The end of third-party cookies and how it affects marketers

GrowthBy Mariana Bonanomi

For years, marketers have relied on third-party cookie data to track browsing habits across websites. This information enables them to deliver relevant ads that align with users' interests. Yet, changes in consumer privacy regulations and data security awareness are leading its phasing out.

While it's hard to imagine a digital ads ecosystem without third-party cookies, we can compare this transition to a shift in transportation methods. Although we rely on cars to take us to work every day, environmental concerns make us choose greener ways to move around the city. The same can be said now for changes in privacy laws we must adapt to.

Here's what you should know about the third-party cookie end and how you can continue to reach your target audience in a privacy-friendly way.

What are third-party cookies?

Third-party cookies are tracking codes websites “borrow” from others to learn about users’ interests. Differently from first-parties, third-parties give you visitors’ information even before their first access to your website.

Marketers utilize third-party cookies to gather information about users' preferences across various websites on the internet. They then leverage this information to personalize ads or content on their own websites.

Here's how third-party cookies work:

  1. You visit a website, and it places a cookie on your web browser. This cookie will store information about your browsing behavior.
  2. Instead of adding this cookie, many websites will retrieve information from cookies used by different website domains.
  3. As you browse the web, this third-party cookie will collect information about your activity throughout multiple websites.
  4. Then, it will give other domains information about your preferences even before you interact with their content.
  5. Finally, businesses will use your data to personalize content and show you the right ads.

Suppose you're shopping for shoes online. As you visit your favorite e-commerce site, it's domain stores a cookie on your browser. It tracks your activity and collects data about your interests. Later when you're browsing other websites, you'll see ads for the same shoes.

Platforms such as Google Ads and Facebook Ads use third-party cookies to collect navigation data that enables segmentations based on websites users visited.

Plugins that enable users to log in and interact with content on social media also use third-party cookies to collect user data. When users open a social media platform, they visualize ads based on their browsing behavior.

While third-party cookies help advertisers understand users better and know their preferences, they've come under increasing scrutiny in recent years due to privacy and data protection concerns.

How the death of third-party cookies impacts marketers

Marketers use third-party cookies to personalize their messaging. But with users demanding greater privacy and control over how advertisers use their data, the use of third-party cookies is ending.

Although Apple's Safari and Firefox already phased out third-party cookies in 2013, Google Chrome, which represents 95% of the global web traffic, still allows it. Google will also wind down third-party cookies to protect user privacy and position itself as a secure engine. As an alternative, they propose Privacy Sandbox to curtail improper tracking while allowing ad retargeting within the browser.

Why you should start looking for alternatives

The demise of third-party cookies will significantly impact the digital marketing industry. Companies must find new ways to collect data and serve personalized content.

Yet, marketers are worried that they may experience a loss of targeting capabilities as it may be more difficult reaching out to specific audiences. Retargeting, which involves serving ads to users who have already visited a company's website, may also become less effective without third-party cookies to track user behavior.

As a marketer with an innovative mindset, you should ask yourself how reliant you are on third-party cookies for online advertising and user data. Do you have strategies in place to avoid being caught off-guard by its deprecation?

The solution to the non-third-party cookie era

One way to survive the post-cookie era is to consider contextual advertising. It is based on the content of a web page. You can use it, for example, to serve ads for hotels, airlines, or travel insurance if a user is reading a news article on your own website about traveling.

But a more practical solution is to collect first-party data.

First-party data is information businesses collect from their own sources about their customers and visitors. This data comes from first-party cookies, which website owners enable on their sites only.

First-party vs. third-party cookies

First-party cookies come from the same host domain a user chooses to visit, browse, and interact with. The cookies enable the website owner to facilitate some core functionalities and provide a good user experience for their customers. This is safer than using third-party cookies since the information is not shared throughout the internet.

Suppose a user visits an online store, places a product in the cart, and exits the page without completing the purchase. When returning later, they notice that the product is still in the cart (we know you just thought about your Amazon cart). First-party cookies make this possible.

First-party cookies give you the data you need to personalize website experiences while complying with users’ privacy. You can personalize home banners, exit pop ups, top bars etc. Feel free to use many ideas from our website personalization guide.

Shifting your strategy to first-party data

The death of third-party cookies presents an opportunity for transformation. Moving forward, you should rethink how you gather data to market and offer personalized content.

Privacy-driven website personalizationPersonalize your website with a platform that complies with privacy policies and standards.
A image showing audiences for onboarding

Unlike third-party data purchased from external sources, first-party data comes directly from your website visitors. Not only is it more trustworthy, but also you exclusively own it, so you don't have to worry about losing the right to use it.

Among other methods of collecting first-party data, you can use email sign-up forms, surveys, loyalty programs, customer surveys, or website tracking tools. It's important, however, to create a first-party data pool to make this strategy effective.

First-party data pool refers to the sharing, collaboration, and analysis of information that a company gathers directly from its customers or users through various sources such as its website, mobile app, or customer relationship management (CRM) systems.

When prospecting, you analyze the user behavior and match the patterns against the audience in the data pool. Then you can dynamically target ads and personalize website content to users who demonstrate similar intent behavior.

By analyzing user behavior in a news website's data pool (articles read, interests, time spent), for example, you can identify users with similar preferences. This information will help you plan your personalization approach, showing related articles or adapting newsletter subscription forms to each one’s context. All strategies to enhance user engagement and tailor the experience.

Two newsletter forms, one associated with a woman with blue buttons and icons and the other containing green details and associated with a man.
Example of newsletter form personalization

To prospect first-party information, you first need to collect and organize data directly from your users. After filtering this information, you will have patterns and insights to help you segment your audience and create personalized marketing strategies. Additionally, leveraging lookalike content and audiences enables you to find similar prospects outside of your current customer base.

With targeted marketing and continuous optimization, first-party cookies enable you to understand better and engage with your visitors and clients, ultimately driving business growth and success.

How Croct can help

Croct is always conscious of users’ privacy and data handling. That’s why we only work with first-party cookies and never store users' information, such as their IP addresses. Instead, we monitor users’ behavior on our platform without identifying their PII (Personally Identifiable Information), offering relevant, privacy-first content.

Our platform allows you to create a first-party data pool, a database that will keep information only from your domain.

If you want to make your PII-compliant data pool and maximize conversions, create your free account and start using Croct today.

Let's grow together!

Learn practical tactics our customers use to grow by 20% or more.