If you have read our other post on the subject, then you know that third-party cookies are coming to an end. As of the time of this article, Google has stated that support for third-party cookies on chrome will cease by the end of 2023. But what will the end of third-party cookies mean to you and advertisers everywhere?
First, let's recap what exactly we are talking about here.
What are cookies?
A cookie is a small file that can be placed on your computer whenever you visit certain websites. It allows the site to remember things like your language preference, which country you live in, or what type of computer you have. Cookies do not contain any personal information about you, but they do allow us to provide features like shopping baskets, online banking, and other personalized features.
Third-party cookies are exactly what they sound like — any cookie that belongs to someone other than the site's owner. These cookies are used by large platforms like Google and Facebook so they can target customers more effectively especially for remarketing.
What is remarketing?
Remarketing is a tactic offered by advertisers to target individuals who have previously visited your website. This kind of advertising can target specific users as well, like those who have added an item to a cart or read a certain type of content. If you have ever noticed an ad on a different website for a product or service you recently viewed, then chances are you have been targeted in a remarketing campaign.
Third-party cookies were the glue holding remarketing together. Google, for example, wouldn't be able track user behavior on any websites other than the ones it owns (e.g., search, Youtube, Gmail). So, when support for these cookies end next year, how will you be able to retarget users who may have just needed that extra push before they became a paying customer?
Remarketing in a cookieless world
Necessity is the mother of invention, and the death of third-party cookies has created an urgent need to replace the functionality that they provided. At the time of writing, many proposed solutions are vying to replace third-party cookies while still respecting the privacy laws that have been enacted throughout the world. Although these solutions are early in development and we can't tell for sure what will be the norm, we can take a look at some of the most popular solutions currently proposed.
Google is the world's largest advertiser and a data powerhouse. When third-party cookies end, Google will still have first-party data to rely on across some of the web's most popular platforms like Search and Youtube. In their part to abide by privacy-respecting laws like GDPR in Europe and the CCPA in California, Google has developed its own "privacy sandbox" This sandbox exists to protect identifying characteristics of a user while still measuring ad relevance and conversion data.
The part of this sandbox that is the successor to remarketing is the Topics API which assigns users to interest groups based on web pages they've visited. Currently, if someone visits your site, you can specifically target them with advertisements across Google's search partners. With this proposed solution, that same user would simply be assigned an interest such as "fitness" and you can display ads to everyone in the fitness interest group.
As you may have noticed, there is a degree of specificity being lost with this solution. It would be ideal to target people interested in exactly your products or services, not just the interest group your company happens to fall under. To answer that criticism, Google claims it can leverage its machine learning abilities to serve ads to the most relevant people. Until the system is finalized and live, we won't be able to see how effective advertising by topics is.
Device and Browser fingerprinting
Take a look at a site like deviceinfo.me and you will see just how many data points can be collected from your phone or browser. This information can include operating system, browser, build number, IP address, location, time zone, fonts, how many speakers you have, how many webcams you have, your graphics card, and so much more!
All these little pieces of information aren't too identifying on their own, but when you put all of these pieces together you end up with a very unique fingerprint that can be tracked across the web. This fingerprint is not a cookie and therefore not affected by the death of third-party cookies.
Some ad vendors have already been using fingerprinting as part of their means of data collection but Google, however, has proposed limits to what can be fingerprinted on the Chrome browser.
Other advertising technology companies have been engineering Universal IDs that can be used to retain remarketing as we know and love it today. These IDs all function differently but typically they create unique encrypted tokens based on consented first-party data which is then auctioned on a bidding network.
There are no clear leaders in this space yet, but all emerging solutions aim to respect the privacy of the end-user while still providing an anonymized (but relevant) identifier for advertisers.
TKG's Plan of Action
While remarketing has been an effective part of digital advertising for many years, there is no need to fret if you have a diversified marketing strategy from TKG. As we've talked about, solutions are being developed to retain the function that remarketing provided while better respecting the privacy of the end-user. Other paid advertising we execute for our clients such as search, shopping, YouTube, and paid social will still be just as relevant when third-party cookies go away.
First-party cookies will need to be relied upon even more when the transition happens. Our status as a platinum solutions partner with Hubspot means we are well versed in designing your website to collect the right data, segment users appropriately, and provide engaging content. Have you automated emails to cart abandoners, upsold previous customers, or created unique landing pages for your ads? Diversified tactics like these are all common to the strategies and best practices we employ at TKG.
If you're interested in learning more about how TKG can help you, get in touch! Meanwhile, we will continue to inform on the death of third-party cookies as the situation develops. Keep calm and keep marketing!