Embrace the End of Google Chrome Cookies

Focus on private and personalized digital experiences to succeed in the cookieless future.

On January 4th, 2024, Google began testing its new Tracking Protection feature that will eventually restrict website access to third-party cookies by default. 

At first, it will come to a very small subset of Chrome users at the start, specifically to one percent of users globally. Afterward, Google plans to phase out the use of third-party cookies for all users in the second half of 2024. It’s important to note that Safari and Firefox web browsers have been blocking third-party cookies since 2017 and 2019, respectively.

Business leaders are embracing the end of third-party cookies with new levels of transparency and authentic conversations. To succeed, every company must focus on private and personalized digital experiences to succeed in the cookieless future.

What are third-party party cookies and what’s the difference between third-party cookies (the ones getting blocked) and first-party ones?

Third-party cookies are generated and placed on the user’s device by a different website than the one the user is visiting. Ad networks usually use them to identify users across different websites to serve personalized ads on display networks (banners and native formats across various news portals, forums, apps, etc.). First-party cookies are stored by the website or domain when it is visited. However, they can still be shared with ad networks alongside other first-party data, such as customer lists containing emails, phone numbers, IPs, full names, etc.

Chrome deprecating third-party party cookies, what it means and areas affected?

The term “Cookieless” is somewhat of a misnomer, as cookies remain an integral part of website functionality. The recent phase-out of cookies is a result of the discontinuation of third-party party cookies, which were primarily used for cross-site tracking and remarketing. However, 1st party cookies, which are set on behalf of your website domain, remain unaffected. Google Analytics 4 and Google Ads conversion tracking uses 1st party cookies, and Facebook Pixel also uses 1st party cookies, among other solutions.

Regarding the phase-out of third-party party cookies, there is little that website owners need to do at this point. The responsibility lies with Google, Meta, and other vendors to devise alternative methods. These may include enhancing conversions by sending hashed user information to companies like Google, using Privacy Sandbox, or relying on AI and data modeling. Industry experts will likely be notified of any significant developments. As of now, there is no single solution that can effectively replace third-party party cookies. If there were, vendors would have already contacted website owners to inform them. The quietness around this issue is a testament to the lack of a “silver bullet” solution. 

In essence, the news about Chrome blocking third-party cookies means that Google created a reliable technology to harvest 1st party data, so they decided to challenge the competition that still relies on third-party party cookies. It’s not likely to have a significant impact on the majority of D2C brands especially if your main acquisition channels are Google, Facebook, TikTok, Email/SMS, Affiliates….and don’t heavily rely on Display Networks.

What if our company relies on remarketing and display networks?

With the phasing out of third-party cookies, companies that rely on remarketing acquisition strategies will need to adjust their approach. One alternative is to focus on first-party data and building direct relationships with customers through email marketing and other channels. Another option is to explore the use of contextual advertising, which targets ads based on the content of the website or app being viewed rather than relying on tracking cookies. Additionally, many companies are exploring new technologies such as machine learning and artificial intelligence to help them better understand their customers and deliver targeted marketing messages without relying on third-party cookies.

For first-party data collection strategies, companies need to use a 3-pronged approach of transparency, integration, and unification

Transparency requires companies to provide clear and transparent information to customers about what data is being collected and how it is being used. This can build customer trust and encourage them to willingly share their data. Governance plays a crucial role in ensuring that a transparent first-party data collection strategy is compliant with applicable laws and regulations, protects user privacy, and maintains the integrity of the data being collected.

Integration requires an examination of the platforms and the integrations you will use to put the data to work. Companies have platforms and data siloed by department or function, making it difficult to improve customer experiences without needing manual processes or inputs. With a robust marketing technology stack in place, companies can collect data from various sources, including website analytics, email marketing, social media, and more. This data can then be used to personalize the customer experience, build stronger relationships, and drive revenue growth.

Unification creates a single view of an individual where the business ties marketing, advertising, CRM, customer service, and other data into a cohesive view. It’s critical to start with viable use cases to know how to roadmap the overall vision of a business’s first-party data collection strategy. Furthermore, companies must select platforms that can leverage technology solutions, such as machine learning and artificial intelligence, to analyze existing data to gain customer insights. This can help businesses to personalize their offerings and improve customer experiences. 

It is important to note that server-side tagging is not a solution to the phase-out of third-party party cookies. The primary purpose of server-side tagging is to provide more control and power in the first-party context rather than the third-party context (e.g., third-party party JavaScript (GA4) via a 1st party proxy domain abc.com). While businesses can send user emails, names, and other personal information to ad-tech vendors to enhance their targeting and tracking capabilities, this can be done without server-side tagging. The only party that can access and change things with third-party party cookies is the third-party party setting them (e.g. Google Ads).

Succeeding in a cookieless future

Thanks for digging into the importance of privacy and the end of third-party cookies. It’s time to take action and welcome a new future for customer data and insights. As you embrace change, there are many new solutions for building, populating, and supporting your customer intelligence ecosystem. We encourage you to explore the right solutions for your organization.

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