You may have heard the news recently, that Google is delaying their planned discontinuation of support for “third party cookies”.
But; what are those, what do they do and why does it affect us as marketers?
If you’re unsure of any of those questions, we’re here to answer all your burning questions and give you the run-down of everything you need to know about “the end of third party cookies”.
What Are Third-Party Cookies?
Third-party cookies are a piece of tracking code placed on a website by another organisation (a “third-party”) for the purposes of tracking your behaviour both on and off the site.
They’re mainly used in marketing for retargeting users across websites, as well as precise behavioural targeting based on the kinds of websites or content users engage with.
The other kind of cookie is a “first party cookie”, a piece of tracking code on the website that is placed there by the organisation itself.
These are usually used for refining the website’s UX or similarly for gathering retargeting data, such as which products a user is interested in.
Where Are Third-Party Cookies Being Phased Out?
Most web browsers have already phased out third party cookies to protect consumer privacy. Google’s Chrome and Chromium-based browsers are the most notable platforms that still support third-party cookies, but are set to phase them out.
This is notable because Chrome has by far the highest desktop and mobile market share of any browser.
When are Third-Party Cookies Going Away?
Google first announced it would be phasing out third-party cookies on the Chrome platforms in 2020 – causing quite a stir in the marketing community.
They recently delayed this decision, in order to gradually phase out third-party cookies over an additional two-year period (expected to be fully removed by early to mid-2024).
Why are Third-Party Cookies Going Away?
The main reason businesses and consumers alike have been pushing for the removal of third-party cookies are all around privacy concerns.
With the proliferation of retargeting strategies in recent years, consumers became more aware of the extent to which marketers were tracking their online behaviour. This, understandably, caused some backlash along with a fair share of politicisation around the issue.
The main argument is that since there has been little global regulation, businesses have been able to collect excessive and sometimes intrusive amounts of data on users; more than they could feasibly need to create targeting strategies for their products.
Brands are therefore looking to move toward other tracking models, which are less intrusive and more collaborative.
The industry is moving away from creating individualised tracking profiles for each and every customer, and towards smaller group-targeting solutions that categorise users by broader niches.
What’s The Argument for Keeping Third-Party Cookies?
The main counter-argument is being led by marketers and marketing technology agencies.
Many marketers argue that the politicisation of the issue has caused it to be overblown; and that the practical extent of the tracking is not as extreme as many sources make it appear. There’s some debate about what constitutes “sensitive information” in the digital space.
Marketing technology companies argue that the move to phase out third-party cookies unfairly advantages Google because they’ll still be able to host first-party tracking across all of their platforms.
In their view, all the move does is effectively give Google further monopoly in the marketing data sector by restricting the ability of third-party vendors to compete in the space.
Whatever your view on the subject; the removal of third party cookies from the internet is sure to have a huge impact on the marketing industry as a whole – which is why it’s vital to stay on top of it.
Despite the delay – brands should still be planning ahead towards contingency or alternative plans for gathering customer data in order to remain competitive.
The shift represents both an opportunity and a threat – an opportunity to gain a competitive advantage by innovating your target strategy, and the threat of being left behind if you don’t.
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