How to Thrive in a Cookie-less Future

In early 2020, Google announced that third-party cookies would be phased out in Chrome to help consumers reclaim their privacy. Following suit, Apple also introduced changes to IDFA. The evolving data privacy landscape has had a ripple effect across the marketing ecosystem. Big tech’s privacy-by-design principle has spawned a new industry focused on making advertising more transparent and measurable.

So, what’s the state of cookie-less advertising in 2021?

Before we dive into some of the specifics around a cookie-less future, let’s take a quick look at what cookie-less advertising is.

What are Cookies and What Are the Different Types?

They have been a driving force in accelerating the digital transformation of advertising. They are essentially crumbs of code saved by websites onto users’ browsers when they visit the site. They have multiple use-cases in ad tech, but most importantly, they are used to personalize the website experience and improve user tracking for publishers.

These are simple text files that tell websites if a user has visited them before. Some cookies can track users across devices in addition to websites. Here’s what the file looks like:

5 Major Cookie Types

Cookies offer rich insights to advertisers and publishers on user behavior – enabling them to personalize the user experience each time they visit a website. For instance, ad targeting is a crucial use case – advertisers use cookie data to serve ads that are most relevant for the user. Marketers also use tools like Google Analytics to understand user behavior in greater detail (average session time, navigation, and bounces).

Here are five types of cookies most commonly used in advertising and marketing:

  • First-party Cookies: Publishers (websites) set first-party cookies to track and analyze user behavior. First-party cookie data enables websites to measure how users are engaging with their pages and content. You can derive useful information like page views, sessions, and unique visitors from first-party cookies.
  • Third-party Cookies: Third-party cookies are perhaps the most commonly used cookies across the web. Websites set third-party cookies that users have not directly visited, resulting from publishing third-party code on their website (think chatbots, ads, or plugins). Third-party cookies also track uses and save their information for ad targeting and behavioral advertising.
  • Session Cookies: Session cookies expire once users exit their browsers. E-commerce websites most commonly use these to remember products users have added to their carts, or keep them logged in, and measure use session behavior for analysis.
  • Persistent Cookies: Persistent cookies are to remain on users’ browsers for more extended periods. Publishers often use these cookies to track a single user and their interaction with the website. An example of a persistent cookie would be your email account on your browser. Your email provider will set a persistent cookie to keep you logged in even after you’ve exited the browser or have rebooted it.
  • Secure Cookies: Secure cookies are used by sites with a valid SSL certificate (HTTPS sites) that use encrypted cookie data. Payment gateways, e-commerce sites, and banks most commonly use these types of cookies.   

What Does A Cookie-less Future Look Like for Advertisers?

One of the biggest draws of third-party cookies was their ability to provide advertisers with user information that helps them create better audience segments. For instance, using third-party cookies, advertisers could use filters as specific as “only users who have read about Blackjack strategies.”

However, because third-party cookies can be collected and traded easily, the flipside is inaccuracy. Third-party cookies are notoriously unreliable as a source of truth – leading to inefficiencies in targeted ad campaigns and ad fraud.

As we move towards a cookie-less future, advertising and marketing are likely to become more accurate. And the most significant advantage? Publishers and advertisers can build a culture of trust with users, improving brand safety, ad targeting, and realize a better return on ad spend.

A cookie-less world is also more personal. ABM providers and ad tech vendors have successfully re-engineered their product lines (unified user IDs and targeted ad groups) to offer 1:1 targeting capabilities to serve unique personalized ads to each user. 

What Will It Take to Thrive in a Cookie-Less World?

With browsers such as Firefox and Safari already removing third-party cookies, we’ve almost arrived in a cookie-less world. So, how can you still deliver superior marketing performance without cookies? We have summarized a few of our top recommendations on thriving in a cookie-less environment:

  • Activate First-Part Data: As a publisher, you already capture first-party data. You can enrich this data by tweaking your website and forms to capture more attributes like demographic and firmographic data. Leverage your opt-in subscribers or users to send them more relevant content to create a richer data set.
  • Revisit Your Programmatic Advertising Strategy: Programmatic advertising will undergo massive disruption as third-party cookies go extinct in 2022. In response, ad tech providers and big tech have experimented with solutions like Federated Learning of Cohorts (FLoC) and Unified IDs. FLoC groups users into cohorts instead of tracking individual users. Similarly, ad tech players have been dabbling with Unified IDs to anonymize user information and gaining single-sign-on consent.
  • Get Creative: As a marketer, a cookie-less future is a unique opportunity to build a trusting relationship with your prospects and customers. Creating high-quality content that addresses customer needs is an excellent place to start. Being helpful and relevant is perhaps the most essential virtue publishers can have in an increasingly noisy world. By prioritizing customers’ needs and approaching marketing and data collection more creatively, you can have more accurate customer data.

To sum up, a cookie-less future might take a little getting used to and incur expenses to acquire new capabilities and solutions. However, it also promises to make advertising and marketing more effective.

To learn more about how Bython Media uses first-party intent data and how you can start making the transition to a cookie-less future, connect with us today. 

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