While not as fun as the chocolate chip variety, third party cookies impact how your consumers browse the Internet and how you market your brand. With Google’s recent announcement to dump these cookies, you might be wondering how this will impact you. Don’t worry, we’ve got you covered.  


What are third party cookies? 

An HTTP cookie is also sometimes called a web cookie or browser cookie. Their primary function is this: “When you visit a website, the website sends the cookie to your computer. Your computer stores it in a file located inside your web browser.” These cookies track your activity on the web. And marketers collect this vital information to influence buyers. 

A third party cookie is a cookie that is “set by a website other than the one you are currently on.” These types of cookies are most commonly marketers, advertisers, and social platforms. Think of it through this scenario. You are talking to your friend about an upcoming trip to Hawaii (something to look forward to after quarantine). So you Google a few condos on your wishlist. Later, when surfing the web, an ad pops up for the same condos on the sidebar of Google. You might have the sense that Google is ‘listening’ to you, but really you have left a “trail of crumbs” in your search history that a third party collected. 


Why they’re important 

Cookies have been around since the 1990s and used to “track online users and then target them with advertisements” since then. If you’re a marketer, these cookies most likely have a direct impact on your reach and sales. Typically, third party cookies collect essential data like your customer’s age, gender, web searches, and subpage visits. Plus time spent on these pages and subpages. All of this information can be useful to your content, tone, ad location, and overall marketing strategy. But, like everything else, cookies come with pros and cons for advertisers


Pros for advertisers 

The information in third party cookies gives advertisers more efficient tracking. Plus, with relevant information at your fingertips, you can ensure that your ads are reaching the right audience at the right time. 

Cons for advertisers

There’s one main con for advertisers when it comes to third party cookies. And that is that most users will automatically block them via extensions like AdBlockers. And, now, with a major player like Google getting rid of cookies, it could lead to more cons for advertisers down the road. 


So, why is Google getting rid of them? 

Google’s announcement to block third party cookies comes after decades of the site using them. As users have increasingly distrusted cookies and seen them as an invasion of privacy, Google made the change. As of 2020, the site will not automatically block cookies. But “the code change will limit their use to more secure HTTPS connections, a step Google is taking to safeguard consumer safety.” And the changes made are to Google’s Chrome browser. So it will “will affect anyone with a website, including brands, agencies and traditional news publishers.” 

Competitors like Safari and Firefox are already blocking cookies by default. But Google doesn’t plan to get to this step entirely until 2022. The motivation here is that “nearly 90% of Google’s revenue is generated through advertising.” In the meantime, Chrome will be getting rid of “the more invasive aspects of third-party cookies with their SameSite tool.” SameSite being “a backend protocol” that only allows cookies for various uses. 

Regardless of the delay, the decision to ultimately eliminate cookies can have major impacts on marketers. 


How this will impact your brand 

At this point, you might be biting your nails a bit and worrying about your current marketing strategy. It’s true that the lack of third party cookies can have some negative impacts on your brand, but it also presents some interesting opportunities. 


Negative impacts

Yes, eliminating these cookies will benefit Google because its advertising model does not depend on tracking. But it does mean big changes for digital advertisers. The change may hit especially hard if you are a startup or smaller brand, as you likely rely heavily on digital advertising. 

Eliminating third party cookies will hinder your brand’s “targeting and optimizing conversion.” It will also have a domino effect within other industries as “cookies are currently the foundation for much of the programmatic ad tech.” The truth? Digital marketers have to find an alternative. Especially without the tried-and-true methods to gather data on user behavior.

Positive impacts

At this point, the news might seem bleak, so let’s give it a positive spin. To start, this measure will make it so “less ethical advertisers will no doubt resort to other types of more nefarious tracking, like browser and device fingerprinting.” While many of the positive benefits are for consumers’ increased privacy, some changes can help out your brand. One such being that Google will keep its first party cookies, which allow you to track basic analytics on your brand’s site. 

Another bone that Google threw to advertisers amid the change is the addition of Privacy Sandbox. The goal of this initiative is to “make browsing the web more private and secure for end-users while still supporting publishers by storing individual user-level data.” While Privacy Sandbox is essentially a band-aid before the full phase-out, the lasting impact of no cookies might be a positive one. Mainly because it forces marketers to stop their focus on the cookies and “instead focus on the consumer’s overall journey.” 


What’s next? 

The phase-out of these cookies points to a future with more user control and privacy. But it also gives marketers a chance to innovate and be creative with the way they approach customers. For example, through increased use of contextual advertising that “allows you to circulate PPC ads on websites that rank for similar keywords as your ad.” Not to mention that less reliance on technology and tools like contextual advertising can often lead to fresher ways to reach your market. 

There will also most likely be a resurgence in first party cookies informing marketing campaigns. Such as those you would get from phone calls with your customers––“the holy grail for marketers who work in industries that rely on phone calls to make sales.” 

Yet another option for marketers? People-based targeting. This strategy allows marketers to meet consumers where they want to target them through Identification (directly through devices), Data (like purchase data and email engagement), and Automation (singular view of the customer). 

Overall, “user data is going to [include] much more one-to-one relationships.” In other words, data is getting personal. Bringing your marketing back to basics and relying on the other tools and skills at your disposal will make the departure from third party cookies easier than you think. 


Embracing the change 

For marketers who regularly use Google’s third party cookies to put together their campaigns, the decision to stop using them can have resounding impacts. Although these changes won’t be fully in effect until 2022, it’s in the best interest of your brand to understand the trends and make adjustments to your strategies now. Despite the negative impacts, the lack of third party cookies is an opportunity for your brand to grow in new ways.