When Google announced its decision to end the use of third-party cookies, it led to quite a bit of anxiety within the digital advertising industry. Many advertisers and strategists were understandably concerned about this drastic step, and skeptical about the viability of any alternatives or work-arounds.
Recently, Google followed up on its initial announcement, saying that its deadline for ending third-party cookies had been pushed back until 2023. Many within our industry breathed a sigh of relief. While Google’s extension is welcome, this is no time to rest on our laurels. There are steps that advertisers can and should be taking right now to prepare for our eventual, cookieless future.
A good first step is to take a clear-eyed assessment of your current marketing strategy and media mix, evaluating your current level of dependence on third-party cookies. Basically, figure out exactly how much the death of cookies would impact you.
Some questions you can use as you perform this assessment:
- How do you reach your target audience?
- Where are you reaching your target audience? In other words, what channels are you using?
- How do you personalize your content and messaging? Do you rely on first-party data to do this? Third-party data? A mixture of both?
- What’s your measurement strategy? Which metrics do you use to determine the success of your ads/media mix?
- What are your key performance indicators (KPI), and are they reliant on third-party data?
- Do you currently use third-party data to enrich your first-party insights?
- Are there any alternatives to third-party cookies that you could test out right now?
Take some time to evaluate your current strategy, and to get a feel for just how much a cookieless future would affect your approach and your outcomes.
Calculate the Impact
Likewise, pay special attention to a few digital advertising buckets that would almost certainly be impacted by the loss of third-party cookies. We would especially recommend focusing on these:
- Site measurement. In a cookieless future, a lot of your website visitors will be people who have opted out of being tracked. They could significantly skew your website metrics, leaving you to measure website performance based on incomplete data.
- Content accessibility. The loss of cookies would also make it difficult to gauge how your content is being accessed. This could force advertisers to make some tough decisions about which content to leave available for free and which content to place behind a paywall; again, these decisions will have to be made on the basis of incomplete information.
- Media measurement. When third-party cookies are eliminated, you can expect your media performance numbers to take a dip. This may simply be because the number of trackable users declines. As such, advertisers will need to recalibrate some of their expectations.
These are just a few areas where you’re likely to see a real and fairly immediate impact from the elimination of third-party cookies.
Augment First-Party Data
As you consider life without third-party cookies, you’ll naturally want to refocus your attention on first-party data collection. There are several steps you can take right now to enhance your first-party data. Again, we’d start by asking yourself a few questions:
- Where are you getting your first-party data? (Most of the time, this will be from your website or from a loyalty program.)
- What are the first-party data points you’re currently capturing? And are there other data points you could be capturing?
- Do you have a system in place to store consent/preferences from your customers?
- How is your first-party data stored?
- Are you currently using your first-party data? Are you tapping into its full potential?
First-party data has always been important, but moving forward, it’s really going to take precedence. With cookies being phased out, it’s a good use of your time to focus on how you can most efficiently gather, store, and use first-party data. Then, build up as much first-party data as you can, ensuring that you’ll have plenty of solid info to work with even when third-party cookies become extinct.
The bottom line: Your first-party data tells you a lot about the audience that’s currently engaged with your product or brand. That’s pretty valuable intel, so long as you know how to leverage it effectively.
At enCOMPASS, we’ve been expecting and preparing for a “cookieless” world for quite some time now. The delay until 2023 is a real silver lining as it provides some extra time to prepare for the new way of doing things. Don’t be left behind. If you haven’t yet, start preparing now. It will be here before you know it!
If you have any questions about preparing for a cookieless future, or about the actions enCOMPASS is taking on behalf of our clients, we welcome you to contact us any time. We’re always happy to talk about strategies for navigating our changing industry.
SHARE THIS ARTICLE: