How to Prepare for the Loss of Third-Party Cookies

Sep 22, 2022 9:00:00 AM
6 min read

The news about the end of third-party cookies has been swirling around for a few years already, but by the end of 2024, it will finally become a reality. And for online retailers, this means finding new ways of doing business. 

Recently, Google announced that it would delay phasing out third-party cookies on Google Chrome to give marketers more time to find and test alternative ways to locate and track users online. And while other privacy-first web browsers like Safari and Mozilla Firefox already block third-party cookies, this impending change will be the final blow that makes the cookie crumble for good.

So, what impacts will this have on e-commerce businesses, and more importantly, how can they prepare for a future without third-party cookies?

In this article, we’ll discuss everything you need to know about cookies and how you can start preparing for Google’s changes sooner than later.  

What is a cookie?

Illustration of two cookies next to a glass of milk. One cookie has a bite taken out of it. A cookie is a small piece of data that’s stored in the browser that websites can retrieve later on. For e-commerce stores, cookies provide valuable information, such as login credentials, user preferences, and shopping cart items that enable the retailer to display targeted content, including online ads. As a result, users get personalized content that is more engaging, which ultimately improves their overall experience.

Types of Cookies

Just like there are a variety of cookies you can bake (chocolate chip, anyone?), there are different types of cookies that exist online. And all of them serve a different purpose.

  • First-party cookies are stored when a user visits a website and help improve the user experience by providing data such as language, passwords, and viewed items. This type of cookie only delivers information to the web domain.
  • Second-party cookies contain the same data as first-party cookies, but can be transferred from one website to another. For example, if you recently booked a hotel in the mountains for the weekend, that hotel might share its information with businesses in the area, such as restaurants or outdoor adventure companies. 
  • Third-party cookies are created by websites other than the one(s) a user visits and are primarily used for cross-site tracking and target advertising. This type of cookie is most used in e-commerce because it allows retailers to understand their customers better and use the data collected to create online advertising that effectively increases conversions and revenue.

Why are cookies going away?

Though third-party cookies are considered invaluable to e-commerce, they raise concerns surrounding consumer privacy. Cookies are often inconspicuous and track users secretly. And while sites are now asking permission to use cookies, consumers still lack control over who’s collecting their info—or where it’s ending up. 

How will this affect e-commerce?

Digital Identification

Without third-party cookies, online retailers will struggle to identify their customers, making it harder to measure new and returning customers, page visits, purchase frequency, ad impressions, and more.

Tracking User Behavior

E-commerce stores will find challenges in testing their site out for user engagement, which could cause challenges when determining what changes may be needed to increase conversions. 

Ad Targeting

Losing data from third-party cookies will inevitably bring in lower performance rates from targeted ads while online stores are forced to search for other ways of collecting data on potential customers and their shopping behaviors.

Related: What is the Best Way to Analyze Digital Body Language?

How can e-commerce stores prepare for a cookieless world?

As third-party cookies get phased out, e-commerce marketers will need to find other ways to target and measure their audience attributions. Here are three helpful ways to start transitioning your site and marketing tactics so you’re sitting pretty far ahead of Google’s 2024 cookie crumble deadline.

Devise a first-party data strategy.

A well-executed first-party cookie strategy can provide a personal user experience the same way a third-party cookie does, with the added bonus of establishing trust between your site and its shoppers. It’s also necessary to successfully carry on with business.

Robot looking at screenFirst-party cookies can be used to gather visitor data from your site and then use that information to create targeted ads that can be synced to social media platforms and Google. The key is to be transparent in everything you do. One way to achieve this is by including forms that notify your shoppers about what you’re gathering data for, and where that data will be used.

For example, let your customers know that by collecting their info, you can create a more personalized user experience through product recommendations, discounts, and other exclusive offers. With approximately 80% of shoppers supporting businesses collecting their preferences for this reason alone, it shouldn’t be hard to convince them to give you their personal information.

Consider contextual targeted campaigns.

With third-party cookies on their way out, contextual advertising will definitely be making a comeback. This type of marketing utilizes the influence of keywords to place targeted ads on web pages to help connect brands to new audiences on a larger scale.

If you’ve never used contextual advertising before, it could seem a bit dated, but when done right, you could open the door (or in this web window) to more people at optimal times and places. And if that’s not quite enough to persuade you, it’s also more affordable than cookies—and less regulated. 

Acquaint yourself with data clean rooms.

When third-party cookies go away, all of your user information will be confined to the platforms that store it (like Google, for instance). But this doesn’t mean that you can’t use it – you just need to approach it differently. Enter a data clean room.

A 'Digital' storefront Location

A data clean room is software that enables advertisers to run privacy-friendly targeted campaigns, measure the performance of those campaigns, and then run attribution on them. Basically, this means that platforms like Google will let you evaluate data within their network. This can be done by uploading their first-party data and assessing it to the amassed data in the data clean room that’s been added by other businesses. 

All first-party data remains within this data clean room and won’t be shared with others. Though this may seem like a lot more work than you want to do, becoming familiar with data clean rooms now will be a useful step in reaping the rewards they provide, later on.

Bottom Line

The loss of third-party cookies will definitely be a tough bite to swallow, but that doesn’t mean all hope is lost for e-commerce. With or without third-party cookies, online retailers need to be proactive in acquiring new customers and finding ways to keep them happy, so they keep coming back. And while tracking technologies will differ in the future from what they are right now, data protection laws will still remain the same.

No matter what tools you explore, remember, your site will still be required to obtain user consent before you can store any personal data. Preparing yourself now is the first step to easing into an unavoidable shift in how online retailers target their audiences, and how you can continue increasing your online revenue for years to come. 

Prepare for the Future by Optimizing Conversions Today   

Man with monocular telescope, looking into the futurePrepare for future changes in the digital marketing world by optimizing your site’s conversions today. Granify has all the tools and know-how to ensure your e-commerce site is set up in the best way to achieve the highest amount of conversion possible.

Our team can discuss personalized strategies for your site that both increase customer engagement and conversions, so that by the time 2024 rolls around, you’ll be more prepared than ever.

Start Planning Today