For the public, this trend represents a welcome advance in privacy rights. For marketers, however, it’s a serious headache. The new pro-privacy era poses a challenge to their traditional methods of gathering consumer-related information. It is not an insurmountable challenge, though. With the right tools—such as the AdBeacon platform—marketers can not only survive but thrive in a radically altered digital landscape. But it is essential that they understand where the current trends are heading and how these developments can be successfully countered.
The Problem with Cookies
Cookies—tiny text files stored by your web browser to uniquely identify your computer on the internet—can be divided into two categories, as follows:
First-party cookies – These cookies are used by a website to aid user navigation and gather various types of data. They are created by the domain visited by the user.
Third-party cookies – These cookies originate from a source other than the website being accessed by the user. They are primarily generated by advertisers for the purpose of tracking consumer behavior around the internet.
Third-party cookies have attracted a lot of criticism in recent years from consumer privacy advocates, who note that internet users do not explicitly consent to the use of these personal identifiers. This has resulted in a variety of laws and industry practices that limit the capacity of third-party cookies to track user behavior. Important milestones related to this trend include:
- 2013: The Firefox web browser begins blocking advertiser tracking cookies.
- 2018: The European Union implements the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), which creates guidelines governing the online collection of personally identifiable information.
- 2020: The Safari browser begins blocking all third-party cookies by default.
- 2021: Apple releases the iOS 14.5 update; it includes the App Tracking Transparency framework, designed to give consumers an easy way to block third-party cookies via a pop-up window.
As a result of these developments, third-party cookies, tracking pixels, and similar tools are becoming progressively less useful to advertisers. A large number of consumers are effectively masking their online activities by blocking these cookies. And the pro-privacy trend shows few signs of slowing down; it is likely that future regulations will further erode the utility of tracking cookies, and possibly render them completely obsolete.
Due to all these data privacy laws, the digital marketing industry has already begun to pivot toward what is commonly called “cookieless” advertising. The term is slightly misleading, as cookies in some form will probably continue to be with us for a while still. Websites will continue to benefit from first-party cookies, which are exempt from the restrictions widely placed on third-party cookies.
Also, consumers seem to appreciate the conveniences brought by first-party cookies. For example, these types of cookies make it possible to log on to a social media site without needing to reenter a password every time. That’s why it’s unlikely we’ll see a significant push-back against first-party cookies any time soon. It’s reasonably safe to incorporate them as part of your long-term advertising strategy.
When we talk about cookieless marketing, we’re referring not to the total abandonment of cookies but rather strategies that aren’t reliant on third-party data. Going forward, the proper leveraging of first-party data, gathered from first-party cookies as well as other acceptable sources, will be essential for building accurate customer profiles.
Ethical Advertising & Data Transparency
It’s clear that internet consumers value personalized interaction with the brands they trust. At the same time, consumers are leery about letting their private information fall into the wrong hands. Therefore, transparency in handling data will be increasingly important in the coming years. Consumers want to know what kind of data you’re collecting from them and what you plan to do with it.
There are a number of tactics that can be used to obtain data from consumers in an ethical and transparent way. First-party cookies, which track page visits and other vital metrics, can generate a variety of actionable customer information. Other data-gathering methods include surveys, in which customers provide information about themselves and their shopping habits in exchange for a discount on a future purchase (or a similar kind of incentive).
No matter how you do it, be sure that consumers are aware of how this data is collected. Not only does it help you comply with certain laws (such as GDPR), it’s just sensible business practice.
First-Party Data with AdBeacon
Legal and regulatory trends are rapidly chipping away at the power of the third-party cookie. If you want to future-proof your marketing tactics, you need to use first-party data. AdBeacon, a state-of-the-art ad optimization platform, can help you organize and analyze this data to propel your campaigns to the next level.
Sign up for your free 30-day trial with AdBeacon today.