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Welcome to the new era of digital marketing! With Google's latest move to ditch third-party cookies in Chrome, it’s bringing a big change to how we do things. 

This shift isn't completely out of the blue, other browsers have been moving away from cookies for quite some time now and Chrome is the last to adopt the change. The reason this is such a big deal now, is Chrome is the most preferred browser by far in the UK and US (followed closely by Safari), so this change is very noticeable. It's a big moment, signalling a fresh approach to how we collect data and reach out to our audience online and marks a shift towards more privacy on the internet.

First and foremost, it's really important to get a grip on this big change. It's changing the whole game of how we track users and target ads - things that were key to our digital strategies for so long. We need to adapt and find new ways to connect with and understand our audience.

In this article, we'll dive into what this shift means for marketers. We'll explore new strategies and ideas to thrive in a world without these cookies. So, let's get started on this journey to understand and master the art of marketing in a cookie-less future!

Understanding Third-Party Cookies

Just in case you’ve been hearing about this for a while, but have no idea what cookies actually are/what they do and now you’re too afraid to ask, then we’ve got you! Third-party cookies are small text files placed on a user's device by websites when they visit them. These cookies have been pivotal in digital marketing, playing a crucial role in tracking user behaviour across different websites. As marketers this has allowed us to collect valuable data and take advantage of targeted advertising. Their significance lies in their ability to create detailed user profiles, which marketers use for more effective ad targeting and retargeting. 

As our lives increasingly shift online, growing concerns about privacy and data protection have spurred the phase-out of third-party cookies. Users and regulators alike are becoming more aware of the extent of data collection and its impact on privacy. This change is part of a wider movement towards a web experience that is more conscious about privacy, emphasising the importance of user consent and data security in the digital realm.

The Impact of Losing Cookies

The end of third-party cookies is a big change for those in digital marketing. It disrupts the usual ways of doing things, which involved using these cookies to understand what users do online and to make ads that appeal more to them. Google Chrome has taken so long to get around to this change because the vast majority of their income comes from Google Ads, so this change has a big impact on them as well as marketers. 

Now, without access to this kind of information, marketers need to rethink how to reach the right people, create ads that resonate, and figure out if their campaigns are working well. It's about finding new ways to connect with audiences without relying on the detailed user data they used to get from these cookies.

With the loss of third-party cookies, there's a chance that marketing might not be as effective as before and could potentially lead to decreased ROI. This is because it's getting harder to tailor ads and content as precisely as when we had these cookies. Marketers are now faced with the task of finding new ways and tools to understand and connect with their audiences in a world where digital marketing is changing.

It’s time to adapt

Shift to First-Party Data

Now, the emphasis for marketers is on first-party data. This means using information they get directly from their audience, like how people interact on their website or what feedback they give. 

Google Ads offers a feature known as 'Enhanced Conversions', which improves the accuracy of tracking conversion rates. This feature allows you to optimise your bidding strategies by using secure, hashed first-party data from conversions, such as customer contact details. This data, processed in a privacy-conscious manner, enhances the tracking of online conversions from ads. Additionally, Google provides a similar tool for lead conversions, aiding in both online and offline lead tracking. These tools are instrumental in refining ad performance analysis.

Some additional good news is that Google Analytics has just announced that they’re going to be launching their version of Enhanced Conversions. Although we don’t know exactly what that looks like, or when it will be launched, our sources tell us that it won’t involve extra coding. 

This kind of data is really useful because it's more relevant and respects the privacy of users. It allows us to recover the loss of any conversions and prevent the dropping of any more data. It's great for creating marketing that really hits the mark, offering experiences and messages that truly align with what the audience likes and needs.

Privacy-First Marketing Strategies

In today's world, it's really important for marketing strategies to respect user privacy. This means being clear with users about how their data is used and giving them control over it. By aligning marketing strategies with privacy laws and what users expect, marketers can build trust with their audience. This not only meets legal requirements but also helps create a good image for the brand.

Alternative Technologies and Approaches

With third-party cookies going away, we're seeing new technologies become more important. Contextual advertising is one, where ads match the content of the page you're looking at, not your browsing history. There's also a push towards using AI to predict what customers might like, tracking with device IDs or IP addresses, and getting explicit consent from users for data use. These methods open up new, respectful ways to connect with audiences effectively.

The Future of Digital Marketing Without Cookies

So what does the future hold? We expect new, innovative technologies that focus on collecting and analysing data in a way that's ethical and respects privacy. AI and Machine Learning will be key, stepping in where cookies used to be. They'll help predict what consumers might do next, allow for personalised marketing, and improve user experiences with real-time data. This shift will make digital marketing more efficient, centred around users, and responsible, changing how marketers connect with people.

Adaptability is key. Keeping your business agile in the upcoming months will ensure your success with these approaching changes. Those who don’t adopt this first-party strategy will forfeit access to these valuable insights into audience behaviour, to the detriment of their business growth.

To wrap it all up…

The end of third-party cookies is a mix of both challenges and new chances. Marketers should start adapting to these changes by being innovative and open to new ideas. It's all about finding the right balance between effective marketing and keeping consumer privacy in mind. This new phase in digital marketing is a chance to rethink how we connect with our audience, focusing on ethical and user-friendly strategies.

There’s no better time than now to start working on your strategies for first-party data. It's a smart move to keep your business ahead of the curve and to make sure you're still reaching out to your audience well, especially while your competitors are adjusting to the new ways of digital marketing.

Sam Hood
Post by Sam Hood
January 23, 2024