What Marketers Need to Know About Google Putting a Stop to Third-Party Cookies
It’s hard for marketers to picture life in a cookie-less world. For years, we’ve relied on third-party cookies to get our marketing messages out to consumers. However, very real concerns about privacy caused Google, back in 2020, to announce that third-party cookies are on the way out the door. Google has since extended the timeline, saying that the plan is to “begin phasing out third-party cookies in Chrome in the second half of 2024.”
That gives us a bit more than a year to figure out what’s next, and smart marketers should be taking action now. Ultimately, forcing this change will benefit the industry in the long term. It will force marketers to become smarter and more efficient with their targeting and to test out new ad tech platforms as an alternative to Google’s boxed solutions.
There are a few ways I see that happening. But first, let’s explore why third-party cookies have been so pivotal up until this point and then look at what B2B marketers need to know about the coming changes and how to prepare.
What Are Third-Party Cookies?
Cookies are how web browsers track and remember specific data about a user.
First-party cookies are stored only by the website you are visiting to improve the user experience. Third-party cookies, on the other hand, are created and stored by a server other than the one you are visiting. Marketers use third-party cookies for retargeting campaigns to serve ads for products or companies you’ve viewed or for similar ones. Third-party cookies are what Google will be phasing out in Chrome. (Second-party cookies, in case you were wondering, are cookies that are transferred from one company to another company via a data partnership.)
If Not Cookies, Then What?
Google’s first move toward the elimination of third-party cookies, as part of the Privacy Sandbox initiative, was to introduce FLoC tracking. FLoC would have grouped web users into cohorts of different interests by tracking where they travel on the internet. However, FLoC had its flaws, and after community feedback, Google introduced Topics to resolve privacy concerns that persisted under FLoC tracking.
Here’s the recap from Google:
“With Topics, your browser determines a handful of topics, like “Fitness” or “Travel & Transportation,” that represent your top interests for that week based on your browsing history. Topics are kept for only three weeks and old topics are deleted. Topics are selected entirely on your device without involving any external servers, including Google servers.”
Users will be able to see what topics they are associated with, and the Topics API will select three topics to share with sites and advertisers. This gives marketers a sense of what targeting information they will be able to work with.
These quick pivots suggest that Google will continue to make changes and iterate on solutions before third-party cookies are gone for good. This is a large commitment by Google, and we’re seeing that, similar to some of their other product shifts (Expanded Text Ads evolving into Responsive Search Ads, or Universal Analytics giving way to Google Analytics 4) Google is allowing for a transition period for publishers, developers, and marketers to test and learn about solutions.
So How Can B2B Marketers Prepare for a Cookie-less World?
Let’s be clear: This is a monumental shift for marketers and it will have an impact on future paid media buys. Having our remarketing pools shrink and our prospecting data segments become obsolete will 100% have an impact on performance. People that are most vocal about the downsides of the change are speaking up because it will change marketers’ targeting tactics and the tools we are used to.
That being said, here are a few ways we can start to prepare.
1. Leverage first-party CRM data
Being able to utilize first-party data, such as customer lists or website remarketing, gives business-to-business advertisers an advantage over direct-to-consumer advertisers. Marketers that don’t have access to rich CRM data or aren’t given the ability to access first-party cookies may be in trouble. This native data provides a great alternative to third-party data.
Bonus tip: Evaluate your martech stack. If investing in a new solution, like a CRM, will help you store and optimize first-party data, which is a worthwhile investment.
2. Focus on knowing your audience
The loss of third-party cookie data will dictate the need for more customer profile information to truly understand your audience. CRMs and customer data platforms (CDPs) will be extremely important, as well as having in-depth strategic discussions about how to leverage that data to target your audience in the best way possible.
3. Think beyond Google
My opinion is that Google will provide their final approach to the cookie problem, and companies will trend toward using that solution early on. However, we would be foolish to think that the tech industry won’t come up with an alternative solution to whatever Google proposes. We’re seeing possible solutions come to the forefront every day, like LiveRamp’s Unified ID 2.0. One key to getting through this change is to pay attention to contender alternatives.
That’s the Way the Cookie Crumbles
No more third-party cookies may seem like a tough thing to stomach. However, I’ve been tracking this change for the past two years and considering the best ways for B2B companies to adapt.
There are still many unknowns, but having a trusted digital marketing partner by your side can make transitions like this one that much easier.
Have any questions about preparing for what’s next? The team at Beacon Digital Marketing are experts at helping B2B companies generate more leads, gain greater awareness among target audiences, and leverage technology to become more efficient marketing organizations. Get in touch with us!
Josh may be from the Lone Star state, but he’s a pro at connecting with others for project success, particularly when it comes to paid media. He brings eight years of experience in digital media and nimbleness for tailoring strategy to perfectly fit a client’s niche and goals. Josh is a University of Houston alum and holds a B.A. in Communications with a focus on Advertising and Public Relations.