The Death Of The Cookie

February 27, 2020


With 2020 well under way, the new year marketing plans usually consist of many client meetings being centred around how we can retarget people, whether it be an abandoned cart audience or a pixel audience. Unfortunately, the latter is now becoming somewhat of a problem.

The tracking cookie is slowly starting to crumble, and the end result is that marketers are going to find themselves in a tricky position. Cookies are the most widely available source for tracking consumer behaviour and collecting user data, and they’re used by pretty much every AdTech platform. Google has since announced that it will be looking to ban third-party cookies on Chrome. It’s been a long time coming but it’s nearly time to let go.


What are Cookies?

A cookie is a small text-file which is used to save user-specific data. For example, when you log in to Amazon and choose to keep yourself logged in. Your browser does this by storing a cookie so that websites like Amazon know your preferences and interact with you accordingly.

There are several uses for cookies, but the topic at hand is storing preferences in the form of marketing data. This allows websites to show relevant ads to visitors. So, to anyone who is not a marketer, this is why you get ads on your Facebook, not because someone is listening to you. Well, Maybe.


Why are Cookies on the way out?

Cookies date back to 1994, which is the same year as the Internet was born, that alone makes the cookie sound obsolete.  When it comes to cookie-based targeting, massive amounts of data needs to be synced up across the ecosystem. When cookies from one site are not firing correctly or not stored, issues with track-ability and attribution appear, which is why it's common to see around 40% cookie match rates. 

It’s simply a case of natural tech evolution, there are many alternative tools out there which don’t require such invasive measures as cookies do and are much more reliable. With the influx of mobile technology, more time is now spent on mobile devices than computers and cookies are pretty bad on mobile, they can’t function on apps, and we spend all of our time on apps nowadays. Not only is the tech itself riddled with issues but it has sparked a murky area of the market where third-party cookie activity has created an industry with hundreds of middlemen that source, repackage and sell third-party cookie data.  With the introduction of tightened GDPR rules, no wonder the cookie is on it’s way out.

How will it affect marketing?

The death of the cookie is most likely sending shivers down obstinate marketers, companies which have relied on the 25-year-old technology will need to quickly adapt their strategy. Problems will appear with old school methods such as Programmatic advertising, an automatic process of planning, buying and selling ads which unfortunately relies on the cookie as its main currency. Google conducted a study and found that the effect of disabling third-party cookies resulted in a 52% decrease in revenue for the top 500 global publishers. Bad news indeed.  Attribution will also be an issue when it comes to cross-site  marketing.  With current browsers such as Safari already banning Third-party cookies, depending on the amount of traffic you receive from Safari, it’s likely you have been missing attribution for long user journeys  (longer than 24 hours) resulting in the lead journey becoming skewed, removing a clear view of a unified path from lead generated to purchase.

Advertisers should use this somewhat forced change to start to challenge their view of what effective marketing is. Focusing on first-party people-based marketing tactics by collecting emails and user data from content is a solid way to start targeting people and not devices

Focus on first-party data

Going forward, a big paradigm shift from third-party data to first party-data is needed. As mentioned above, people based marketing essentially means instead of relying on third-party cookies, marketers can focus their efforts on scaling their own first- party data and use them to create audiences based on actual behavioural signals, rather than just browser data. Marketers can then focus on marketing to people instead of vague potential interest groups such  as "Adults 18-34"" and reach them on whatever device or platform they may be on, delivering the multi-channel experience. 

Once you have adopted marketing strategies that reward you with first-party data, it is vital you have a process for syncing leads from the social channels to your CRM/database. Without a tool, there will be loss of data and delays in sales teams receiving leads, which will give you the same fragmented data trap that cookies reap. The Driftrock Platform has many tools which are designed to help lead acquisition. Not only can we sync leads generated into any CRM in real-time, but using our optimisation tools you will be able to break down all your activity as well as track leads from end to end resolving the issue of fragmented data as seen with our old friend, the cookie. 

There are also long term benefits of using your first-party data. Unlike Cookie data which expires, it is vital you keep your audiences nurtured, whether it be in the form of another ad or cross-channel marketing.  The way to activate the aforementioned strategies, is through native tools such as Facebook Custom Audiences and Google Customer Match, which plugs into CRM databases and uses that existing data to build targeted campaigns or to build look-alike profiles to expand their existing audiences. However, to keep leads nurtured through a ‘life-cycle’, audiences need to be constantly in sync so that when a lead moves from one stage to another they will automatically move audience too, so they can be hit with the right ad at the right time. The Driftrock Platform syncs Leads from your CRM onto Facebook and Google as a custom audience keeping the data in constant sync. If a lead choses to opt out, they will also be removed from audiences on the social platforms, allowing you to automate life cycle marketing as well as keeping you GDPR compliant. Phew. 

There's a silver lining

So, if you haven't started to prepare for a post-cookie world, now is the time. While it seems pretty scary right now, the eventual death of cookies as we know, will open a door for new and improved technologies. So far, the future looks bright, marketers will be able to enjoy better tracking and more targeted marketing with the use of first-party data. As you plan your marketing strategy going forward, make sure you have the right tech infrastructure from the outset to ensure all your leads are synced safely and you have the right tools to track and optimise your activity throughout. Also, having the ability to sync your first-party data onto the social channels using custom audiences so you can automate 'life cycle' marketing, is a future-proof strategy for long term gains.

If you need any help future planning for the death of the cookie, book a time to chat here. We can help with your strategy and dive into detail on how The Driftrock Platform works to help you take advantage of the right strategies going forward.