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Iain Moss Senior Content Manager at Ometria
Posted 08 February 2021

How the changes to third-party cookies may affect you

Topics: Cross-channel marketing

Given that Google Chrome is ending support for third-party cookies by 2022, many marketers are looking at their tech stacks and wondering how the change is going to affect them. Should they be worried? 

In reality this is a move toward a marketing landscape that focuses on relevance, consent and customer opt-in – and these features are essential to creating consistent customer engagement, which is vital to retaining lifelong customers. According to a recent Ometria survey, 30% of consumers would stop shopping with a brand if it sent them irrelevant marketing messages. And over half (56%) of respondents said it annoys them when retailers promote products they have already bought, which is a problem inherent in third-party cookies. 

We’re getting ahead of ourselves though. Let’s wind back and look at these changes and what they mean. 

What’s the difference between third-party cookies and other cookies?

There are two main types of cookies: first-party and third-party. First-party cookies are stored by the website that you are currently on, whereas third-party cookies are created and stored across multiple domains, and can be accessed on other sites. 

First-party cookies generally include features that make the on-site experience better – such as remembering your settings from your last visit – or allow the website to track what its users are doing on the site. Most web browsers accept these first-party cookies by default. For a marketer, the primary limitation of first-party cookies is that they can only be read when the user is on the domain that deploys them. 

Third-party cookies, on the other hand, can be read on any site that deploys them, which allows companies to track users across sites and to use retargeting ads. If you have two websites that use the same third-party cookie, the company that creates that cookie can track you across those two websites. These are the cookies that Google will no longer  support. 

Why is this an issue now?

Depending on your perspective, you could argue that nothing much has changed. Safari and Firefox have already phased out third-party cookies; however, Google Chrome accounts for more than half of global web traffic. So it’s kind of a big deal.

Is this a good thing?

From a customer experience perspective, we’d argue that it is a positive step.

As marketers, we should be looking to create customer experiences that are relevant and of interest to our target customers. We ultimately want customers to want to opt in to receive marketing communications.

As Ben Jacobson writes in The Next Web, “…the only way to make this new ecosystem work will be to build a solid foundation of meaningful first-party data, and that in turn requires marketers and brands to work together to build a community that meaningfully engages with audience members and harnesses their support and willing cooperation.”

There is a growing frustration from consumers toward the type of marketing, such as retargeting, that relies on these third-party cookie networks. Ads that follow you around the web from websites you may have accidentally clicked on, or that are advertising products that are irrelevant for one reason or another are fuelling this frustration. According to Statista, over a quarter (27%) of internet users have ad-blockers installed, which is clearly a result of this growing frustration with third-party cookies. 

On-site first-party cookies, however, allow marketers to build a single customer view. By combining on-site behavioral data, alongside data from all other customer touchpoints, such as purchase history, returns, social engagement and email preferences, allows marketers to create fantastic, contextually relevant, personalized customer experiences. Platforms, like Ometria, that use first-party cookies are unaffected by this change. 

If you’re a marketer or advertiser who is heavily reliant on third-party data, it may be time to rethink your approach.

What can I do about it?

If you’re unsure about whether a specific technology uses first-party cookies or third-party cookies, the best thing to do is ask your account manager or check their support pages. If your supplier uses third-party cookies, they should already have a plan in place to address the change, so ask them what they are planning to do. 

Ometria customer? Here’s what you need to know.

If you’re an Ometria customer, the good news is that we only use first-party cookies. Check out our support page to learn more. 

Further reading on cookies

Clearcode: What’s the Difference Between First-Party and Third-Party Cookies?

Deloitte: What the end of third-party cookies means for advertisers

Hubspot: The Death of the Third-Party Cookie: What Marketers Need to Know

Wired: Google’s next big Chrome update will rewrite the rules of the web

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