What is Cookieless Future
A Quick Rundown on Browser Cookies
What Do You Mean by “Cookieless Future”?
So What Happens Now?
How Can I Adapt to This Change?

People today are more concerned about their online privacy than ever before. A TechRepublic report shows us that 86% of respondents felt a “growing concern” about online privacy, and 78% feared how data collection online impacted them.

In response, major companies like Google and Apple have restricted the use of identifiers and cookies that advertisers have relied on in their marketing campaigns.

As a result, businesses everywhere have lost a way to provide tailored experiences to their clients and are consequently worried about the future. But they don’t have to be.

Let’s back up a bit first and talk about what this “Cookieless Future” has in store, its impacts on the online business landscape, and what companies can do to adapt to this new environment.

A Quick Rundown on Browser Cookies

Cookies allow websites to keep track of their visitors. They can monitor page interactions (clicks, filled out forms, passwords, and logins) and help digital marketers personalize the advertising experience based on individual preferences and past activity.

Types of Cookies

Have you ever seen those pop-ups on websites asking you for cookie permissions and allowing you to turn on and off various types of cookies? Knowing those types will shed some light on their uses.

  • Strictly necessary cookies: are for essential website components like user logins and secure authentication. As the name suggests, you cannot disable them.
  • Functionality cookies: cover user settings for a website, such as preferred text size and language selections.
  • Performance cookies: are specific to digital marketing initiatives. They collect website traffic, profile data, and other marketing statistics for advertisers to gauge the performance of their brand strategies and customer experiences.
  • Targeting cookies: are for targeting advertisements according to individual user behavior and preferences. While you can disable them, you will still see advertisements, just ones that are less relevant to you.

First-Party vs. Third-Party Cookies

The critical distinction relevant to our discussion of the Cookieless Future is that between first and third-party cookies. Both work the same way as other browser cookies but differ in their use cases and collection methods.

A first-party cookie, given to you by the website or application you’re visiting, ensures that you can return to the domain without losing your previous login or settings. It’s become a staple of modern web browsing and dramatically improves the user experience.

A third-party cookie, by contrast, comes from a different domain than the one you’re visiting. Advertisers use it to track user behavior across different websites for targeted advertising. The controversy behind third-party cookies is due to data privacy concerns and suspicions regarding their use. For example, third parties commonly sell the information in these cookies to other businesses without the users’ permission.

What Do You Mean by “Cookieless Future”?

The Cookieless Future is not cookieless in the literal sense, as it does away with only third-party cookies. Google has announced its intentions to remove third-party cookie support from its Chrome web browser, a change that will likely occur around 2024. The decision is one in a line of user privacy trends we’ve seen in the past few years. Apple’s iOS, for instance, has given more agency to its users regarding third-party data usage.

Because so much digital marketing relies on those cookies, marketing teams and businesses need to take note and prepare accordingly. Google is also interested in protecting user privacy while still enabling effective advertising online and encourages alternative strategies that we’ll discuss later.

So What Happens Now?

It’s not over for online advertising and tailored experiences, but businesses must work with new tools and strategies while keeping data privacy in mind. Some likely consequences of the Cookieless Future include the following.

  • Advertising strategies that use third-party cookies will no longer be profitable. Marketers need to turn to new strategies lest they risk falling behind and risking their businesses on short-notice tactics that are unlikely to succeed.
  • Those new strategies must have user privacy in mind. For instance, data usage must be opt-in whenever possible rather than automatic.
  • Predictive modeling tools powered by artificial intelligence will rise in popularity to fill the gap caused by the Cookieless Future.
  • The industry needs to think about obtaining consent from users. Transparency regarding how it uses personal data is critical here.

Of course, first-party cookies will continue to pull their weight for the customer experience in the future.

How Can I Adapt to This Change?

The Cookieless Future is thankfully easy to navigate through. The best course of action is to change your privacy policy to adapt to these new conditions. Be transparent and use clear language to define your obligations as a company regarding the collection and use of visitor data.

Look for alternate methods to get the information you need for personalized customer experiences.

  • First-party cookies: as stated, help you glean insights directly from users as long as everything happens within your own domain. Collect information like the types of pages a visitor clicks on and the browser and device the visitor uses, among others. It’s a win-win for both sides since you get valuable marketing insights and the visitors get a more convenient and tailored browsing experience.
  • Identifiers:—which include advertising IDs, IP addresses, and MAC addresses—link visitors to a specific identity. Cookies are not the only tools that can function this way.
  • Contextual advertising: offers a privacy-friendly way to deliver relevant advertisements to your users by looking at the content of the page and choosing ads accordingly. For instance, a blog post about home remodeling might have banner ads for kitchen appliance brands. Contextual targeting once took a backseat to third-party cookies but is now heading into the limelight again.
  • Cohort marketing: identifies groups of people based on similar interests or motivations. Google recommends this approach through its Google Topics initiative, which uses the browser to track the general topics of the pages a user visits online. Topics replaced the previous iteration of the program known as Federated Learning of Cohorts (FLoC).

Cohort marketing is a form of customer segmentation that allows businesses to target entire groups of individuals. It’s important to consider your target audience when targeting them to ensure both relevance and interest.

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