Firstly, all marketers should remember that first-party data is key. Ensuring that you have a process in place to create actionable insights based on first-party data tracked on your website (such as page clicks, previous orders and newsletter sign ups), can allow you to utilise similar insights as you would off-site.
Retailers must assess their internal capabilities and resources. Yes, some large organisations may have the scope to develop technology internally that addresses these newfound challenges, however a vast majority of the time (especially given the relatively time-sensitive nature of the activity) retailers will be better off partnering with a third party vendor. Navigating this new territory will be difficult for many – adapting strategies and managing the transition phase will likely result in a dip in the overall performance and quality of outputs. A more sensible approach for most would be to consider working with a tech-partner. The tech ecosystem has become increasingly fragmented in recent years, meaning that there is no shortage of niche providers who are experts in a very specific area and can resolve complex issues that in-house expertise often cannot. Tackling the cookie challenge by harvesting first-party data and deriving valuable, personalised insights from this in real time is one of them – taking into account previously viewed items, past purchases and top search results from users to deliver 1:1 journeys and results, without invading their day-to-day browsing of the web.
A noteworthy tip for a post-cookie world would be for retailers to encourage customers to create an account allowing organisations to access a larger, historical pool of data on an individual basis. Commonly, we see retailers implementing pop-ups that offer customers a discount if they sign up, however with companies no longer able to rely on a vast pool of data, incremental changes such as this can ensure valuable data is harvested that reinforces customer loyalty.
Getting the ball rolling
The removal of third-party cookies from your website is going to change how ecommerce professionals handle website personalisation and user experience. Retailers need to ensure that they are well prepared so that the cookie phase out will not impact their on-site CX . Since browsers these days are so used to instant gratification, retailers will need to ensure not only that their pool of first-party data is vast and actionable, but that they are able to make sense of this data in a way that adds value in real-time. These kinds of experiences, personalising not only results but journeys, ensure optimisation for on-site efficiency and intuitiveness, so that your transition towards cookie-free operations is seamless.
Sam’s current and previous role in the technology space has allowed him to liaise with hundreds of retailers, across a diverse range of industries, helping them monetise their on-site offing and drive conversion. These connections have enabled Sam to generate a thorough understanding of on-site pain points and armed him with the knowledge to provide support and guidance to retailers of all sizes.