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The end of third-party cookies: what it means for you and your marketing results

In the past, third-party cookies helped us to collect data for personalizing user experiences and creating tailored advertisements. However, it seems that the future is cookie-less, as organizations such as Google and Apple take a step back from their use.

The deprecation of cookies could leave you wondering how your marketing campaigns will change and how to keep producing strong advertising results.

But don’t fear! No more third-party cookies isn’t necessarily a bad thing!

The end of third-party cookies paves the way for businesses to update their market strategy and include exciting alternatives that both facilitate user privacy and enable business owners to deliver superior results. 

That’s also where we step in!

We understand that advertising without third-party cookies could be something of a challenge for business owners. 

So, in this article, we’ll take a look at how alternatives to third-party cookies can be successfully used in marketing campaigns. In particular, we’ll highlight the benefits of 1st party data and offline conversion tracking (our top two favorite alternatives). 

What are third-party cookies?

Third-party cookies are placed on a user’s browser following interaction with parts of a website, such as ads or social media buttons. Cookies can then track the user, collecting their data during visits to other pages and saving information about their activity and interests.

This data can then be used to create targeted and relevant ads, even when the user visits different websites. 

First-Party Vs. Third-Party Cookies

Now you may be wondering, what’s the difference between a first-party and a third-party cookie?

Well, third-party cookies are those created on websites by someone who is not the owner, whereas first-party cookies come directly from the website visited and only work on that specific website. 

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This means that third-party cookies can be accessed by websites that have the third-party server code (for example Facebook or Google), whereas first-party cookies can only be accessed by the website’s owner.

In the case of third-party cookies, this means that it is common for a user to see a personalized advertisement, based on their previously visited sites, even when they’ve moved on from their search. If you’ve ever shopped for something online, you’ve most likely noticed this happening. 

First-party cookies tend to be used to improve a site according to a user’s preferences. For example, by remembering shopping cart items, wish lists, and usernames, and providing users with recommendations. They are also sometimes referred to as ‘essential’ cookies.

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First-party data collection is extremely useful in marketing, so we’ll go into more detail about this later.

Third-party cookies track users as they visit different sites, and use the information to display targeted ads, or recommend suggested products. 

Naturally, tracking users for advertising purposes raises privacy concerns, and is one of the reasons why companies such as Google and Apple are phasing out their use of third-party cookies. 

What does the phasing out of cookies mean for business owners and their marketing campaigns?

The phasing out of cookies encourages businesses to employ other methods in their arsenal to keep customers clicking and sustain successful marketing campaigns.

This change also welcomes a stronger relationship between businesses and customers, where neither privacy nor customer loyalty is compromised. It allows businesses to streamline their campaign strategies whilst respecting customer privacy.

The range of third-party cookie alternatives means that your marketing campaigns don’t necessarily need to suffer. Many of these options aren’t even new. Their importance is just changing with the times.

Alternatives to third-party cookies for improving your marketing campaigns

Let’s now take a look at some of the alternatives to third-party cookies which can help personalize and improve a customer’s experience, without detracting from their privacy.

First-party data

As mentioned earlier, first-party data comes directly from customers’ history on a website. First-party data use requires user consent, which customers can agree to on sign-up or registration pages.

There are two types of first-party data: ‘customer data’ which refers to a user’s preferences, and ‘business data’ which gives information about purchases and what a user looked at on a website.

First-party data can be collected in a variety of ways such as by using analytical tools (more about these later) feedback forms, or surveys.

So why is first-party data important and what are its benefits?

First-party data is important because it allows businesses to personalize customer experiences based on information collected directly from them. Additionally, since the collection of this kind of data must be agreed to by a customer, first-party data marketing allows customers to enjoy a personalized experience whilst maintaining a sense of trust and loyalty. 

So, how do you collect first-party data?

First-party data can be collected in a variety of situations such as (source):

  • During a sale.
  • Contact forms.
  • Registration services.
  • Customer surveys, reviews, and feedback forms.

Don’t forget, just collecting the data isn’t enough. After that, you’ll need to organize and analyze it, using for example a customer data platform (we’ll talk more about those later).

Offline conversion tracking

A key concept we’ll refer to in this section is the content ‘funnel’, which we’ve summarized  below in case you need a reminder:

  • The ‘awareness’ stage – in this stage a potential buyer has a problem or interest to address. 
  • The  ‘consideration’ stage – this is when the buyer begins to look for information related to their interest or problem. They are likely browsing for guides, product comparisons, or overviews. 
  • The ‘decision’ stage – in this stage, the buyer has enough information to know what they want but has not yet been persuaded to make a selection. They may start to read reviews, product overviews, and success stories (source).
  • The ‘conversion’ is when the buyer commits to a purchase, inquiry, trial, or download.

Offline conversion tracking gives business owners information regarding a customer’s journey through the content funnel and what affects it. This gives information about which particular strategies are effective or how to improve them based on customer actions.

But how does offline conversion tracking work?

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Offline conversions refer to first-party data that can’t be tracked with cookies but can be sent back to advertisement platforms, giving information about how effective a marketing strategy is and enabling the improvement of targeted advertisements. Examples include data regarding an appointment booked after a phone call and purchases made after signing a contract. 

Offline data when combined with online cookies, includes the stages of the content funnel we explained earlier and can give an overview of how successful a particular marketing strategy is.

Customer data platforms

Earlier, we talked about collecting first-party data, and we’ll now explain what happens to this data after it’s been collected.

Customer data platforms, such as Ruler Analytics and CustomerLabs collect first-party data from multiple interactions during a customer’s site visit. The result is a real-time and standardized picture of each individual customer.

This information is then used to create a customer data ‘profile’, which enables the personalization of content, streamlining of campaigns, and strengthening of customer loyalty through marketing improvements. Having all data in one place facilitates easy accessibility, management, and analysis using other marketing tools.

Third-party attribution tools 

Third-party attribution tools are a way of independently assessing marketing performance by an outside party. This gives information as to how customers interact during various stages of a conversion.

This means that business owners don’t need to fully trust what sites such as Facebook or Google report regarding the effectiveness of their advertisement campaigns. The data is within their own system and gives a full picture of all the interactions across all platforms as opposed to isolated data. Put simply, it’s a much stronger and more efficient version of Google Analytics.

Attributing conversions to specific steps in a customer’s journey gives businesses information as to which marketing efforts are successful and ultimately, which interactions led to a conversion.

Understanding a customer’s journey in the content funnel by interpreting their impressions that led to a purchase along the way, gives the possibility to further improve the customer’s experience.

Customer Relationship Management 

Customer Relationship Management software collects personal information from customers from different sources and organizes it, providing a full picture of a customer. This centralizes all data from leads, and when used correctly, helps businesses close more sales.

Collecting and interpreting this information helps business owners get to know their customers, and learn about their preferences. This can help improve customer relationships and increase the success of marketing campaigns.  

How to prepare for a cookie-less world

Preparing for a cookie-less world doesn’t mean your marketing campaigns need to suffer. By implementing some of the alternatives we’ve discussed in this article, you can enjoy and still reap the success of your campaigns.

Explore our services and see how Zima Media can help you boost your Google Ads.

Key Takeaways

  • Third-party cookies are being phased out, welcoming a transition towards alternative methods for producing strong marketing campaigns.
  • First-party data and offline conversion tracking are great alternatives that business owners can use in place of third-party cookies. 
  • Integrating your website or CRM with Google Ads is one of the best methods to offer personalized service without compromising user privacy.
  • Customer data platforms, third-party attribution tools, and customer relationship management can also be integrated into a strong marketing strategy.

The team at Zima Media are here as your companions during the transition away from third-party cookies and are proud to share our testimonials with you.

Request a free marketing consultation today to see how our team of experts can help your business level up your ads and take advantage of your first-party data!

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