What 3 steps should brands make to prepare for the cookie-less world?

Your first thought of a cookie may be the crisp outer texture with a gooey centre. However, this delicious delicacy isn’t to be mistaken with the type of cookie I am referring to. With GDPR pressures increased and governments aiming to crackdown on protecting online user privacy fresh out the oven, it seems as though the time for advertiser’s use of cookies will soon be coming to a well baked end.

A cookie which has been bitten on a white background
This is not the cookie you're looking for...

First, let’s look at what a cookie is...

Cookies are small text files or data which help to identify a computer and it’s saved data from your online activity; cookies are currently know in two categories, first party and third party.

First party cookies – The first party cookie is here to develop a relationship with the consumer to allow for a more useful user experience (UX) based on that user’s trends which “are stored under the same domain you are currently visiting” (Cookie Script. 2022). The main purpose of gathering the user’s data is to enhance a consumers UX such as recommending what they may like to purchase based on what products have recently been viewed.

Third Party Cookies – These are “created by domains other than the one the user is visiting at the time and are mainly used for tracking and online-advertising purposes.” (Wlosik and Sweeney 2022) The tracking of consumers to other domains allows for the continuation of advertisements on those platforms, which are not linked to UX, but to further help with a brands behavioural profiling and retargeting. Although 3rd party cookies are considereduseful to consumers as they create advertisements that are in line with individual interests.”

Why are Cookies a tough subject?

With consumers “constantly and increasingly creating data” (Mintel. 2020) some software can pose security issues where outside parties are able “to access name, address, and even credit card information if it’s stored in the browser” (REQ Analytics 2020). From a sample of 2000 people, Mintel have asked internet users if they were worried about the way in which their data was being used. (McGrath. 2019) reported that 75% of people were worried about how secure websites and apps were storing their data.

How can brands prepare?

Step 1 – Preparing for sustained disruption

Inevitably, brands will have been taken aback by the latest announcement on the step away from allowing browsers to support third party cookies. Although this blog title states a ‘cookie-less world’, currently it is only third-party cookies being affected. The first step in preparation will likely involve the maximisation of data collected through first-party cookies which will help in the continuation of building consumer relationships (Loye 2021).

Using methods such as contextual and behavioural targeting going forwards, will allow for a more sustained focus on the suitability and quality of content reaching an audience rather than using their data to target a specific audience. (Olsson 2022) By understanding how your content will be consumed, it will level up the performance of your message receptiveness, brand suitability, and advanced targeting opportunities (Menon et al. 2021).

Step 2 – Re-think ad measurement practices

When cookies are a thing of the past, how as a brand will you go about market research? Brands and advertisers may benefit from investing and reverting to more traditional research methods such as qualitive and quantitive (Blum 2021). Examples of this include surveys and focus groups. Using this approach will allow brands to connect with potential consumers and get an understanding on their target audience/ what is appealing.

Step 3 - Adapt to a walled garden world approach

With the likes of big tech companies who currently seem to hold the world to ransom regarding the amount of data they hold, it becomes apparent that adapting to to be a one stop shop platform allows the owner to have more control over its data in a closed ecosystem (Jatain 2021) and further increase brand trust. Partnering with big tech platforms using closed ecosystems will also allow smaller brands to access user data and repurpose it for brand benefit. Dentsu’s global report: The Cookie-less world communicates that “large tech platforms will continue to thrive in the marketplace, while smaller publishers and platforms may lose their influence” (Dentsu 2021).

The last bite...

Although many marketeers see this change as a disruption, it can also be seen as progression as we shift to a new way of collecting data and building closer relationships with consumers. With an increase in mistrust in brands on how their data is used, “45% of Brits agree that misusing personal data would make a business untrustworthy” (Duckett 2019). Mintel also mentions that by “Avoiding third-party cookies is an opportunity for brands to monitor and target consumers directly, choosing when and where to advertise themselves” (Mintel 2020). By targeting directly, it is highly likely this could mean an increase in brand trust and further lead to an increase in brand to consumer connection and sales.

Regardless of whether you consider this change as positive or negative, you may just believe living in a cookie-less world is ‘one tough cookie to swallow’.