Future of Marketing without Cookies

Oct 15 2021


Digital Marketing


Last Updated: October 15, 2021

Author Neeraj

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Future of Marketing without Cookies blog cover

Cookies are convenient. They remember where you’ve been. They remember your preferences. They identify you. They keep you logged in.
But at the end of the day, a cookie is just data. It tells the server who you are. It tells where you have been. It tells what you like. It tells what you don’t like. It gives enough information for marketers to target ads that’ll most likely be interesting to you.

But with the enormous privacy concerns over the usage of cookies over the past few years, there have been several developments.

In this blog, we’ll examine the importance of cookies and what the world feels and explore how the future of marketing looks like without cookies.

We will cover:

● Why Do We Need Cookies?
● The World Without Third-Party Cookies
● What Is Google’s Stance on Third-Party Cookies?
● How Does the Future of Marketing Look Without Third-Party Cookies?
● 11 Marketing Strategies to Survive in a World Without Third-Party Cookies
● Progressing into the Future…


Why Do We Need Cookies?

Why Do We Need Cookies image

Cookies have been at the center of online marketing efforts. They track the customer movements, save their history and information and provide better services to the users.

Many advertisers are totally dependent on cookies to the extent where they gain insights, understand the users and increase their visibility solely due to the information gathered from cookies.

In fact, according to Statista, 38.6% of US marketers said that their digital marketing efforts were ‘were very reliant on third-party cookies’ while 40.9% said that they were ‘moderately reliant on the cookies.’

Advertisers and marketers rely on cookies to be as accurate as possible with their marketing efforts. This means:
● Lesser ad & marketing expenditure
● Better value for money
● Precise targeting
● Better conversions

But not all cookies do the same job.

There are several types of cookies, each of which has its own purpose and way of gathering information.

Types of Cookies

1. First-Party Cookies

First-party cookies are those that are set directly by the website we’re visiting. The website will collect information regarding the user to provide a better experience to them.

A good example of first-party cookies is the number of traffic or page views. These are generally used for understanding the customers and providing a better user experience.

The website owners have access to such first-party cookies, which may be shared with advertisers and marketers for better targeting and understanding user behaviour.

2. Session Cookies

Session cookies are temporary ones. They are live throughout the entire duration you’re using the website and expire as soon as you exit the website.

In an e-commerce store, session cookies are used for remembering the items added to the cart. And it’s also used for saving login details so that it gets automatically logged in when you open the website from the same device.

3. Third-Party Cookies

Third-party cookies are created by other online advertisers who are not the owners of the website you’re visiting. They use third-party cookies to collect information about the user’s searches and preferences and show related ads and suggestions when they visit other websites or platforms.

It can track the user’s movement throughout the website, record the details and then use it for ad targeting. There are several purposes for using third-party cookies like:

● Cross-website tracking
● Social ad targeting
● Ad retargeting
● Programmatic ad buying

When the cookies track the user’s information even after they leave the website or use the information to target ads on other sites, many believe it’s a breach of privacy.

Due to such concerns, many companies are moving away from third-party cookies.

The time has come for third-party cookies to go away.

The World Without Third-Party Cookies

web without 3rd party cookies

Third-party cookies have been in the grey area of our world — between privacy advocates who vehemently demanded to stop third-party cookies and marketers who were heavily relying on them.

However, many companies have now stopped engaging third-party cookies, including the tech giant Apple, which ended the support for third-party cookies for Safari. There are new plans underway for Google Chrome to do the same as well.

On the one hand, privacy advocates have applauded this move, believing that this will be a great milestone in protecting online users’ privacy. But on the other hand, marketers who have been using the data collected from such cookies for the base of their operations are having a hard time coming to terms with it.

The Impact on Marketers & Publishers

As they envision the end of third-party cookies, marketers’ biggest fear is ‘How can I reach my potential customers?

Already due to Safari’s anti-tracking updates, marketers are facing a significant reduction in the data they have. And now, with Google’s update on the horizon, many are anxious to find new ways to survive without it. Plenty of marketers feel that the move is far too sweeping and too disruptive.

Publishers providing free content on their websites may face some revenue loss when they cannot track and show content based on user behaviour across the web. This would mean that they need to look for other ways to match the revenue, like creating a paywall and restricting the free content.

On the other hand, some publishers are pretty happy with the move and take back control over how the data from their site is being used.

The Impact on Users

According to a study by Pew Research Center, 72% of people feel that almost all of what they do online is being tracked by advertisers or other companies, while 81% say that the benefits of such tracking and collection are meagre compared to the risks.

So for the general audience, this is a welcome move. They now have better control over how their information is being used. They don’t have to face those intrusive ads and better choices to control the usage of cookies.

To be honest, third-party cookies weren’t that seamless to start with.

In an ideal world, the third-party cookies from one site match the next site to the ad platform. But the reality is far from it. When the cookies match only half of the time, we tend to make wrong assumptions in advertising and target the audience who aren’t our ideal customers.

Such wrong targeting would only mean more advertising investment going down the drain and targeting strategies that are going nowhere. Now that we near the era of third-party cookies, advertisers have high chances to turn back to personalized targeting with contextual advertising. Before we look at various such ways, let’s look at what Google has to say about it.

What Is Google’s Stance on Third-Party Cookies?

google's stance on third party cookies

Safari has already jumped on the bandwagon to put an end to third-party cookies and Google is on its way. Chrome and Safari together contribute to a whopping 70% of the total browser market share and this announcement is making a huge splash in the marketing world.

Google’s Chrome browser is scheduled to block them by default in 2023. This announcement last year that it would begin blocking third-party cookies by default was greeted with a lot of dismay in the marketing community because it meant that practically the entire advertising ecosystem would have to change. But at a closer look, Google’s move was ultimately motivated by consumer privacy concerns.

The Beginning of Google’s Privacy Initiatives – Privacy Sandbox

Google announced a new initiative in August 2020 called the Privacy Sandbox. This aims to improve the privacy of online users privacy and fortify the privacy controls while taking steps to make it easier for publishers. And this announcement was soon followed by their plans to phase out third-party cookies on Google Chrome.

As many users want privacy and transparency in the way their information is collected and used, Google’s decision comes at the right time to meet such demands.

Vinay Goel, Privacy Engineering Director at Chrome, said, “The Privacy Sandbox initiative aims to create web technologies that both protect people’s privacy online and give companies and developers the tools to build thriving digital businesses to keep the web open and accessible to everyone, now, and for the future.”

Phasing Out the Third-Party Cookies

Chrome will phase out third-party cookies over three months, starting in mid-2023 and ending in late 2023.

Google is careful about disturbing the existing business models of website owners and publishers who advocate free content. They are also in the process of developing new ideas for ad measurement and relevant ad targeting.

Justin Schuh, Director of Chrome Engineering, said they are working on new anti-fingerprinting measures to stop any such covert tracking that works around the third-party cookies.

Any Alternatives for Third-Party Cookies in the Future?

Many advertisers were hoping that Google would introduce new alternatives and ways for them to track users online.

But David Temkin, Director of Product Management, Ads Privacy and Trust, made it clear when he said, “Today, we’re making explicit that once third-party cookies are phased out, we will not build alternate identifiers to track individuals as they browse across the web, nor will we use them in our products.”
David further added, “People shouldn’t have to accept being tracked across the web to get the benefits of relevant advertising. And advertisers don’t need to track individual consumers across the web to get the performance benefits of digital advertising.”

While Google supports first-party cookies and stresses its importance to help brands become successful, it has openly washed its hands away from third-party cookies or any of its alternatives.

So, what does this mean for marketers and advertising agencies?

Let’s find out.

How Does the Future of Marketing Look Without Third-Party Cookies?

ebook download StepToInbound

First of all, unlike what some say, we are not moving towards a cookieless world. We’re moving towards a privacy-first world where the first-party cookies are still present to maximize the user experience and help businesses understand their customers.

It’s just that the third-party cookies clash with the ideal of the privacy-first world and need to go away.

So, how can marketers survive in a world where there are no third-party cookies?

By moving towards contextual and behaviour-based targeting with maximum reliance on first-party cookies.

Contextual Targeting

Don’t we all consider ads annoying?

This has been a common statement for many because of how irrelevant and intrusive it feels.

Let’s say that your friend searched for a ‘Mac laptop cover’ on your computer. Even though you don’t own a Mac laptop, you would see so many ads about Mac laptop covers and skins on your website for the next few days, at the least!

When this happens, we tend to overlook ads because they’re entirely irrelevant to what we require. But if the ads we see are exactly what we want, we may get softer towards the whole concept of online ads.

Google has been testing new ads that target people based on who they are, like, and where they are. The ads, which Google calls “contextual targeting,” show consumers about products and services that they really want.

Now, Google is expanding contextual targeting to ads that appear in its search results and along the right-hand side of its Chrome Web browser. Now, when you search for something in Google search, you might see ads related to that query.

So the next time someone searches on your computer for ‘Mac laptop cover,’ you’ll only see these ads when you visit tech-related websites and not when you’re searching for food recipes or ordering your favourite shoes.

Contextual targeting brings the gap between the user’s wants and the marketer’s intent by targeting the right audience. This is majorly made possible with the right keyword-based contextual ads to increase the relevancy of the content to the audience.

Behavioural Targeting

Understanding the intent behind a user’s action can speak a lot. And such actions are what constitute behavioural targeting.

It is data-driven marketing that is focused on customers, not devices. By focusing on customers instead of devices, brands can engage with customers in more meaningful ways. It is the process of connecting brands’ customer databases and first-party data capabilities with their digital, mobile, social and traditional media channels.

This is especially useful when we don’t want to rely on the data collected from the same device and instead target users based on their behaviours.
For example, we may use our smartphones at home when searching for something. And then log in from our office computer to find more information about the same thing. And then come back home and use our home computer for the same.

When we depend only on the system data for targeting, we may not target the users properly. But when we focus only on the behaviour of the person for advertising, we can display relevant ads and even retarget them across multiple devices.’

This single view of customers, irrespective of their devices, can unlock more opportunities to increase the ROI.

First-Party Cookies

When we imagine the future of a world without third-party cookies, let your first-party cookies come to your rescue.

There is information that is available to you right at your fingertips. And these are from people who are interested in what you have to offer.

Make sure to collect data about page views, time spent by users on your website, heatmaps, conversion rate, abandonment rate, bounce rate and various other metrics to get all the information you need about your customers. You can merge all of your customer interaction information from chatbots, sales calls, social media interactions, video interactions, surveys and whatever else you can lay your hands on to get a complete, in-depth view of your users.

11 Marketing Strategies to Survive in a World Without Third-Party Cookies

While the future of marketing may be shaken a bit due to the phasing out of third-party cookies by Google, there are still many ways to recover from it. Here are some definite and practical ways you can implement to keep your marketing momentum going even in a world without third-party cookies.

1. Use Targeted Ads on Social Media

targeted ads on social media

Social media is an increasingly important platform for brands. Like traditional advertising, social media provides brands with an opportunity to reach their customers. But unlike traditional advertising, social media allows brands to engage directly with their customers, offering them the opportunity to ask questions, provide feedback, and exchange information about products.

Social media ads have developed over the years and have simplified the way we target users.

Social media advertising can be an effective way to drive targeted traffic to your website, increase brand awareness, and increase traffic to your site’s pages — all without breaching anyone’s privacy. Social media ads allow easy targeting based on your audience’s behaviour, interests, locations, and contact details. Here are 2 few ways to target your audience through social media ads.

2. Target Your Ads Based on Keywords

Social media advertising tools allow you to target your ads to people who are interested in a specific set of keywords or topics (such as “business owner” or “blogger”), to people who have specific connections with people or pages, or to show similarities to your own page’s followers. With this targeting, you can make sure your ad is going only to the people you want to reach and not to people who aren’t your target audience.

For example, let’s say you run a pet store that sells only reptiles and amphibians. You’ve seen a lot of interest in a certain species, and you want to retarget people who’ve visited your website with that species in the past.

You could run an ad on Facebook that talks about this reptile or amphibian, but you’ll only pay when someone clicks on that ad. If someone clicks and goes to your website but doesn’t make a purchase, you can retarget that person on Facebook with ads that suggest they might want to check out your products.

3. Use Lists for Targeted Ads

Many social media advertising tools allow you to create lists of different groups of people and then use that list to target ads. This can be especially useful if you’re selling to businesses, as you can target ads specifically to your industry’s top influencers and decision-makers.

4. Rely on the Social Media Data

Social media users expect brands to engage with them. A successful social media advertising campaign involves more than just putting up posts. Instead, it involves engaging directly with their followers.

But that’s not where the job ends. You can use the social media insights collected from your brand accounts, analyze the customer interaction points and gain valuable customer intelligence.

Social media platforms have the unique ability to help you directly reach your target audience. You can target your social posts to a very specific demographic, such as people interested in gardening or running. Or you can use any tool to analyze how your posts fared so that you can adjust your strategy.

An analytics tool can also help you analyze the types of content people are engaging with the most. You can explore which kind of content gets the most likes and comments and which photos or videos get the most views.

Different tools offer different analytics features, but the key is to hone your strategy over time and leverage that information.

5. Leverage Your Email List

email marketing data usage

While email marketing is one of the powerful strategies out there, it also happens to be one of the most underutilized.

To succeed with email marketing, you have to appeal to your subscribers’ interests, needs and wants. This means you need to provide relevant content — not just emails with special offers and discounts — to nurture them along.

Your email subscribers are much like customers at an actual store, so treat your email marketing campaign like it would any other. For example, if you sell gardening supplies, include content about the latest gardening trends or gardening tips. If you sell wedding dresses, share stories about your latest weddings.

Creating the email content is the easy part. The challenge comes in getting your message in front of your subscribers. That’s where you need to work on your email subject lines and adopt some best practices to make your emails stick.

Use mobile-friendly email templates – Your email templates should be responsive and mobile optimized. The last thing you want is for customers to view your content on their phone, only to find that it doesn’t display correctly.

Personalize your email campaigns – Personalization is the tactic that tops the list. Make sure to personalize the emails based on the subscribers instead of being completely generic.

Segment your email list – If you keep your lists segmented, it’ll be easier to target specific groups of customers with content they’ll find relevant. For example, if your customers are in different industries, segment your lists based on the industry they work in (e.g., e-commerce, software, etc.).

Use strong calls to action – No one likes to feel like they’re being sold to. With email marketing, you can gently nudge your customers toward buying your products by including links to product pages or landing pages at the end of your emails.

Test and optimize – Email marketing isn’t just about sending emails; you have to keep your campaigns optimized as well.

Use A/B testing – Once you have an email campaign up and running, you can use A/B testing to establish which elements of your campaign are working best and which ones aren’t.

On a side note: make it easy to add email signup forms to your websites, blogs and other online properties. This will increase your email list and you’ll have a handy list of interested people to reach out to at any time.

6. Sponsor Newsletters

If you want to advertise through emails, then you can try sponsored advertising. Many newsletter writers and publications are now accepting sponsorships and ads in exchange for promoting your product.

You’ll choose a company or an individual who has a good response from your target audience and collaborate with them to talk about your business. In turn, you’ll pay the sponsorship fees for the newsletter. You can even send your products to these newsletter writers, ask them to try it out and share their personal experience along with their newsletter — similar to the social media influencer programs.

You can approach any publications or huge newsletters with a good audience list similar to the ones you target and ask for sponsoring them. This way, you can directly reach out to your audience without relying on any cookies at all.

7. Monitor Your Email Marketing Data

All is not the end of your marketing insights without third-party cookies. You can still gain insights into your marketing efforts with the right data — and it’s even more simple with email marketing.

To make your emails work, you need to invest a lot of time in the behind-the-scenes action — starting with analyzing the email marketing data, tweaking the emails, A/B testing them and optimizing the email marketing strategy for better conversions. And you can get all of this information directly from the email marketing platforms you use.

Here are some of the essential email marketing insights you need to consider.

Email subscribers – How many subscribers do you currently have? How many do (or will) you expect to have?

Open rates – The percentage of your emails that are opened. If you have a high percentage of open rates, then your emails are reaching their intended recipients.

Click-through rates – The percentage of people who click on a link in your email. A high click-through rate shows that your emails are relevant and that people are interested in what you have to say.

Conversion rates – The percentage of people who make a purchase after they’ve read your email. A high conversion rate shows that you’ve captured the interest of your target audience.

Bounce rates – The percentage of people who initially sign up for your newsletter but who never open or click on any of your emails again. A high bounce rate shows that your subscribers aren’t interested in what you have to say.

Average order values – The average amount that your customers spend when they make a purchase. A high average order value shows that the people who receive your emails are more likely to make purchases.

Average revenue per purchase – The average amount that each customer spends each time they make a purchase. A high average revenue per purchase shows that you’re offering them good deals.

Churn rates – The percentage of people who have unsubscribed from your newsletter. A high churn rate shows that you’re losing subscribers.

As you monitor these data, you’ll get better information about your audience than you’ll ever get from third-party data.

8. Create a Buyer’s Persona

buyer persona creation

Today’s buyers are savvy. They know exactly what they’re looking for and aren’t shy about asking for it. In fact, buyers expect a certain level of personalization and customization in everything from their coffee to their shoes.

But when you don’t want to depend on third-party cookies to find your target customers or display personalized ads, then why don’t you do it yourself?
Buyer personas can make a huge difference to your marketing strategies when you know exactly whom to target. In both social media ads and search engine ads, targeting the right audience is the whole point. And when you don’t have any third-party cookies sneaking in the ads, we can go back to the basics and do it the way it was meant to be — by actually understanding who your customers are.

While developing a buyer persona can be time-consuming, it doesn’t have to be. You can use the data gathered from the first-party cookies, customer surveys, polls, chats and calls to create an in-depth profile of who your ideal customers are.

9. Invest in Native Advertising

For decades, the standard way of selling a product has been through banner ads. The banner ad is the digital equivalent of the old billboard, a physical advertisement that reaches a large audience and this was actually possible with third-party cookies. Banner ads are passive, meaning they don’t require any action on the part of the user.

Unfortunately, banner ads are slowly becoming less effective. Instead of capturing the attention of potential customers, they annoy them, making them click away. And with the bane of third-party cookies slowly taking shape, banner ads will no longer be as effective as we want them to be.
To stay relevant, banner ads will have to evolve. They can’t rely on flashy colours and big logos anymore. They have to become more subtle, engaging content. Banner ads have to become native, blending in with the overall look and feel of the website. They have to be less obtrusive, more like a natural part of the user experience.

To do this, traditional banner advertising has to become native advertising.

Native advertising is content that looks like content but is actually an advertisement.

Instead of a flashy banner, native ads take the form of an article, a video or a podcast, for example. Rather than being surrounded by distracting content, they’re presented alongside other content in a format that feels more organic — but not necessarily less targeted.

Native ads are stories that users discover through typical channels like search results and social media. They blend right in so they don’t interrupt a user’s experience, and they often offer social engagement in the form of likes and comments.

Advertisers realize that native advertising is much more engaging than traditional banner ads. But native ads aren’t the only new advertising format. Influencer marketing, for example, gives brands the chance to connect with audiences through trusted individuals. These “micro-influencers” are typically respected people who have a large, engaged audience.

Brands and influencers can work together to create content, such as videos, blog posts, photos and social media posts, that tells a brand story. With native advertising, influencer advertising, brands can keep users engaged and engage with users more meaningfully.

10. Retarget Through Social Media Ads

retarget through social media ads

Retargeting is one of the most powerful tools in social media marketing. With it, you can remarket to people who have already visited your site, visited a specific product page or watched a video.

Facebook and other popular social media platforms now offer marketers tools that let marketers retarget people based on information they’ve already provided — like phone numbers, email addresses, and other contact information to retarget people.

For example, if you offer an email newsletter, you can add a signup form to your website. If someone signs up, you can automatically import their name, email address, and other contact information to Facebook.

Then, you can retarget those people on Facebook with ads that suggest they might want to check out your products. This can quickly increase your return on investment.

Similarly, if you have the email addresses of your users and customers, you can retarget them on Facebook with ads that suggest they might want to check out your products.

11. Focus on Creating Great Content

Content is king.

This phrase has been bandied about so many times that it’s lost its meaning, but it’s true: Users don’t care about the technology that enables content, they care all about the content.

The late Steve Jobs said it best: ‘It’s not the technology, it’s the content.’

Cookies are one of those technologies that seemed great in theory, but in practice, they do more harm than good. They solve so many issues, but they just create new ones.

So what can you do?

First, lock down your focus on the content. They don’t care about your app. They don’t care about you or your business. Your visitors don’t care about cookies. They don’t care about the browser.

They ‘first’ care about the content you give them.

So when you want to increase your conversions and bring in new users to your website without third-party cookies, then prioritize your content. Easy-to-read, simple and useful content can bring in lots of new users to your website, similar to how an ad works. The difference here is that your users from content would be more open and willing to make a purchase because of your established expertise and reliability in the industry.

But producing only one piece of content just isn’t feasible for most businesses. Consistent, high-quality content is what your audience craves (and keeps them coming back for more), but consistent content requires consistency in strategy, resources, and execution — and most importantly, it is for content distribution.

All the content you create, whether text, images, video, podcasts, infographics, or memes, is only valuable if your audience finds it useful. That means your content can’t just sit on your website. It needs to be distributed across multiple channels — blog posts, email newsletters, Facebook, Google+, Twitter, Pinterest, YouTube, LinkedIn, Instagram, and more. And it needs to be consistent.

So leverage a mix of content creation and distribution to maximize your marketing efforts and organically bring people to your website.

Progressing into the Future…

The future of marketing without third-party cookies isn’t as bleak as many think.

Marketers need to go back to the way things were done before — creating buyer personas, targeting customers through data collected from first-party cookies and using their consented personal information to retarget them.

In fact, first-party data, the personal information that you already have on your customers, is potentially more valuable than third-party data that marketers buy from other publishers. It is more accurate than third-party data and marketers can leverage that to create highly targeted content and offers tailor-made for the audience.

As for consumers, it may mean an end to intrusive advertising.

In the future, there’ll be more personalized content online. Consumers will genuinely value their data and the value of having an online experience that isn’t being sullied by adverts.

This isn’t to say advertising will disappear. We believe that in the future, advertising will become more effective, more relevant and genuinely personalized.
Eventually, brands won’t need to bombard consumers with irrelevant advertising. Instead, they will be able to craft ads that target consumers based on their needs and buying behaviours.

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