How to Prepare for the Third-Party Cookie Phase-Out

By Sophie Walker • Last updated: Friday May 10th, 2024

How to Prepare for the Third-Party Cookie Phase-Out (1)

With the removal of third-party cookies on the horizon, digital brands must address how the upcoming changes will affect their day-to-day marketing operations. 

Third-party cookies have played an instrumental role in retargeting eCommerce customers based on their preferences and browsing habits.

Without them, retailers need to look towards alternative methods that adhere to stricter privacy regulations. 

As the digital ecosystem evolves to meet new standards, it will present challenges and opportunities for eCommerce businesses. 

Brands now have the chance to prioritise compliant, privacy-first data strategies to mitigate the impact of cookie changes on their digital marketing efforts.

In this article, we’ll delve into how your online store can prepare its marketing strategies to get ahead of the third-party cookie phase-out.

Cookies eBook

Understanding the impact of the third-party cookie removal

The removal of cookies will significantly change the way brands advertise online, altering how retailers engage with their customers. 

With this in mind, let’s take a closer look at the reasons behind this shift and the potenital impact it will have on your business.

What are third-party cookies?

A third-party cookie is a piece of data embedded in a user’s browser for the purpose of tracking their online behaviour.

These cookies can be used to build accurate profiles on shoppers by storing information such as: 

  • Location
  • Browsing behaviours
  • Purchasing trends 

This knowledge enables marketers to serve personalised advertising and retargeting campaigns that directly align with their individual interests.

What are the reasons for the removal of third-party cookies?

In response to growing concerns around privacy, third-party tracking cookies are being removed in favour of compliant data practices. 

Google announced the phasing out of third-party cookies within Chrome as part of their wider Privacy Sandbox initiative. This aims to develop technology with user privacy and safety in mind whilst continuing to meet the business demands of brands and advertisers. 1

Will this impact my eCommerce business?

Google plans to completely remove third-party cookies within Chrome, and since their users make up around 91% of the total browsing market, the impact will be felt throughout the industry. 2

Due to these regulatory changes, there will be significant changes in how a brand can:

  • Reach their intended audiences through marketing campaigns
  • Re-target shoppers who don’t make a purchase 
  • Measure the success of their marketing campaigns 
  • Segment their audiences based on their preferences and behaviours

Now is the time to get ahead of the changes, looking towards viable alternatives that meet the demands for personalisation whilst respecting a user’s right to privacy.  

Suggested reading: To learn more about the upcoming changes read our free report, ‘Beyond Cookies: Harnessing First-Party Data for Success’.

Prepare for phasing out of third-party cookies

The upcoming removal of third-party cookies will mark a shift in digital marketing whilst also providing an opportunity for brands to meet consumer needs. 

By embracing more compliant data practices now, retailers can ensure they can continue to provide personalised customer experiences. Let’s delve into the actionable steps retailers can take to prepare their strategies for the phase-out of third-party cookies.

1. Audit your data sources

First things first, you need to understand how third-party cookies are used within your day-to-day marketing strategies. 

Assessing your current usage will provide valuable insight into how their removal will specifically affect your brand.

This calls for a full audit of your data sources

Begin your audit in areas where third-party cookies often play a critical role, for example: 

  • Behavioural advertising: Third-party cookies have allowed retailers to track user behaviour across various websites, enabling the delivery of relevant ads to specific demographics. Your reliance on cookies here should prompt you to adopt first-party data strategies as a compliant replacement.
  • Marketing campaign attribution: Third-party cookies allow you to track interactions across sites, which is crucial for attributing sales and interactions to the correct marketing activities. Preparing for the shift in this functionality means you should consider adopting new attribution models that rely more heavily on first-party interactions.

Understanding how third-party cookies have fit into your existing operations to analyse, track and target browsers is the first step toward building resilient marketing strategies for the future.

As the industry moves forward without cookies, brands that make necessary adjustments off the back of thorough audits will continue to see their marketing and personalisation efforts thrive.

2. Shift towards first-party data strategies

It’s widely accepted that relying on first-party data should now be a priority for retailers navigating a digital landscape without third-party cookies. 

First-party data is information that a shopper willingly shares as they interact with your site or fill out a form. This is viewed as an ethical alternative to third-party tracking methods and offers shoppers greater transparency into how brands collect their data.

This ownership of this invaluable data allows you to communicate directly with your customers in the form of marketing campaigns, without the need for any external third-party information. 

With a bank of first-party data ready to replace third-party cookies, you can expand the opportunities for personalisation, improved segmentation, and accurate retargeting. 

This data can come in many forms, but retailers should be looking towards their: 

  • Website interactions: Through website analytics, your brand has access to information about your shoppers’ browsing and buying patterns, trends and demographics. 
  • Email subscriber lists: Don’t overlook your email subscriber lists for a clear understanding of your shoppers and their preferences. Growing your subscriber base unlocks opportunities for personalised marketing email campaigns. 
  • Customer service exchanges: You can use customer service communications as a source of first-party data that provides insight into how your shoppers are making purchases with your brand.

The new era of privacy-first marketing means retailers must now prioritise collecting first-party data directly from their customers in order to uphold personalisation efforts within their marketing campaigns. 

Suggested reading: Dive deeper into ethical data collection in our article ‘6 Ways to Collect First-Party Data: Sources, Examples and Collection Methods

What you can do: With email subscribers arguably being the most reliable first-party data source, it is essential for your brand to maximise the collection of this data. 

An example of an eCommerce store successfully preparing for the removal of cookies in this way is LD Mountain Centre.

Using Salesfire’s data capture technology, this leading independent retailer has seen a 159% uplift in email sign-ups. A strategy that has seen their brand completely transform their opportunities for retargeting. The ability to pull in more subscribers has empowered the company to retarget lost customers via email, all while relying on first-party data.

3. Implement alternative tracking and attribution methods

Third-party cookies have traditionally been a tool for tracking users across different websites and platforms, providing insights into their behaviours, interests, and preferences. 

These cookies can also be valuable for measuring the success of your campaigns by monitoring customer interactions.

The removal of third-party cookies means brands must harness the power of alternative tracking methods.

Doing so will provide retailers with a deep understanding of audience behaviours and preferences, ensuring they can continue making informed marketing decisions in a post-cookie world. 

To accomplish this, consider implementing the following methods: 

  • Server-side tracking: As a user interacts with a website, this technology captures data about that interaction and sends it to the server hosting the site. This method bypasses the need for third-party tracking cookies to monitor behaviour.
  • Contextual targeting: This process serves users ads that align with the content, phrases and keywords that appear on the page they’re viewing, ensuring that ads are genuinely relevant to the individual’s interests. 
  • Cohort-based advertising: This strategy targets specific groups of people based on shared characteristics such as age, interests, and behaviours, rather than individual demographics. 

The impending removal of cookies highlights how retailers can still accurately understand their shoppers whilst prioritising ethical data practices.

This is the perfect opportunity to act on deploying compliant tracking and attribution techniques to maintain campaign effectiveness. 

4. Diversify advertising and marketing strategies

Now is the time to explore how you can reduce your reliance on third-party cookies.

We recommend diversifying your advertising and marketing strategies to achieve this. 

Consider broadening your current strategies with paid advertising that increases your brand visibility while following new regulations. 

Examples of this include: 

  • Native advertising: This is a form of paid advertising where the ads match seamlessly with the contents of a site, this means users can still view promotional advertising materials without any disruption to the user experience. 
  • Influencer marketing: You could opt into influencer marketing as a way to promote your products and services to wider audiences through various social media channels. 
  • Sponsored content: This refers to promotional material that is created or endorsed by a brand on a platform that isn’t owned by the brand itself. This approach is designed to look and feel similar to a platform’s regular content. 

To increase campaign visibility without cookies, brands should create an omnichannel experience consisting of a wide range of advertising alternatives.

What you can do: As well as looking at alternatives within paid advertising you should also look at organic marketing methods.

You can grow customer relationships organically with: 

  • Email marketing: Go beyond transactional communications by introducing regular email marketing newsletters and campaigns with your latest content. With these regular communications, you can build a sense of loyalty and trust amongst your shoppers. 
  • Content marketing:  You could consider extending the lifetime value of your customers by posting regular blogs, designed to educate and engage your shoppers with your products. 
  • Social media channels:  Use your social media platforms to interact with customers and share user-generated content, building a loyalty community of repeat shoppers in the process. 

Each of these organic marketing tactics will help expand your reach to a wider audience, build trust and foster loyalty amongst your current customer base without the need for third-party cookies.

5. Emphasise transparency and consent management

Calls for greater transparency surrounding how brands collect data online have led Google to phase out third-party cookies.

As we enter this new digital era, brands need to get ahead of the latest user demands by prioritising transparent data practices. 

You can do this by prioritising consent management. 

Communicate clearly what personal data is being collected on your site and how it will be used, this could be in the form of privacy policies, cookie opt-in, or consent forms for greater transparency for your users. 

What you can do: Acknowledge that privacy concerns are at the heart of consumer needs. 

By offering transparency and privacy compliance throughout your eCommerce site and data collection, you can build long-term, sustainable customer relationships in a post-cookie world. 

You could communicate this on your website by: 

  • Being open about how data is collected and used: Disclose the specific type of data that is being collected on your site and how it will be used by your brand. This will allow shoppers to feel secure when browsing your site.
  • Offer your shoppers a choice: Make it easy for shoppers to communicate their preferences by providing a clear opportunity for them to give or withdraw their consent for data collection on your site. 

With transparency around your data practices on-site, you can enhance the overall shopping experience and foster long-term loyalty among your audiences.

Adapt your marketing strategies for the cookieless era

As the removal of cookies edges closer, it’s vital that retailers prepare for the changes now. 

By prioritising greater transparency throughout data practices, putting into place an effective strategy for collecting first-party data and building engagement through both paid advertising and organic methods, you can continue delivering personalisation through your marketing efforts. 

Taking a customer-centric approach to the removal of cookies will help your brand successfully navigate a cookieless eCommerce industry.

Cookies

 1 Marketers & publishers brace for impact as 1% of third-party Chrome cookies vanish – The Drum

2 Top 106 SEO Statistics – Semrush

Find out how Salesfire can help you prepare for the removal of third-party cookies, email one of our experts at [email protected] or book a free demo of our tools.