Shopify Ecosystem

Sunsetting Google Chrome Third-Party Cookies: Marketer Preparation Tips

sunsetting-google-chrome-third-party-cookies:-marketer-preparation-tips

Google is rolling out yet another update. This time it involves the sunset of the Google Chrome third-party cookies. Does this mean more difficult times ahead for marketers? Possibly, but the growing pains will be short-term if you’re well prepared.  

Check out some alternatives to Google Chrome third-party cookies and see why they might just prove to be an improvement. Yes—better than cookies! But first, let’s go over a brief background on first-party and third-party cookies.

Background on Cookies

First-party cookies are based on an internet user’s behavior. When an internet user enters a website, that website stores a piece of data on the user’s browser. That data is put there so it can be retrieved when the user returns to that website within a given period of time.

Cookies are unique identifiers that improve the user experience by remembering certain information about that user, such as login details, language preferences, items added to a shopping cart, user settings, etc. These cookies then tell the website what data to recall when a user returns.

Third-party cookies are those tracked by a website that is different from the one a user is currently using. These are different from first-party cookies that are placed on a user’s browser by a website that a user is currently browsing on. Examples of third-party cookies include advertising networks, social media sites, etc.

How Are Third-Party Cookies Used by Marketers?

Marketers use third-party cookies for online advertising. They keep track of a user’s browsing activities to show them personalized ads for the goods and services they are most interested in.

In other words, third-party cookies track a user’s online browsing activities so they can show more relevant ads to users. By knowing which websites users visit most often, a marketer can then customize a specific set of goods and services based on individual users’ interests, which results in more traffic and higher conversions.

Sunsetting Third-Party Cookies

This Google Chrome update will be sunsetting third-party cookies, but why? Well, mainly due to privacy concerns. Many consumers are now are growing uncomfortable with tracking that they feel invades their privacy.

This has prompted consumers and businesses alike to question their online data tracking systems. So user privacy is the key driver of this change.

When Is Chrome Dropping Third-Party Cookies?

The decision to drop Google Chrome third-party cookies was made back in 2020, but that date has been pushed back several times. The latest Google Chrome update news states they will be delaying the cancelation of third-party cookies until 2024, at which time they will begin phasing them out.

These delays and extensions are due to Google needing more time to test its Privacy Sandbox initiative (Topics), which is a less intrusive method of delivering targeted advertising. Is Topics going to be better and more powerful than third-party cookies? That remains to be seen, but the concept is being tested and seems solid thus far. More about Topics in a moment.

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FLoC and Topics

FLoC (Federated Learning of Cohorts) was initially considered Google’s replacement for cookies. It was designed as interest-based advertising by grouping users with the same interests. However, FLoC was quickly halted due to privacy concerns and replaced with a new program called “Topics.”

What Is Topics and How Does It Work?

Topics is a proposal in the Google Privacy Sandbox and works the same way FLoC was supposed to but does a better job at keeping consumers’ identities and movements hidden from advertisers. Google Topics is also an interest-based model. When users browse online, the Topics application is designed to learn about that user’s interests based on the sites they’ve visited.

Currently, Topics is only used on the Chrome browser. The Topics application will only store a maximum of 300 user interests over a three-week period, but that number is expected to expand over time. After three weeks, those user interests will be deleted and replaced with a new and continually updated set of user interests based on the user’s most recent searches. Unfortunately, how the Topics application qualifies what is considered a “user interest” isn’t known.

How Can Marketers Prepare for the Sunset of Google Chrome Third-Party Cookies?

It’s important to remember that customers aren’t going away just because third-party cookies are. Customers are still shopping, and marketers just have to find new ways to target them. The truth is, these changes are nothing new; Safari has long been without third-party cookies. Here are some tips marketers can use to prepare for the removal of Google Chrome third-party cookies.

Rely More on First Party Cookies

First-party cookies placed on a user’s device can be set to collect their website browsing data and are one of the best methods for replacing third-party cookies.

Leverage Affiliate Marketing

Affiliate marketing has experienced a 10 percent increase in year-over-year traffic for ecommerce businesses. Additionally, affiliate marketing is a great way to build a targeted list of consumers that is ripe for ongoing sales.

Partner with Large Advertising Giants

Partnering with large advertising giants like Google and Meta is another effective alternative for third-party cookies. This is because large advertising companies have access to the data that enables them to advertise programmatically.

These mega-companies can sort audience information into segments that will allow advertisers to reach their target audience without identifying a person’s name, address, or phone number. This is done by reaching that audience using a pseudonym to optimize and engage consumers with targeted ads.

Contextual Targeting

Contextual targeting uses natural language processing. This concept matches content with consumers without the need for invasive privacy practices. Additionally, fewer private data sources are used to identify consumers, so it anonymizes the process. 

Own Your Own Data

Businesses that own their own data will be better able to weather the cookie storm. Therefore, you might consider optimizing your data capture, do whatever it takes to get your digital visitors to opt-in, and customize a marketing strategy that will provide them with a high-value proposition in exchange for entering their information. This method is sometimes referred to as zero-party data, because a consumer voluntarily provides their information through subscription sign-ups, filling out a website form, free giveaway requests, etc.

Digital Fingerprinting

Digital fingerprinting identifies users by collecting their device information to create a unique “fingerprint.” Third-party apps installed on a user’s device are what is used to gather this fingerprinting information.

Data Pools

Data pools, also called data clean rooms are repositories that store massive amounts of user data. These repositories are independent of advertisers and publishers; therefore, users’ privacy is protected.

Publishers match first-party data from their end and advertisers do the same from their side. This results in advertisers getting the audience insights they need for their ad targeting.

Everything Can Change on a Dime

Third-party cookies were introduced in the early 2000s. So they have been around for quite some time. However, businesses were succeeding way before there were ever Google Chrome third-party cookies and they will continue to do so long after they are gone. 

This Google Chrome update won’t be any different than others that have come and gone. Marketers will need to roll with the changes just like they do with everything else in business. If you need help navigating the transition or want a free consultation to see how prepared you are for the switch, contact Hawke Media today. 

Good marketers are proactive and make time to stay on top of the latest trends and internet landscape changes. That is the only way to remain relevant, competitive, and able to quickly take the action necessary to grow and thrive in this constantly evolving world of digital marketing.

Special thanks to our friends at HawkeMedia for their insights on this topic.
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