Back to Blog

How Brands Can Begin Preparing for the Cookie-less Future

By Andrew Kougl

Current landscape: Online privacy and users demands for it have caused a seismic shift in the way digital interactions are seen and tracked, making it increasingly difficult for marketers to target and personalize advertising. From Firefox to Apple to Facebook, so many doors into digital behavior have been closed and likely won’t ever be opened again – at least not in the current sense through cookie tracking. Cookies have long been the standard by which data was tracked and transmitted between user’s web browser and the websites they visited.

Now the last big player in the space – Google’s Chrome browser – has finally set an end date for the cookie to officially expire at the end of 2023. This may seem like far into the future, but this change could have such a big impact on a brand’s business that it’s important to get ahead of it now.

Key considerations: Targeting and addressability become more challenging as a user’s actions and behaviors aren’t tied to the individual cookie ID. For example, in the tourism industry things like users performing research on best attractions for families in your brand or being able to know that the user was reading up on blogs about camping vs glamping will no longer be available to use as behavioral data. Identifying that a user resides in one of your top feeder zip codes versus the approximate country and time zone codes Apple provides means your confidence in targeting based on geography ebbs considerably.

This all makes it much harder for marketers to prospect which users to go after. Understanding who converted from advertising diminishes drastically when cookies aren’t present to stitch together the conversion path. Marketers will no longer be able to passively glean data from users to utilize to their advantage. Rather, marketers must focus on securing consented opt-in data from users. This data exchange ensures future interactions between brand and user have a foundation of trust and greater accuracy, with the data to lead to better outcomes for both parties.

Questions you should be asking:

  • What data are you currently gathering?
  • How are you leveraging this data now?
  • Are the partners/organizations connected to your brand ahead or behind where you are now?
  • What data is most valuable now and in the future? What value exchange are you offering or planning to offer which would make users agree to share their data with you?
  • Is your website currently setup to attract and keep user’s attention to provide more opportunities to collect 1st party data?
  • Do you have the right team in place to implement the strategies you envision, or should you bring on an expert to help navigate you through the process?

Looking ahead: Now is the time to start thinking critically about your strategy and approach. Have conversations with internal and external stakeholders. Understand what’s of critical importance and work back to the nice to have elements. Begin auditing the data you do have, and the methods used for collecting that data. Look at your marketing tech stack and any partners you work with to determine best practices and customized solutions that may be necessary for your business.

Partners who collect and store data can enrich your 1st party data through common connections like cookies, email address and IP address. This grants you exponentially more data points and history than you otherwise would have alone. Looking at a user’s actions when only on your site is such a small fraction of their overall time online.

Final thoughts: Ultimately marketing always comes down to value and this is no different. Consented versus unconsented data is all about a value exchange and it should be one that’s a win-win for both parties.

  • Make sure you are spending time thinking through how you’d like this to work and then talk to experts and partners to get as close to that reality as possible.
  • This challenge is meant to be a team sport and don’t forget your all-star: your consumer.
  • Continue to refine and iterate your techniques to gather data and identify interests and behaviors key to your business, understanding that each interaction is another opportunity to get better.