By Andrew Sandoval
Earlier this year, Google announced Chrome would become the final big browser to block third-party cookies. When the last cookie crumbles doesn’t have a set due date; Google’s intention is to do this within two years. So while the industry has been struck by COVID-19, the clock is ticking with Google showing no intention of rolling it back.
For decades, cookies have provided customers with a smoother online experience while giving business owners valuable marketing insights. As you ponder what effect this will have on your business post-cookies, here are five areas to watch:
Keep an eye on the browser wars
While the two horses in this race, Chrome v. Safari/Firefox, have taken different approaches to privacy and cookies, they’re currently convened in a W3C working group tasked with “Improving Web Advertising,” which may develop alternatives to cookies.
But there’s no guarantee universal standards will be adopted, especially considering the major players have fundamentally different priorities. Google built their business on advertising. Apple’s business is products and services; they tout privacy and security as a key differentiator. So what happens when the unstoppable force meets an immovable object?
Old Walled Gardens, New Clean Rooms
Dominant walled gardens only stand to grow more powerful in a world without third-party cookies. Their massive authenticated audiences and unparalleled first party data ensure they’ll be cemented on the media plan for years to come, assuming they can steer clear of regulators, maintain relevance, and avoid angering users into blocking ads/tracking.
One area to watch is their emerging data clean room products. With measurement facing huge challenges with the death of third-party cookies, these data clean rooms could be an important component in the solution.
Expect More Measurement Problems
Clean rooms look like an appealing landing spot, as the ability to track users across an open web is essentially eliminated. A cookieless web will turn any promise of deterministic user pathway data into Swiss cheese.
If partners can’t launch their cookies on others’ sites, attribution will rely on stitched together touchpoints from a few surviving data integrations. Marketers will certainly consider alternatives and may land on a renewed reliance on A/B and match market testing as well as media mix modeling.
Align Talent to New Realities
The death of third-party cookies will likely result in shifts of focus and talent. For example, in recent years, there has been a race to find reliable data identifying valuable audiences to purchase and optimize against (largely programmatically). The result? Lots of seasoned performance marketers who know how to drive lower funnel results.
Similarly, brands and agencies have been hiring data scientists to analyze audiences and behaviors to develop profiles and segments to drive prospect and lower funnel acquisition. With a lack of third-party data, those skills may become more relevant to retention marketing, where first-party data will still be flowing to maximize effectiveness of content and CRM. Lifecycle forecasting and experimentation may be more valuable here than against prospects.
Don’t Worry, Be Curious
The sky isn’t falling. Today’s consumers spend twice as much time in app environments than on mobile web browsers and 1.5x more than on desktop browsers. Cookies have already been nibbled at by ad blockers, browsers, regulation and even some ad tech. So what’s even the big deal?
It’s a time to be curious and learn as much about the new cookieless world as we can. That may mean having your marketing team explore cookieless platforms and channels; execute sophisticated contextual targeting today to understand how it will perform tomorrow; or run measurement experiments in Safari and Firefox, where third party cookies are already gone.