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How Will Google’s Move Away from Third-Party Cookies Affect Your Business?

In 2019 Google announced their plan to phase out third-party cookies in the Chrome browser. Their goal is to increase the privacy and security of the web. Together with companies like Salesforce, Google is exploring how best to bring data privacy conformity to online ads. When we market, we need data. So where does that leave us?

What are First-Party and Third-Party Cookies?

First-party cookies are passed to you by the website you are visiting. First-party cookies collect statistics, remember language settings, and generally provide a good user experience. If you visit your favorite online shop and see a cookie added to your browser from their domain, it’s a first-party cookie.

Third-party cookies come from a website other than the one you are visiting, hence the name. They are used for cross-site tracking, retargeting, and ad-serving. Banner ad companies use third-party cookies to track which websites you visit; they show display ads relevant to you. If you see a cookie added to your browser from ‘adsrus.biz’ after visiting your favorite online shop, that is a third-party cookie.

What is Google Proposing Instead of Cookies?

Google has begun developing solutions that deliver the same functionality as third-party cookies, but with more privacy. There are many concepts in place such as “Trust Tokens,” “First Party Sets,” and “Conversion Measurement.” Behind these concepts is the understanding that a website visitor gives permission, similar to the way we already accept a cookie. And in real life, too, right? It is offered, you accept or decline. (Who is craving chocolate chip cookies right now?)

Trust Tokens are stored by the user’s browser. The browser can then use those tokens in other contexts (wait what?) to evaluate a user’s authenticity before showing, for example, a retargeting ad. Yes. A trust token grants much more permission than a simple cookie.

A First Party Set is identified by one owner-registered domain and a list of secondary registered domains. The user has already accepted and agreed upon receiving ads from the domains on this list.

Finally, the Conversion Measurement is an API that measures when an ad click leads to a conversion, without using cross-site identifiers.

Google Owns the Chrome Browser. What are Other Browsers Doing?

The option to accept or decline cookies is a basic feature of most browsers. Cookies are accepted by default or by the user making that decision in their security panel. (Thanks, GDPR.) The bulk of Google’s income comes from online ads (more than 80%), so they are the most interested in developing a solution that will not jeopardize that revenue. Not surprising.

Chrome users can already block and delete third-party cookies while keeping first-party cookies. So that hasn’t changed.

“Google Chrome is by far the most popular web browser, with an estimated global market share of 62.8%. Its crushing dominance is unthreatened; the closest competitor, Apple’s Safari has a mere 15.8% market share.” Clearcode

Safari is already quite strict about cookies. Apple’s revenue does not depend on online ads, so they can afford to be focused on user privacy. Though, some are suspicious about the phone itself “listening in” and serving ads for Home Depot.

Firefox blocks third-party cookies by default. It’s a good choice for certain.

Internet Explorer only blocks first-party cookies if they don’t meet certain conditions. Some third-party cookies are blocked thanks to a built-in tracking-protection list. (But also, why are you still using Internet Explorer?)

Opera accepts all first-party cookies by default and does not block third-party cookies in any way.

Can We Block Third-Party Cookies?

The idea of blocking third-party cookies may be sold as a privacy feature, but it appears browser users may be siloed in the long term. Google users will see Google ads in Chrome, and Apple users will see ads in other environments. Increased personalization and the advent of AI and AR features, meaning your choice of browser may be decisive in what you see and what you buy.

Does Your Business Rely on Third-Party Cookies?

Our immediate reaction to one less tracking cookie might be to breathe a collective sigh of data privacy relief. However, Google Analytics, the Google Ad global site tag for remarketing search ads, and the Facebook pixel are all first-party pixels and won’t be affected. So you will keep seeing Home Depot ads. Sorry about that.

Depending on your customer’s browser, there was always the option to block first or third-party cookies. So, what opportunities exist so you can stay one step ahead?

  • Real-time tracking combined with AI will render cookies unnecessary. If our activities and intent are measured and understood, there will be no need to remarket nor retarget.
  • Less targeted content means businesses thinking about other forms of monetized content.
  • Companies may now need to collect, sort, and analyze their own data. Small and medium-sized companies may not have this option but can benefit from a larger partner for market data.

Where Do We Go From Here?

Elimination of third-party cookies works in the favor of companies wanting to move away from short-term marketing tactics, instead of investing in long-term reputation building activities.

We have always known one thing about our visitor – that they will visit our website using a browser. That’s all we could be sure of. If browser retargeting is removed from the equation, we will have an opportunity for more Direct-to-Consumer remarketing. Two opportunities are Email and messenger services like WhatsApp.

Our sales team is happy to guide you through options to make the most out of your marketing efforts. Contact AWI today and let us help you find the intent you’ve been looking for.

Be Found. Be Insightful. Be Certain.

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