atom42 Digital Marketing Blog
atom42 Digital Marketing Blog

Step Away From The Cookie(jar)

07 May 2021
By Rich Clifford
Google Cookies

Cookies are on their way out but it’s not always obvious how this will affect users or marketers. There are plenty of solutions and alternatives being developed but to understand these it’s worth taking a quick step back to understand the basics.

What are cookies?

A cookie is a small piece of code that’s downloaded to your computer’s browser when you visit a website. Neither edible nor delicious…

There are two types of cookies, first party and third party cookies. 

First-party cookies are used by the site you’re visiting to remember things like your location and browsing history. These can then be used to display the correct currency or save your basket even if you leave the site. 

Third-party cookies are primarily used by advertisers to track user behaviour across sites to help build up a picture of you as a user. They’re also the reason you keep seeing an ad for a pair of trainers you looked at a couple of weeks ago!

When will cookies be removed?

Safari and Firefox have already limited cookies being dropped on their browsers. But you could be forgiven for not seeing the effects of this when we consider that 65% of users use Chrome. Google announced that they aim to be cookie free by 2022 and this will be a phased approach. The first glimpse of this is debuting in the latest Chrome update. Chrome 90 includes an on/off switch allowing users to turn off ad personalisation if they want to. 

Why is Google doing this?

Initially, it seems counter-intuitive that Google are reducing their tracking ability, particularly as serving ads generates the majority of their revenue.

However, we saw how Facebook got treated in the media around the Cambridge Analytica scandal, so it shouldn’t be a surprise that Google are looking to be more sensitive around user data.

BUT, we also shouldn’t ignore the fact that this will likely hurt their competitors much more than themselves. Google already has a LOT of data they can use from their suite of products – something that programmatic suppliers and smaller advertisers don’t have access to. The end result will likely see Google in a stronger position when it comes to ad offerings.

How will this affect your business?

If you run programmatic display or remarketing campaigns then this could affect your ability to target your customer accurately. There are a few exceptions and solutions to this though…

Google & Facebook have found solutions to continue running remarketing once third party cookies are removed. Other suppliers look to have also solved this problem. 

Attribution is likely to be harder as advertisers can’t follow a user after their interaction to know whether they purchased at a later date. Cookies were never able to identify cross-device purchases so there has always been a gap in the data, this gap is just getting larger.

Alternative to cookies

Google have introduced a solution called Federated Learning of Cohorts (FLoC). This will allow browsers to collect information about a user’s browsing habits and then add that user into a cohort based on those habits. Each browser will have a unique ID that it can share with a website and advertiser’s, allowing them to target users based on their behaviour. This hasn’t gone down well with a lot of people and I can understand why, it sounds very much like cookies wrapped up in a new package to me! Whether we like it or not, it’s an effective solution and has tested to be 95% accurate compared to third party cookies.

Some programmatic suppliers are getting more creative by creating customer intent scores based on the information available to them at that moment, therefore not needing to rely on historic cookie data.

It’s safe to say that the demand to show ads to a highly engaged audience isn’t decreasing and is, in fact, fuelling a plethora of potential solutions. However, we are definitely moving in the direction of more control for a user around their data which can only be seen as a positive step. 

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