The use of cookies, specifically third-party cookies, has been a popular tool for marketers to target ads and personalise online experiences for years. But, these cookies are followed by distrust and controversy, which has brought on the death of the cookie. Cookies, also known as “tracking cookies” or “browser cookies”, are small files of data that are stored in computers and browser domains. Seeing that cookies contain a person’s browsing history, user ID, session ID, and more, marketers and online businesses use cookies to offer a bespoke experience to their online visitors. Although cookies have been extremely useful to marketers and online businesses, Google Chrome, Safari, Firefox, and more will stop using third-party cookies by the end of 2022.

Distinguishing between first-party and third-party cookies

First-party cookies are fundamental for the functionality of most websites. First-party cookies track and follow online users as they use a website and ensure continuity across pages and tabs. If first-party cookies didn’t exist online users would have to spend a large portion of their online experience logging into every page they open and visit. Third-party cookies are different and have a bit of controversy surrounding them. Usually, third-party cookies are delivered by tracking pixels or Javascript code. This type of cookie comes from websites that online users have not directly interacted with or visited, and have been seen as an invasion of privacy or censorship. Third-party cookies are not used by Google, and this is why Google will be making third-party cookies a thing of the past in 2022.

Distinguishing between first-party and third-party cookies

You may be asking, “What now?”

The loss of third-party cookies has its pros and cons. For internet users, the end of third-party cookies means added safety against government surveillance and hackers. But marketers and companies might not be as excited about the change. According to Adweek, the end of third-party cookies has caused a “fundamental change” in online advertising. Although third-party cookies have been used for sinister agendas, they offer marketers a range of valuable information about online users which have been used to increase revenue. To make up for the loss, Google has introduced a replacement while other marketers have found their own replacement solutions.

Google created the Federated Learning of Cohorts (FLoC) to replace third-party cookies to target ads effectively. When users use a Google device or product, their internet activity will still be recorded and stored to assist marketers, but it will be done in a less precise way. The data recorded and stored will not represent individuals, but will rather represent groups and categories. Marketers will then use this data to target the groups and categories, instead of specific individuals. But if FLoC is not attractive to you, there are a range of other tools to use. Instead of third-party cookies, marketers could use location data, mobile ad identifiers, Google Analytics data, and first-party authentication. First-party authentication requires an online user to give the website or company permission to use first-party identifiers while they use their website. This would then allow the website to offer a better online experience while targeting and measuring response.

The death of the cookie does not mean the end of online marketing

Marketers need to be flexible and adaptable, so this change in marketing should not be too intimidating. To ensure you’re prepared for this change, we suggest you improve on first-party data. To do so, businesses should invest in best in class martech. Companies could also go back to using contextual targeting. This tool will assist companies in being able to understand their audience and will offer insight into which keywords will keep their ads on their audience’s screens.