The story behind phasing out third-party cookies
Initially, cookies were meant to help deliver relevant ads to consumers on the web, giving us visitor numbers, page views, reach etc. However, not all cookies are the same.
Cookies from websites that can only be read by these websites, are known as “first-party” cookies. Those from advertisers – the ad space on websites typically owned by large ad tech firms – are known as “third-party” cookies and these can track your browsing habits.
And, for a long time, users were being tracked online without their knowledge and consent. According to Google, that led to proliferation of personal data across thousands of companies and thus – loss of consumers’ trust. Some regulations such as GDPR tried to solve that issue by having all websites show annoying popups about cookies asking for users’ consent. Apparently, that didn’t go well either as users were now giving consent to hundreds of cookie popups while browsing the web without even reading them. Again, consumers privacy concerns were not addressed nor was their trust restored.
“If digital advertising doesn’t evolve to address the growing concerns people have about their privacy and how their personal identity is being used, we risk the future of the free and open web.” ~ David Temkin, Google’s director of product management for ads privacy and trust, wrote in a blog post.
At the same time, other tech giants such as Mozilla Firefox and Safari have not been supporting third-party cookies for awhile now precisely due to privacy protection reasons. Google was the only one still doing it, so Google had no choice but to eventually get rid of the cookies due to pure “peer pressure” from its competitors.
How users will be tracked without cookies
Users will still be tracked when using Google services such as Google Docs, YouTube, etc. via cookies that Google deposits into their own websites (“first-party” cookies). However, Google has worked on a new tracking privacy-first alternative called FloC – Federated Learning of Cohorts – which is meant to replace the Cookie in 2022. The FloC technology will now track users’ behaviors and store browsing history data via Chrome. That data will not be linked to personal profiles but it will be used to group users into behavioral cohorts. In other words, advertisers will not be able to segment, target and retarget users individually by their age, gender, etc. Instead, they will be able to target audiences only via groups of interests.
Example: If users browse, read, watch content related to cooking, they will be put into a cohort about cooking. If users click on articles about bikes, they will be added into a bikes cohort without showing details about the individuals themselves. Advertisers can then target the groups that match their needs best.
The FloC tracking only works for Chrome and gives data only to Google compared to third-party cookies that were being used by a wide variety of networks such as Facebook and other smaller ones. Since no browser will support third-party cookies anymore, these ad networks will have no way to gather data and create personal profiles of users. Retargeting – as we know it – will be over with. If those ad networks don’t find another solution, they will lose market share because they will not be able to serve targeted ads anymore. And that raises concerns about Google increasing their monopoly on web ads.
The alternative – collecting first-party data
Cookies are going away but users still want personalization. The solution is to fully focus on first-party consumer data you gather directly from your own sources and channels: internet behavior, transactions or demographic data. This also includes user’s clicks, hovering, scrolling, and time spent. First-party data is exclusive as it comes and belongs only to your company unless you share it.
Some advertisers are already coming up with tips on how to retarget users via Facebook without using third-party cookies. For example, you can retarget anything that people do with your Facebook page: engagements, saved posts and whatnots.
As for Facebook ads, the best hack could be CTA (call-to-action) retargeting: when you have an ad on Facebook with a CTA “learn more”, you can safely assume that users who click on “learn more” land on your desired website page. Therefore, you can retarget those same users later.
However, these hacks are valid just for Facebook. What happens if your audience is not precisely on that social network?
“It’s now all about owning customer data” ~ Marin Georgiev, founder of Subscribe.bg
The best thing companies can do to prepare for a cookieless world is to start doing more lead magnet ad campaigns to collect people’s data firsthand.
Some ad professionals advise running ad campaigns to collect as many email addresses and phone numbers as you possibly can so you can email and sms those users over again. Email marketing is still a strong method for retargeting, brand awareness, sales and loyalty but only for certain businesses and only when done right. In all other cases – your email open rate will probably remain around 20%. SMS, on another hand, is also a tool that you cannot solely rely on: its open rates are still quite high (~98%), but it’s not interactive and it does not give detailed users behavior analytics as third party cookies once did.
Own users’ data with Subscribe.bg and rebuild loyalty and personalization
Subscribe.bg helps you acquire leads via mobile channels (such as Viber, SMS) quickly and easily and in accordance with all privacy protection laws. That database then is yours. You have access to CRM analytics where you segment and retarget users anyway you want. The data you can collect includes:
- seen/open rates
- personal info such as gender, age, occupation, mobile numbers, etc.
- personal preferences and interests
In fact, you choose what data to collect from your database and how to segment it. Working on personalization and loyalty then becomes easy. Subscribe.bg offers a variety of engagement tools such as surveys, games, quizzes, push notifications, virtual loyalty cards with stamps and referrals. You can track your most engaged and loyal customers and reward them accordingly.
Best of all, though, is that your customers do not have to install anything at all. You reach them via mobile channels they already use.The main issue that may arise, however, is the quantity of data – you may not have enough of it. That’s why we suggest you start building your database now and be prepared for a cookieless world in 2022.
We’d love to hear from you and discuss options for your business. Or, you can just drop by to say “hi” :)