Marketing Without Third-Party Cookies: Everything You Need to Know
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Marketing Without Third-Party Cookies: What You Need to Know

Are you ready for digital marketing without third-party cookies?

Google Chrome third-party cookies have been a marketing staple for gathering valuable insights into consumer demographics and behaviors. However, in January 2020, Google announced its initial plan to phase out the use of these data tracking tools in an effort to protect users asking for more privacy.

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,
the article stated.

Fast forward to 2024 and Google revealed its plan to complete the final phase-out of third-party cookies by year’s end. What effect will this upcoming change have on your business and marketing efforts? Thankfully, even though losing important analytical tools presents a challenge, there are specific marketing strategies you can implement to thrive in an online environment that prioritizes privacy.

What Is the Difference Between First-Party and Third-Party Cookies?

Cookies collect data that play a pivotal role in understanding consumer behavior online. They are categorized into two groups: first-party and third-party.

While first-party cookies directly tie to the website a user visits, providing insights into user preferences, third-party cookies extend beyond the visited site, offering broader data collection capabilities. However, these two types of cookies operate under different privacy standards. Understanding these distinctions is essential for creating both effective and privacy-conscious digital marketing strategies.

First-Party Cookies

First-party cookies are set directly by the website you visit. They play a crucial role in enhancing user experience by remembering login details, language preferences, and other site-specific settings. For instance, they allow e-commerce sites to remember what’s in your shopping cart, making online shopping smoother and more user-friendly. For example:

1. Functionality and Necessity:

  • Essential for basic site functions like login and language settings.
  • Improve user experience by remembering user preferences and session information.

Browser Handling:

  • Automatically accepted by most browsers.
  • Necessary for maintaining user session integrity; without them, each page reload may require a login.

Third-Party Cookies

Unlike first-party cookies, third-party cookies are created by domains other than the one you are visiting. They are used for tracking consumer data and online advertising purposes, enabling advertisers to deliver targeted ads based on user behavior across different sites. For example:

1. Advertising and Tracking:

  • Commonly used to track users across multiple websites to display targeted advertisements.
  • Example: Viewing products on one site might result in seeing related ads on another site.

2. Privacy Concerns and Restrictions:

  • Increasingly blocked by modern web browsers due to privacy concerns.
  • Subject to restrictions and declining acceptance, with major browsers phasing them out by 2024.

While cookies help enhance user experience by remembering visitor information for smoother site interactions, the use of third-party cookies for tracking user behavior across different sites has been raising red flags among users for some time. As users, we are more aware of “clickbait” and often hesitate before clicking on a link, considering whether it’s worth being bombarded with ads for that product on every subsequent page we visit.

This increased awareness has prompted global demands for stronger privacy regulations and led major browsers like Mozilla Firefox and Apple Safari to lead the way, blocking third-party cookies back in 2019 and 2020.

CategoryFirst-Party CookiesThird-Party Cookies
Hosted ByThe website visited by the user.Domains other than the visited website.
Scope of TrackingLimited to the specific website visited.Across multiple websites.
Main PurposeEnhancing user experience by remembering preferences.Tracking consumer data and delivering targeted ads.
FunctionalityRemember login details, language preferences, etc.Track users across websites for advertising purposes.
Privacy & RestrictionsGenerally more accepted due to direct interaction with the visited website.Increasingly blocked due to privacy concerns and browser restrictions.

The Demand for Browser and Privacy Regulations

With growing privacy concerns and regulations like GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation) and CCPA (California Consumer Privacy Act ), there is a significant shift toward limiting the use of third-party cookies. This shift is prompting the development of less intrusive advertising technologies such as Google’s Privacy Sandbox, which aims to balance privacy with digital marketing needs. For example:

1. Regulatory Impact:

  • Enhanced consumer control over personal data and reduced unsolicited tracking.
  • Browsers offer settings to reject cookies and incognito modes to enhance data privacy regulations.

2. Technological Adaptations:

  • Development of technologies like Google Topics and FLoC to replace traditional third-party cookie functions with privacy-preserving alternatives.

By having a thorough understanding of these regulations, companies can more easily adapt to the changing digital environment., ensuring compliance and optimizing their marketing strategies to focus more on first-party data and privacy-friendly practices.

The Impact on Digital Marketing Strategies

The complete elimination of third-party cookies in Google Chrome will result in a major decrease in valuable customer information used for targeted advertising efforts. Companies will have to develop alternative methods for gathering consumer data for marketing and advertising strategies. This change is impacting digital marketing in several ways:

1. New Data Collection Methods

Brands are shifting their focus to first-party data strategies. This requires businesses to engage directly with consumers, ensuring transparency about data practices and obtaining clear consent. The move towards first-party data not only aligns with privacy regulations but also builds trust, as consumers are generally more willing to share their data when they see a clear value exchange.

2. Challenges in Ad Targeting

The absence of third-party cookies poses significant challenges in delivering hyper-targeted ad campaigns. Advertisers now face the obstacle of reduced ad relevance and effectiveness, as they lose the ability to track users across multiple sites. This change necessitates a shift in strategy, focusing more on content alignment and less on behavioral tracking.

3. New Technologies and Channels

To counterbalance the loss of detailed insights from third-party cookies, marketers are turning to technologies like Google’s Privacy Sandbox. This initiative offers tools that allow for privacy-preserving ad targeting and measurement. In addition, businesses are turning to logged-in channels such as email to build direct relationships with their audience.

4. The Impact on Stakeholders

The impact of changing data privacy norms extends beyond just marketers. Publishers, retailers, and advertising intermediaries are also feeling the effects of these changes.
Overall, the shift towards stricter data privacy norms is forcing all stakeholders in the advertising industry to adapt and find new ways to reach consumers while respecting their privacy rights.

The discontinuation of third-party cookies brings both obstacles as well as exciting opportunities to experiment with new technologies. It also enhances transparency and trustworthiness in relationships between brands and consumers.

What Is First-Party Data?

First-party data uses information gathered directly from customer interactions on their own platforms like websites and mobile apps. Through first-party data companies can improve their knowledge about their target market, enhance personalized marketing strategies, and retain authority over data privacy and protection.

Strategic Development of First-Party Data Capabilities

Your first task in adapting to these regulation updates is to enhance your first-party data capabilities. This involves collecting data directly from your interactions with customers, which not only complies with privacy regulations like GDPR and CCPA but also builds trust with your audience. For example:

1. Enhancing Customer Data Collection:

  • Prioritize gathering data at every consumer touchpoint, particularly those you control such as your website and mobile apps.
  • Implement tools like Customer Data Platforms (CDPs) to unify customer profiles using data from various sources including CRM systems and server-side tracking.

2. Leveraging Identity Resolution Tools:

  • Employ identity resolution solutions to connect identifiers like email addresses to user activities and behaviors, thus enhancing the understanding of customer interactions.

3. Expanding Data Collection Through Incentivization:

  • Offer value in exchange for user data to encourage customers to share their personal information. This could include personalized product recommendations, discounts, or early access to products.

Building a Privacy-First Data Infrastructure

Next, building a Privacy-First Data Infrastructure involves creating a comprehensive system that prioritizes user privacy and data security. It’s important to design this infrastructure ensuring that user consent is always obtained before collecting or using any personal information. This means implementing clear and transparent data privacy policies, providing users with options to control how their data is used, and obtaining explicit consent for any data processing activities. Several ways to achieve this include:

1. Use of Consent Management Platforms (CMP):

  • Deploy CMPs to simplify the process of obtaining and managing user consent, ensuring compliance with privacy laws.

2. Implementing Server-Side Tracking:

  • Shift to server-side tracking to maintain control over the data sent to media and analytics partners, aligning with stricter browser requirements.

3. Data Clean Rooms:

  • Establish data clean rooms to safely link your first-party data with external platforms like Meta and Amazon, maintaining privacy while utilizing essential advertising ecosystems.

Ensuring user privacy and security is essential when developing a data system. Utilizing reliable tools and techniques allows for responsible data collection and usage without sacrificing user privacy.

What is Zero-Party Data?

Zero-party data is information that customers intentionally share with brands to improve their personalized experiences. This data is provided directly by the customer through various interactive means like surveys, quizzes, or preference settings.

Collection and PersonalizationActively collected through direct interactions, allowing businesses to tailor personalized experiences based on explicit customer preferences.A customer fills out a preference form to receive recommendations tailored to their tastes and needs.
Privacy and TrustAligns well with privacy regulations like GDPR and CCPA, as it involves clear consent from users, building trust and compliance.A user voluntarily provides their preferences for receiving marketing emails, which complies with data protection standards.
Advantages and Strategic UseEssential for businesses aiming to enhance customer relations and personalize marketing without relying on inferred data through cookies.Using zero-party data to segment customers for targeted promotions based on their explicitly stated interests.

Zero-party data gives businesses a unique chance to understand customers’ preferences directly from the source. When you use this proactive data-sharing model, your brand can strengthen customer relationships and deliver more personalized experiences. Building a strategy around zero-party data offers an opportunity to cultivate more meaningful engagement and tailored marketing.

How to Collect Consumer Data Without Third-Party Cookies

The digital world is constantly evolving, and to stay competitive, you need to adapt. Finding new ways to collect consumer data while working with other brands and embracing emerging trends through future-proofing strategies is key.

Here’s how:

1. Form Strategic Partnerships:

  • Develop marketing data partnerships with non-competitive companies to enrich your data pool, ensuring that the data exchange aligns with consumer privacy preferences.

2. Invest in Digital Transformation:

  • Invest in digital transformation to enhance your data collection and utilization processes, preparing your brand for changes in the advertising ecosystem

3. Prioritize First-Party Data in Advertising:

  • Allocate more of your advertising budget to channels that rely on first-party data, such as online retail media on retailers’ websites and apps.

Forming partnerships and sharing resources allows businesses to leverage each other’s strengths, reach new markets, and provide better offerings to customers. In addition, anticipating and preparing for future shifts in technology, consumer preferences, and industry trends allows companies to remain agile and well-positioned for long-term success.

Emerging Technologies and Alternatives

Exploring innovative technologies and strategies is crucial for adapting to the post-cookie era. Here’s a look at some promising alternatives:

1. Unified ID Solutions

Companies are developing Unified ID solutions to maintain the effectiveness of ads while respecting user privacy. This approach relies on a common identifier, replacing traditional cookies to help advertisers and publishers recognize users across the digital ecosystem without compromising their anonymity.

2. Contextual Advertising:

Contextual advertising is becoming a vital marketing strategy moving forward. This method involves displaying ads based on the content of the webpage rather than past user behavior, respecting user privacy while still delivering relevant advertisements. For example, a user browsing a camping website might see ads for tents, enhancing the ad’s relevance without compromising privacy.

3. AI and Machine Learning:

Artificial intelligence and machine learning are pivotal in analyzing large sets of anonymized data to predict user interests and behavior. These technologies help in delivering personalized experiences without infringing on privacy.

These technologies offer practical ways to continue gathering useful consumer data. When used strategically, these tools will help you adapt to changes and keep your marketing efforts effective.

Privacy-First Advertising

Privacy-first advertising is about balancing effective marketing with respecting user data rights. By focusing on customer consent and transparent data practices, you can build trust while delivering relevant ads. A couple of examples of how a few of the major browsers are achieving this include:

  • Privacy Sandbox Technologies:

Google’s Privacy Sandbox initiative proposes several new technologies to ensure privacy while still delivering targeted ads. These include the Topics API, Protected Audience, Attribution Reporting, Private Aggregation, Shared Storage, and Fenced Frames, which are designed to replace third-party cookies with more secure and less invasive methods.

  • Adaptation by Other Browsers:

Other major browsers like Safari and Firefox have also taken steps to enhance user privacy through technologies like Safari’s Intelligent Tracking Prevention (ITP) and Firefox’s Enhanced Tracking Protection (ETP), which limit the tracking capabilities of third-party cookies.

By staying up-to-date on the latest privacy technologies and guidelines, you can create effective, targeted campaigns that build trust and lay the groundwork for a strong, lasting relationship with your audience.

What Is the Future of Marketing Without Cookies?

As third-party cookies become a thing of the past, you, as digital marketers and business leaders, must adapt your strategies. You need to rethink how you track user interactions and tailor your marketing efforts. Moving forward you must:

  • Have a Thorough Understanding of Current Data Practices

It is crucial to audit and understand current data and tracking practices. This includes identifying what data is collected, how it is used, and ensuring it is done so with legal consent.

  • Rethink KPIs and Strategies

With the shift away from third-party cookies, marketers need to rethink their key performance indicators (KPIs) and strategies to focus more on first-party data and privacy-compliant practices.

  • Use Server-Side Tracking

Considering server-side tracking options can help maintain data accuracy and privacy, as it allows businesses to control the data sent to partners, reducing dependency on browsers.

By integrating these technologies and strategies, businesses can navigate the challenges posed by the shift away from third-party cookies, ensuring they remain competitive.

Build Privacy and Trust With Your Customers

One of the exciting aspects of digital marketing is the continuous advancement of technology. Instead of viewing the end third-party cookies as a hurdle, embrace it as an opportunity to rethink how you engage with customers emphasizing privacy and trust. Moving towards first-party data and technologies like Google’s Privacy Sandbox highlights a commitment to both user privacy and effective advertising. By consistently staying ahead of the curve and being proactive in adapting to new technologies and trends, you are positioning yourself as a leader in the digital space.

Looking ahead, digital marketing will become more transparent and focused on user consent. If you need help adjusting your digital strategies, schedule a call with our OneIMS team.

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Written By Samuel Thimothy

As the Chief Growth Officer, I provide leadership, direction and resource stewardship to the organization’s sales and marketing function. I also collaborate with our digital marketing strategy team in developing and executing growth marketing campaigns for our loyal clients.

Solomon Thimothy - OneIMS CEO

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