Third party cookies - what's the deal now?

Ellie Burns Written by Ellie Burns

5 min read   -  30th January, 2024

Third party cookies - what's the deal now?

The end of an era is upon us. Cookies are soon to be a thing of the past. But how did we get to this stage, and what’s coming around the corner to replace these famous cornerstones of the internet?

Let’s dig into why this change is taking place, and what the future holds in store.

A quick history of cookies

Let’s take a quick look at the history behind this change. We first saw cookies on websites in the mid-1990’s. To begin with, they were just used for tracking basic information like login details or shopping cart contents. In no time at all however, their efficiency developed and they became powerful tools for tracking user behaviour across your entire site.

They worked though storing session data and user preferences, creating a never before seen detailed data trail online. A data trail that could be easily analysed and useful to marketers.

Of course, they were so commonplace that almost every single site in the world aimed to use cookies as a standard for the industry. This was adopted globally at lightning speed. Cookies were a vital asset to any digital marketer for decades, proven to be a highly efficient data creation asset for any looking analyst to improve and adapt existing websites and ad campaigns. Cookies allowed shopping experiences online to become truly personalised, for the very first time.

The decline of tracking cookies

Cookies used to be the default. Marketers thought of a thousand ways to ask for user permission to track cookies on their client’s sites. It was seemingly simple: a user clicks that they agree to the cookies tracking their data online, a marketer tracks their usage and data is measured.

But now, everything’s changed. There’s an increased focus on more restrictive privacy regulations. Not to mention how significantly browser functionality has changed over the years. In an increasingly artificial online space, there are growing concerns over data privacy. 

If this change still feels a little far-flung, consider for a moment how much has already changed. Chrome, Safari and Firefox are just a few of the major browsers who have phased out third-party cookies.

As a result, marketers are now in increasingly challenging positions when it comes to accurately tracking metrics of users online. But it’s not just privacy regulations and customer concerns that are fueling this change:

Cookies: Are they accurate?
The accuracy of cookies has long been questioned. Compared to emerging AI options, cookies are struggling to keep up in the increasingly fragmented digital marketing landscape.

With users jumping across multiple platforms, social media apps, websites and media types as they interact with brands and ads, accurate tracking is closer to being a wish than a guarantee.

Cookies are a 1990’s tracking option that has maintained dominance in digital marketing way into the 2020’s. But perhaps, given just how much the internet has changed since then, it’s time to embrace something new.

What to do now

Thankfully, alternative solutions are already available. It’s time to embrace change in the industry and learn how to make the most of first-party data collection.

First-Party Data Collection
First-party data collection involves gathering information from users directly from your own platforms or channels. There’s no middle man or third party involvement to slow things down. You can source your own independent data on website interactions, mobile apps usage, CRM systems, email lists and social media followers, to name just a few.

The Positives
This new style of data collection does offer improved accuracy. You have much more reliable data, as it is being directly collected from users. Speaking of customers, you can further develop your relationship with your most engaged customers through a more respectful and personal approach to data privacy overall. This can help build trust and a shared relationship over time with loyal customers. 

You also get the added bonus of being able to control what metrics you track, leading to more personalised interactions with your audiences. You have to be mindful about what data you are asking for, so any metrics you do gather over time should be more meaningful to you in the long-run.

The Challenges
In the UK and Europe, it can be a challenge to gain consent in-line with GDPR. On this front, we recommend always speaking with a GDPR expert to guide you in the most effective and secure ways to collect and store any data. 

There’s a significant challenge in maintaining high levels of data volume and quality. Truthfully, you probably won’t be able to match the sheer volume of data that cookies can track on some sites, but it’s all about quality. If the data you are collecting is both accurate and high quality, it’s worth more to you than twice as much data, full of inconsistencies.

Embracing emerging technologies

It’s not just first-party data that you can consider for your future marketing efforts. Consent based tracking and more recent data security options like hashed email addresses are becoming more commonplace in digital marketing. 

Machine learning and AI are the antithesis of this, but are equally important to the changing landscape of the online marketing world. AI is helping analytics along with machine learning and human analytical input to reach new levels of accuracy, even with smaller data sets.

Make the most of emerging technologies while matching that with strong first-party data collection, and you’ll no longer be reliant on cookies.

User trust in a new marketing landscape

This huge update in marketing and data collection really changes how users and marketers engage with each other. The increased transparency in data collection coupled with the heightened awareness and education of users on data collection mean that you really need to put trust at the forefront of your marketing campaigns and brand identity.

There are now new standards of consent, transparency and trust to uphold. We recommend upfront, clear and honest communication with your customers about your data collection. This will build your credibility and reputation over time, which can ultimately set the stage for enhanced first-party data collection in the future.

If you want to stay ahead of the changing times in digital marketing, now’s the time to embrace a significant change in your tracking systems. Stepping away from cookies may seem daunting, but if you’re even starting a small exploration of these emerging tracking options, you’ll be one step ahead of many marketers.

Rather than waiting for a new industry standard to take the place of cookies, we recommend taking your time to learn about these new tracking alternatives. Prepare yourself for what the future holds so you are ready for whatever is next. 

Your customers, and your marketing team, will thank you.

It starts with discovery

Speak to us today and let’s start growing your business.

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It starts with discovery

Speak to us today and let’s start growing your business.