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That’s the way the cookie crumbles - the end of third-party cookies...

With the latest announcement from Google relating to third-party cookies and data collection and management, many are concerned about the impact it could have on their marketing activity. Does that sound like you? Then read on... 

It’s fair to suggest that some of the biggest brands and businesses are taking notice of Google’s messaging and for those enterprise sized organisations not acting, they risk falling behind and damaging trust with customers. 

In a bid to better understand their audience and connect with potential customers, businesses have long practiced the art of data collection through third-party cookies. They have placed information in web scripts with the sole purpose of data collection, without any apparent care towards whether the user visiting the site was relevant or not. 

Many in the industry used tagging and data collection through third-party cookies as a method of lead generation. As many of you will no doubt be aware Google has announced that it will stop the use of third-party cookies in Chrome by the end of 2023, joining a growing list of browsers abandoning the tracking technology. All of this means that ‘cookieless’ browsing is a hot topic and one which warrants unpacking further. 

Google has initially said that they will instead revert to a more customer centric approach, utilising first-party cookies and Customer Data Platforms (CDPs). The search giant is moving ahead with further testing of Google Topics and other Privacy Sandbox initiatives and posted messages to developers outlining tests of the Topics and FLEDGE APIs in the Chrome beta. Whereas Topics splits up the web up into different buckets, FLEDGE aims to facilitate remarketing, or showing ads on websites based on prior browsing history.  

Google offered a lengthy explanation on GitHub, arguing that the tools would offer "strong privacy guarantees, as well as time limits on group membership, transparency into how the advertiser interest groups are built and used, and granular or global controls over this type of ad targeting." 

In paid advertising circles, some online advertising has been based on showing an ad to a ‘potentially-interested’ person who has previously interacted with the advertiser or ad network. Historically this has worked by the advertiser recognising a specific person as they browse across web sites, a core privacy concern with today's web. So, what are the main differences and what do you need to know to make sure you are collecting, storing, and marketing to the data sets that you obtain in the right way? 

First-Party Cookies 

First-party cookies are directly stored by the website (or domain) you visit. These cookies allow website owners to collect analytics data, remember language settings, and perform other useful functions that provide a good user experience. 

The information gathered here lends itself to better personalisation and draws data from URLs visited, timestamps, locality, amongst others. But there’s a catch, the user is now in control and must authorise the use of their data and accept what they want to share. This being the case it can be argued that this leads to cleaner data from a more engaged audience. In short it is the users’ way of validating your company as one they want to receive marketing collateral and information from.  

Third-Party Cookies 

Third-party cookies are created by domains that are not the website (or domain) that you are visiting. These are usually used for online-advertising purposes and placed on a website through a script or tag. A third-party cookie is accessible on any website that loads the third-party server’s code. 

So, what does this all mean? Is it the death of tracking or is it a chance for businesses to evolve and become smarter with their data?  

The answer, unsurprisingly, is the latter. Businesses that get ahead of the curve and act now in terms of the way they track users and gather the information ethically are sure to reap the rewards, those that don’t, can find their audience shrinking, becoming less engaged and will see a reduction in conversions. 

According to Marketing Week: “The recent changes underline the importance of zero-party and first-party data to marketers. These are likely to take centre-stage as the changes occur. Zero-party data is data that an individual proactively and intentionally shares with a company – the most obvious example is buying intention. First-party data concerns data that is collected directly from interactions a customer has with a channel – for example visiting a website or responding to an email. 

“In the ever-changing privacy landscape, getting access to third-party and second-party data will become increasingly complex – first-party and zero-party data will become the gold standard.” 

Getting the balance right is vital if you are to offer the best user experience and it’ll be interesting to follow this in greater detail as the switch date nears and the rollout continues. Watch this space. 

If you need to understand the nuances of user experience, the platforms and tools that support lead generation and audience engagement or garner more information about digital maturity, then why not get in touch? Contact our team today.