‘Cookiecalypso’ brought forward, let’s prep already!

We saw how technology platforms and governments were enforcing businesses to get customer consent before recording any information, including using cookies to track web activity. A few weeks ago Chrome announced that 1% of Chrome users will have their third-party cookies switched off in Q1 of 2024, much ahead of the initially planned Q3 2024 rollout. It’s now when the rubber hits the road and the next six to eight months will need businesses to review, plan and implement strategies for life without third party cookies. Call in the company's digital James Bonds!

We thought you’d appreciate this quote from a company that knows how more than 62% of the world’s traffic consumes the Internet. 

"There’s no understating [that] this is one of the biggest changes you could ever introduce to the web," Wong said. "It’s like one of the big plumbings of the internet. I’m not sure if there are too many comparables".
- Victor Wong, Sr. Director Product Management, Google

What are the impacts on teams and businesses?

Digital advertising & acquisition

The largest impact will be with digital marketing teams who need to match relevant content, with the right audience, at the best times in their customer journeys. A study by Google found that the top 500 publishing businesses whose revenues come from programmatic advertising, could see a revenue drop of 50 to 70% in a world without third-party cookies (if they do nothing else to make up). It is no surprise that our favourite news sites that were once free to access, have now moved to paid subscription offerings. Meta has also reported losing $10 billion in revenue, majorly attributed to Apple's change that requires explicit user permission before allowing iOS apps any tracking of users. 

For advertisers, with no more data available on users’ past websites visited, nor on advertisements seen or interacted with, conversion rates are going to plummet. Retargeting and conversion attribution will need to be rewired along with feedback loops for ads and campaign optimisation. 

Offering light at the end of the tunnel is Google’s Privacy Sandbox which seeks to ‘create a thriving web ecosystem that is respectful of users and private by default’. Like the name suggests, your Chrome browser will take the role of a ‘privacy sandbox’ that holds all your data (visits, interests, actions etc) disclosing these to other websites and platforms only with your explicit permission. If not yet, we recommend testing your websites, audience relevance and advertising attribution with Chrome’s trial of the Privacy Sandbox.

Personalisation gets harder unless..

One of the most significant and immediate effects of third-party cookie deprecation is a decreased ability to track what visitors or customers do across devices and web properties. Imagine a first-time website visitor logged into their Facebook account over mobile and clicking on the latest product or whitepaper you have advertised on. They browse web pages about it over the phone and the next day visit your website on a laptop looking for the product/whitepaper. 

With third-party cookie data available from Facebook, your website could present immediately the item they were looking for, but without this data, they would be treated like any new visitor. With the personalization lost, you stand a high chance of your visitor dropping off the journey especially if you had multiple offerings or a difficult website to navigate in. 

To combat the loss of data from third-party cookies, businesses must adopt a first-party data strategy. A first-party data strategy involves businesses collecting customer data directly from their own interactions with the customer across all web and mobile, instead of relying on third-party cookies. Our fictitious company will need to have systems in place to identify the user’s visit via the Facebook mobile app and from that be able to personalise the customer experience with relevant content and communication, in real-time. (quick plug, this is exactly what ZEPIC seeks to do and more- first party data on steroids.)

Here is a good first-party data success story from Kia who brought together multiple sources of data about their customers including from car dealers and online car simulators to boost their conversion rates by 4X and increase their click-through rate by 268%.

Expectations of greater transparency and privacy standards 

As consumers, we are now even more aware and concerned about businesses using our personal data. With Apple iOS requiring users to specifically opt-in for any tracking, many of us have now begun questioning how our data is collected, tracked and used by other online publications or services. The daily news is filled with cases of businesses of all sizes being sued for wrongfully acquiring or using customer data and speaking for myself, I always have my own question with any data request: “why do you need my details?”. Businesses will need to implement consent management that transparently presents what’s being tracked, ensure compliance with evolving privacy regulations, and overall strive to build a privacy-first mindset within the company.

Top 3 impacts of the third-party cookie phase-out
Who’s impacted How What next
Digital advertising & acquisition teams Lack of cookie data results in drastic fall in website traffic and conversion rates Review all cookie-based audience acquisition. Sign up for Chrome’s trial of the Privacy Sandbox
Digital Customer Experience  Customers are not served relevant, personalised experiences: on the web, over social channels and communication media Multiply efforts to collect first-party customer data. Implement a Customer Data Platform
Security, Privacy and Compliance teams
Increased scrutiny from regulators and questions from customers about data storage and usage Review current cookie and communication consent management, ensure to align with latest privacy regulations

We all know now how important it was to understand and act on 'Search Engine Optimisation' two decades ago (Google was just 5 years old then!). Today commanding over 65% of browser share, it is just as important to understand and prepare for Chrome's shutting off of third-party cookies. If there was just one action item we'd recommend, do explore Google's Privacy Sandbox

Next on the ZEPIC blog, is our attempt at a comprehensive management checklist, of things to do before the total 'cookiecalypso'.

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