The cookie is crumbling on Chrome. Google announced in early 2020 that it plans to eliminate third-party cookies by 2023. Chrome will join several internet browsers that have since blocked third-party cookies by default.
Initially, Google had targeted 2022 to remove third-party cookies from Chrome, however, the company postponed this move into 2023 so it can fine-tune its plan to make web browsing a more private experience for users.
As of this year, Google Chrome accounted for around 47% of the overall internet browser market share in the United States, far exceeding the number of users on other platforms such as Apple’s Safari. This means that companies relying on cookies will lose millions of potential customers to target online once Google implements its ban.
The good news is that ecommerce marketers that depend on cookies to attract customers have additional time to plan and respond—but the clock is ticking. Here is a look at what ecommerce marketers must do to prepare for the inevitable and ensure folks can find them far into the future.
How Cookies are Consumed in Ecommerce
For years, companies have been using these li’l tech cookies to bring in the dough. Cookies, in a nutshell, are used to help track website visitors, improve the user experience, and collect valuable data that allows companies to target online advertisements to the right audiences.
In addition, companies can analyze how customers interact with their brands — creating new customer relationships while retaining existing customers. Simply put, cookies ultimately generate revenue.Online cookies also come in different flavors, and each one has its own role in ecommerce.
First-party cookies are stored by the websites, allowing them to collect data to provide a better, more seamless user experience. These cookies allow websites to remember preferences such as passwords and language.
Second-party cookies are cookies that are transferred from one company to another through a partnership. For example, a hotel chain might sell its first-party cookies to a car rental chain to target certain travelers. There is some debate on whether second-party cookies truly exist in ecommerce.
Third-party cookies are most used in ecommerce. These cookies are created by websites other than the ones a user may visit (hence its name). Third-party cookies can be used for cross-site tracking, retargeting, and ad-servicing. Data from this tracking helps companies understand their customers. They can use this information to create advertising that will turn into conversions and revenue.
While third-party cookies are commonly used in ecommerce, they are also the most controversial because of concerns surrounding privacy among consumers and federal regulators. A 2019 Pew Research Study found most consumers believe their personal data is less secure now and that data collection poses more risks than benefits.
Google used this data as an argument for its decision to ban third-party cookies. On its website, Google stated: “If digital advertising doesn’t evolve to address the growing concerns people have about their privacy and how their personal identity is being used, we risk the future of the free and open web.” It should be noted that Google’s ban only applies to third-party cookies, which we’ll discuss more in a minute.
Google states that it is working through its Privacy Sandbox initiative to develop methods that protect users’ privacy while enabling some sort of focused targeting online. This will undoubtedly leave ecommerce merchants at a disadvantage in tracking new customers, especially with other browsers blocking third-party cookies.
Losing the data that third-party cookies collect could potentially cost ecommerce marketers a lot of revenue as they will no longer be able to personalize the customer experience with their brands. And without a mind-blowing experience (or at least a memorable one), brands will have a hard time competing and differentiating, especially against huge marketplaces like Amazon.
What is the Future of Ecommerce in a Cookieless Online Experience?
This is a call to think outside the cookie jar.
As third-party cookies are phased out, what will the future hold for ecommerce? Google is reportedly working with advertisers to ensure its move to ban third-party cookies doesn’t destroy businesses. It’s expected that its proposed solution, the Federated Learning of Cohorts (FLoC), will offer tools and resources for ecommerce marketers to continue generating conversions on online advertising.
While 2023 may seem like a long way out, your company should prepare now for life after cookies. Google’s ban shouldn’t be a buzzkill for ecommerce, but instead, look at it as a marketing opportunity and a push to evolve your tactics. Here are a couple of ways to get ahead of the game and continue to provide a premium customer experience after Google’s deadline:
Focus on First-Party Cookies. As mentioned earlier, Google’s ban doesn’t impact first-party cookies. Use this time to begin working on strategies to utilize data from first-party cookies. If you haven’t already, set up event tracking for campaigns that will derive anonymized data that comes directly from the interactions your users have with your website.
Revisit Contextual Advertising. Compared to using third-party cookies, contextual advertising may seem old fashioned, but if it’s executed effectively contextual advertising can help connect brands to users. When marketers target context, they place ads on web pages based on keyword searches of their consumers. Contextual advertising is more affordable and not as regulated as cookies.
Rethink the Future of Ecommerce. Third-party cookies may be a thing of the past, but now is the time for ecommerce marketers to look to the future. Look for innovative ways to capture data that protects the privacy of your consumer while connecting each to your brands.
Rise Like a phoenix from the cookiepocalypse
Ecommerce brands can still offer their customers memorable, distinctive, and loyalty-inducing experiences without third-party cookies. With plenty of time to strategize down the third-party cookie ban runway, your store and your customers can come away with even better experiences than before (now that consumers won’t feel so much like they’re being spied on).
Route was built to rethink the future of ecommerce and better serve evolving modern consumers, and now is your shot to match that evolution. By strengthening customer relationships and earning more campaign opt-ins to fine-tuning a contextual advertising strategy, life beyond third-party cookies is possible for brands. So while the cookiepocalypse may sound like a dark place, there’s plenty of light at the end of the tunnel.
Watch this panel from Route Connect 2021 and see how ecommerce brands are already prepping to survive the cookiepocalypse.