cookieless era introduction

The cookieless era – introduction. Let’s start with the basics!

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Third-party cookies will become unusable from 2022, launching advertisers and marketers into the cookieless era. No less than 80% of the data that will be available in 2021 will no longer be accessible in 2022. This will have a huge impact on marketing as we know it today. In this blog series, we take you into the cookless era and prepare as well as possible. In our introduction, we start with the basics: what are cookies, and why are they so valuable? What is going to change and why and what can you do as a marketer?

What is a cookie?

A cookie is a small data file saved by a website onto a user’s computer (or device) that shares details of the user’s web browsing activities.
As advertisers & marketeers, we use cookies to closely monitor all our website users. We use cookies to, amongst others:

  • Distinguish users from new versus returning visitors;
  • To target potential customers;
  • To track the customer journey;
  • To optimize and allocate media budgets

We do this to increase the probability of delivering an effective message to the right audience. Because, in essence, we want to sell more of our products and services. Hence, we are very dependent on cookies to help us achieve our goals.

A stunning 80% of the data that is visible in 2021, will not be accessible in 2022. 

Can you imagine that 80% of your current data would not be available to you? How would this impact decision-making in your organization? And how would a lack of data affect your activities and decisions?

80% data loss has a massive impact on any organization. However, at this moment we have already lost a substantial amount of data as the Safari and Firefox browser block third-party cookie information. At this moment Google Chrome is the most popular browser being used in Europe. As the Google Chrome browser will partly follow the Safari and Firefox browser in blocking 3rd party cookies, it will be practically impossible to continue marketing intelligence in the way we have been used to. It’s time to get ready and act now!

Cookies lie at the basis of multiple questions and answers such as:

  • How do users interact with our website content? 
  • Which elements of our website should we optimize? 
  • What does the customer journey look like?
  • Should we shift the media budget from PPC to Social?
  • What is my Return on Investment (ROI)?
  • What size is my lookalike audience?

And so on…

The majority of:

  • Tracking
  • Reporting 
  • Frequency capping
  • Optimization 
  • A/B testing 
  • Allocating media expenditures 

is ALL based on cookies!

Cookies are personal identifiable information

Consumers have the right to know and influence how their data is handled

The principle of privacy lies at the root of this paradigm shift. Digital marketing revolves around data. This results in a force field. 

On the one hand, we find the end-users who have a right to know how their data is collected, used, and shared. And these consumers have the right to determine whether their data can be used for advertising purposes. 

On the other hand, we see publishers who rely on advertising income as a backbone to be able to produce more content. 

Cookies & Privacy

To protect the privacy of consumers, the EU has launched the ePrivacy directive and GDPR. Both regulations are intended to protect the privacy of residents of the European Union, e.g. by creating a safer online environment.

These regulations ensure, among other things, that:

  • Users must give explicit consent to the collection and use of their data;
  • Users have the right to withdraw previously given consent;
  • The definition of personal data has been expanded, this includes cookies. However, a device IDs (such as your iPhone ID), is also labeled as Personally Identifiable Information (PIII);
  • The user has the right to request and obtain insight into collected data.

This implies that all forms of tracking and storage of personal data, use of cookies, digital fingerprinting, etc. are not permitted without the consent of an end-user.

A new era

Cookies are harmless in themselves. But because cookies may contain information that can be used to trace an individual without consent, in some cases their use lies within the domain of the GDPR. Due to the impact, this has on digital marketing and advertising, initiatives have emerged in the industry to move away from the use of cookies for tracking purposes. Hence we are on the verge of the ‘cookieless era’; the most impactful shift in the history of digital marketing.

“Privacy is a fundamental human right”

Besides end-users and governments, the third party in the privacy battle is Big Tech. Browsers and operating systems are crucial to a consumer as they function as gateways to the Internet and devices. While some Tech parties directly side with the consumers and position themselves as privacy warriors, others lagged behind due to the fact that the data they retrieve and use is crucial to their revenue model. 

Apple and Microsoft state “Privacy is a fundamental human right” and in 2014 the Safari browser from Apple launched a functionality allowing users to block third-party cookies while surfing the web. This brought Intelligent Tracking Prevention (ITP) into play. Once users adapt their browser settings to block cookies, marketeers are unable to track behavior. This reduces options to target for advertising campaigns. In 2019 Firefox followed Safari’s example. And in 2022 the Google Chrome browser will join the others too. 

Cookie lifetime

Another major shift concerns the cookie lifetime. Apple/Safari was the first to reduce standard cookie lifetime from 30 days to 1 day, making it more difficult for marketers to fully track the customer journey. From 2022 onwards, the reduced cookie lifetime of 24 hours will be the standard; it is hereby assumed that Chrome will also reduce the standard cookie lifetime to 1 day.

In addition to these game changing elements at the browser level, Apple’s mobile operating system IOS 14 recently adopted functionality to block or prevent tracking. App Tracking Transparency will require apps to get the user’s permission before tracking their data across apps or websites owned by other companies. Leading to situations whereas for instance users with an iPhone using their Facebook app are prevented from being tracked by marketeers and/or advertisers.

So, what’s next?

So much for background information about the cookie-less era. Stay tuned! In the next post you will read all about first and third-party cookies.

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