Alternatives to Third Party Cookies

Google’s announcement that it will be phasing out third-party cookies for all Chrome browsers by 2022 presents new challenges marketing and advertising teams.

Google’s announcement that it will be phasing out third-party cookies for all Chrome browsers by 2022 presents new challenges marketing and advertising teams. Third-party cookies represent a powerful tool for companies to drive bigger sales and more opportunities for brand growth.

Indeed, Google’s own studies revealed that a world without third-party cookies could see average revenue decreasing by around 52% for the top 500 publishing groups.

Notably, Google isn’t the first browser provider to bring an end to third-party cookies. Safari and Firefox have already made this transition. However, Google’s decision to make this change may be more significant, as the Chrome environment accounts for about 56% of the web browser market.

The question for marketing companies now, is what can they do instead of using cookies to connect with audiences and raise revenue?

What Are Third-Party Cookies?

A third-party cookie is a piece of tracking code set by third-party ad tech companies, such as affiliate networks, and ecommerce personalization companies. These cookies appear on millions of sites around the web and are a little different from first-party cookies, which are set by the site in question.

The third-party cookie can follow the journey of a user on multiple sites, to gather information about that person’s interest. The online advertising sector has accessed these cookies for years in an attempt to optimize user targeting and track important metrics for marketing campaigns.

Traditionally, third-party cookies were common among brands looking to activate large audiences and improve brand reach to wide groups. However, the cookies provided limited insight into audiences and their genuine preferences. It was difficult for brands to follow up with their audience on new campaigns, as cookies perish quickly.

What Caused the End of Third-Party Cookies?

Ultimately, people are becoming a lot more concerned about the way their data is accessed and leveraged online. Increasing awareness of digital consumers about how companies use their information has led to a rising demand for data protection. Regulators and browsers have been forced to respond to increased regulations about collecting customer information.

Legal concepts like CCPA and GDPR are among the major factors driving a demand for the reduction of third-party cookies. However, customers are also taking part in the fight, using technology to block third-party cookies, and various other tools to reduce the way brands can access data.

On top of this, companies like Google are under increasing pressure to show they respect the demands and expectations of their audience in a new privacy-focused world.

Alternatives to Third-Party Cookies

Now that third-party cookies are being phased out on a more significant scale, it’s time for all advertisers to update their strategies with a focus on new strategies for sales.

Some of the most common alternatives to third-party cookies to arise initially in the industry were temporary solutions. Many marketing teams found technical workarounds like subdomain delegation and local storage. Unfortunately, these advertising groups have been targeted by regulators, and forced to shut down.

The reality is that short-term solutions which fail to address the privacy demands of customers won’t deliver long-term results. Companies need to show that they’re willing to respect the expectations and demands of today’s browsers. Some of the ways advertisers can help with this include:

Contextual Targeting

An option often recommended by publishers and advertising partners; contextual targeting is all about targeting an ad based on the content preferences of users. For instance, an ad could be delivered to a customer based on their interest in the themes and semantics of an article or URL, the time of browsing, or the device they’re using.

Contextual targeting offers a compelling alternative to third-party cookies, because it doesn’t rely on personal data related to one user – but assumptions made about entire groups. Machine learning and AI can help predict what the best time and place to reach a specific customer will be, based on historical information. The disadvantage of this strategy is that it generally works best with a publisher that has highly themed content, and niche audiences, making it less valuable for large-scale targeting methods.

Internet User Registration

Another option is the registration of internet users. In order to continue collecting information about customers and using that data without third-party cookies, publishers can seek out users and encourage them to create personal accounts with a registration. Registration often involves entering an email address and gaining a “membership” to a specific domain. This allows companies to access information about their clients like emails, areas of interest, and location, which drives the creation of better buyer profiles.

Internet user registration could be a valuable tool in the digital world, particularly as things like dynamic paywalls and content become more common. However, companies will need to find a way to convince their customers to sign up for registration by offering the right value proposition. Not every customer will be compelled to subscribe.

Google’s Privacy Sandbox

Google has even introduced its own alternative to third-party cookies in the form of a suite of APIs located within the Chrome browser. All advertisers will have access to these APIs to help them with things like conversion and attribution, targeting, and advertising.

The privacy sandbox from Google could play a vital role in targeted marketing going forward, particularly when you consider Google’s huge position in the browser landscape. However, many advertising companies are concerned that the Privacy Sandbox may become a “black box” which gives Google excessive dominance in the marketplace.

The definitive version of the Sandbox hasn’t been published yet, and companies can still contribute by submitting their own information and code. This makes it difficult to determine what this offering might look like in the years ahead.

The Use of Unique Identifiers

Finally, unique identifiers are quickly emerging as an alternative to the third-party cookie. These solutions require the collection of first-party information by publishers through the recording of audience information through subscriptions and emails.

Apple and Android users launched their own advertising identifier options, and the mobile advertising players are very dependent on the polices of these companies in terms of personal protection data. Apple’s launch of new privacy features in new iOS14 may make this offering less viable.


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