What’s the fuss about blocking 3rd party cookies?

Blog one of the ‘death of the 3rd party cookies’ blog series. 

Cookie notices have become a part of our daily digital lives. All sites you visit should ask you to accept or decline cookies, however some are more subtle and assume acceptance (though this isn’t strictly legal, it should now be a conscious decision to opt in for cookies). 

But first, what is a cookie? Contrary to what jumps to mind, it’s not just a delicious snack – we’re talking about the digital kind. HTTP Cookies is a piece of data placed on a users device when they’ve visited a website.

There are two types of cookies:

1st party cookies – these are created by the website you visit. e.g: remembering your password or content preferences on the site.

3rd party cookies – these are  not created by the website you are visiting, but are related to your behaviour on the website during the visit. This can be Google analytics or social media tracking pixels.

Google Analytics – how does it work?

Google Analytics functions by placing a 3rd party cookie within the user’s browser. This allows marketers to understand the attribution of conversions and the paths that users have taken to complete a sale/conversion.

As most people using online advertising will know, the days of someone seeing your advert once and going on to purchase at that time have very much disappeared. Understanding the journey that they now take to gather information, conduct research, and finally convert, is vital in order to plan efficient, effective and targeted cross platform marketing. Without this vital information, we are working blind to guide the user through to a sale.

The knowledge of which platforms, content, messaging and techniques are working the best for ROI, is the cornerstone of how digital marketers work, and continuous strategic development of a campaign is built on this data.

So what’s happening now and what’s the big deal?

Browsers Firefox and Safari have been blocking 3rd party Cookies since 2020. Google Chrome is now looking to follow suit in 2022. This is going to be the most significant change for marketers, as Chrome currently holds a significant global market share.

What does this mean? Well, if we change nothing and rely on the same tracking and measurement methods: 

  • The majority of website visits won’t be tracked or measured
  • Remarketing will be impossible
  • We won’t know which marketing campaigns to attribute conversions to. 

What’s the alternative solution?

To counteract this change, strategies will need to be built with consideration of this new barrier, and explore ways of maximising the opportunities for obtaining useful data through 1st party cookies. Using opt-ins and data gathering methodology needs to be happening now in order to survive in this cookie-less future.

Google isn’t going to shoot itself in the foot by allowing its advertising to seem less effective.

They have created a solution in Google’s Privacy Sandbox

There’s also a lot of tech companies offering solutions to the problem. In the next few blogs of this series, I’m going to take a look into all the solutions being offered, and how best to effectively plan, strategise and implement for the death of the third party cookies.

Despite a lot of information being out there, it’s only currently being talked about within the digital marketing industry. It’s essential that all businesses understand the implications of this new way of working and embrace it as soon as possible, as those that do will succeed, and those that leave it too late and have to react after impact, will be on the back foot. 

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