Big Data

The End of Cookies – Challenge or Opportunity?

In 2024, third-party cookies are officially coming to an end. How can you gather customer data now? Read our article to prepare for the cookieless future.

The Importance of Cookies

With Google’s decision to end all third-party data by the end of 2024, cookies have once again set tongues wagging. The small pieces of data stored on a user’s device have been playing an invaluable role in the digital landscape since the early ‘90s. Their main function is to gather and provide valuable information about web users.

This can include:

  • online behavior,
  • browsing history,
  • purchasing patterns,
  • device usage,
  • preferences.

By delivering such data, cookies enable website operators to gain more insights into users’ activity and are often used by marketers to create more targeted advertising campaignspersonalize customer experienceand optimize conversion rates.

Not all cookies work the same, as there are different types we can distinguish, but their main goal is to track users’ Internet activity. Due to privacy concerns, their use is regulated by various laws, including the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA), which enforce asking for permission to use certain cookies before users enter a particular website.

Why Google Is Banning Third-Party Cookies

Controversies surrounding cookies have been around almost as long as the cookies itself. Concerns regarding violation of privacy, data safety, and information abuse have been raised consistently since 1992 when Netscape invented the cookie. In fact, cookie creator Lou Montulli even considered killing the third-party cookie – the one used mainly for web tracking – in 1996 but eventually decided against it. Now, Google has chosen for him by withholding its support of third-party cookies in 2024.

Why? Here are the most crucial reasons:

  • Privacy Concerns: Google is responding to growing privacy concerns by phasing out third-party cookies, which track users across websites, to enhance user privacy and prevent advertisers’ extensive tracking of online behavior.
  • User Experience: Eliminating third-party cookies aims to improve user experience by reducing intrusive targeted advertising and minimizing the risk of data breaches associated with these tracking technologies, fostering a more user-centric web environment.
  • Innovation in Targeting Solutions: Google is exploring alternative methods, such as its Privacy Sandbox initiative, to provide advertisers with effective targeting capabilities while prioritizing user privacy, fostering innovation in digital advertising without compromising data protection.
  • Adaptation to Changing Landscape: The shift away from cookies reflects the evolving digital ecosystem, where reliance on cookies for targeted advertising is becoming less effective due to increased user privacy concerns, ad-blocking technologies, and regulatory pressures.


How Will the Cookieless Future Look Like?

It’s important to stress that the only cookies getting shut off by the end of 2024 are third-party ones. The rest of the cookies – including zero- and first-party – are still here to stay, and most companies will now have to rely on them to obtain customer information.

  • Zero-party data refers to information that web users give up willingly and proactively, which can include preferences, interests, feedback, or personal details.
  • First-party data refers to information collected directly by a company from its own interactions with users or customers, including website visits, app usage, and purchase history.

With only zero- and first-party cookies available, brands and websites will need to focus on creating a trustworthy image and building strong bonds with their customers/users so that people actually want to share anything about themselves. They also must figure out a way to provide users with some reward – tangible or non – for the data exchanged.

Digital Marketing Without Third-Party Data

From a customer perspective, the end of third-party cookies is largely seen as a win for privacy rights. They do put marketers in a bit of a pickle, though. After all, people are already very wary of data collection and over-targeting. In the cookieless future, brands will have to adapt their marketing strategies to prioritize and respect user privacy while still getting to know them enough to be able to deliver personalized experiences.

Sounds tough, but there are some tools they can use to deal with it.

Here are some of them:

  • Contextual targeting – focuses on delivering ads based on the content of the webpage rather than individual user data, maintaining relevance without tracking personal information.
  • ML-based algorithms – they can analyze user behavior patterns within a company’s ecosystem while preserving user anonymity.
  • Federated learning – allows data to be analyzed across multiple devices without centralizing it, ensuring privacy while still enabling personalized recommendations.

By combining these approaches, marketers can continue to deliver tailored experiences while respecting user privacy preferences and regulatory requirements.

Is Customer Loyalty a Solution to the End of Cookies?

A cookieless future may seem like an obstacle in the marketing world, but perhaps it is a chance for growth, too.

Particularly in the area of customer loyalty.

After all, loyal customers are ones who already have a strong bond with your brand and trust it enough to share some personal information. What’s more, loyalty programs, with their points-based systems and gamification, have an amazing potential for leveraging rewards to obtain customer data. By trading loyalty points for a bit of personal info from your members, you can easily turn your loyalty program into a well-oiled, data-picking machine. And, you know, get loyal customers to boost your revenue in the process. Sounds like a win-win.

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