For well over a decade, cookies (tracking data) have been the backbone of highly profitable ad strategies, such as retargeting and remarketing campaigns. 

But with a string of newly introduced online privacy policies from both governments and tech giants like Apple and Google, and more on the way, marketers are scrambling to evaluate the future value of these previously-revered ad strategies.

The truth is that new privacy measures have and will continue to impact the digital industry, rendering many current user acquisition and ad strategies mostly obsolete.

Your sales funnel? That’s going to look a whole lot different by this point next year.

For instance, retargeting and remarketing (we delve into both below) depend on cookie data to track users, create audiences, and serve targeted ads.  

Marketers and brands who relied on this data in the past need to adapt – and fast. 

Cookies, privacy, and the future of advertising; layman’s terms, what is going to change, who it impacts, and how to keep your footing amidst these seismic changes. 

Privacy Now Dictates Policy (And Profitability)

Like Newton’s Third Law, there has been an equal and opposite reaction to current ad strategies and the somewhat devious ways companies are able to acquire and use your data to run their advertising campaigns. 

People are sick of (and a bit creeped out by) advertisements that follow them to every corner of the internet. 

We’ve all felt it—the inkling that Google, Facebook, Amazon, and other businesses are “following me around the internet.”

In truth, they are—and cookies are the culprit. 

And consumers are even more fed up with companies misusing their personal data for profit. The problems became so ubiquitous and alarming that scholars set out to classify all the various methods of how people’s own data is used against them

Apple And The Privacy Trend

As a result, privacy policies buttoned up in order to better protect online users.

For example, Apple’s decision to block in-app tracking with the introduction of iOS 14.5 on the iPhone, was unveiled back in April 2021. 

Previously, other websites could access user data through software development kits (SDKs) and application programming interfaces (APIs) installed in different applications. They still can but not without consent from the user.

That data was accessible by third-party websites, such as Facebook and Google. 

This Vox article explains in precise detail: “If a developer wants to let users sign into an app with their Facebook accounts, they’d want Facebook’s Login SDK. If their app needs maps or map data, they could use Google’s Map SDK. Without SDKs, developers would have to build those things entirely from scratch.

This sudden and unexpected announcement rocked the advertising world (and Apple competitors). Suddenly, attribution and user tracking are a much more difficult process. 

Previously, iOS users had little control over how their data is used. Marketers could use mobile identifiers, called Identifiers for Advertisers (IDFA), to track whether someone bought an item or downloaded an app after viewing an ad. 

Apple’s update empowered users to opt-out of sharing IDFA data. As a result, advertising platforms such as Google Ads and Meta for Business lost the ability to track and target any user who uses an iPhone with the iOS14.5 update. 

Losing this data tore a gaping hole in the data that marketers had to target and optimize their ad strategy. Huge swaths of data were gone in one fell swoop.

Why? There are 1.2 billion active iPhones today. All of the tracking data formerly collected by these devices suddenly disappeared, making attribution a nightmare.

How Apple Broke Attribution

MMI, a full-service digital agency based in Texas, serves clients like Microsoft, Olay, and Amazon. After the update, they spent more time running campaigns trying to figure out what still works. And also, what does not. 

According to Freddy Dabaghi, MMI’s SVP of Media:

“Attribution is always going to be the million-dollar question.”

And with Apple’s update, attribution got a lot more complex. 

This set the stage for other companies to prioritize privacy as a key element of user retention and brand loyalty. And also for regulatory compliance. This confuses the entire discussion even further as policies vary from one region of the world to another. 

These swift but sudden changes mark the beginning of a new era in advertising.

Putting Privacy First

2021 was a record-breaking year for digital security but for all the wrong reasons. 

Data breaches reached an all-time high and exacerbated privacy concerns—both on a government level and for businesses looking to build (or rebuild) trust with customers.

For a long time, security and privacy were just a blip on the radar of consumers and brands.

Brands served up highly-personalized ads for products people showed interest in, and people generally welcomed the little digital reminders of that interest.

Then, somewhere along the way, people realized there is a trade-off between convenience and privacy. 

Convenience, such as a website sharing your data or being shown ads for products you viewed but didn’t buy, seems to have gone out of style as privacy takes center stage.

So much so that customers are willing to pay for more products that put security first. 

In fact, a more recent Cisco study found that 79% of respondents were “willing to act by not making a purchase, expecting to pay more for privacy.”

What’s another reliable bellwether to confirm this growing call for privacy?

The percentage of Americans now using ad blocker technology has increased by 71.97% since 2014.

These statistics come as no surprise. Online tracking and third-party cookies have played roles in some of the worst data breaches and privacy abuses to date. Over time, this destroyed brand trust with the guilty parties. 

The Facebook Security Saga

Among the guiltiest parties, time and again, is Facebook. And the response is clear. 

Loss of trust has forced many businesses to rethink their advertising strategies, such as committing more resources to an inbound content marketing strategy focused on organic traffic and other possible tactics discussed below.

Facebook took that one step further. Trust in Facebook became so dismal that Zuckerberg and company tried an entire rebrand to refresh their brand image. 

New name, who this… right?

Think again, Meta.

Since the rebrand, Facebook has lost $500b in total market cap… and counting. 

Suffice it to say, brands are scrambling to adapt to rapidly shifting consumer demands for more robust security and privacy. 

Privacy Policy At The Government Level

Unlike most brands, governments have been working for years to protect online consumers, albeit with varying approaches.

Policies like the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) (2016), ePrivacy Regulations (2017), and the California Consumer Privacy Act (2020) are not new. 

However, the exponential growth in enforcement and subsequent fines levied against businesses in breach of the GDPR, is palpable. 

Of the top ten largest GDPR fines to date, nine out of ten have happened since 2020.

As mentioned, Apple, Google, and other tech goliaths have taken the mission statement of the ePrivacy Directive to heart.

“The European Commission’s proposal for a Regulation on ePrivacy aims at reinforcing trust and security in the digital world.”

Like Apple and Google, smart brands understand that trust is where customers are now won and lost. Non-compliance with these privacy policies not only erodes trust with customers but can be incredibly costly. 

What Is Trust In the Modern Marketplace?

Where convenience once ruled, privacy is now the concern for many consumers, much to the chagrin of advertisers who need to win (back lost) trust and reputations. 

When privacy is compromised, trust is lost. IBM even coined a term for this: digital trust.

It seems that prioritizing digital trust is now the fastest, most effective way to tap into the willingness of users to share their data and increase their trust in your brand.

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(g2)

Similar to the Cisco study, a recent Salesforce survey found that 72% of customers say privacy concerns dictate their purchase behavior.

That means digital trust needs to be your focus if you want to find customers – and keep them.

An even more recent survey from Adobe found that 84% of people said that the top way to keep and regain customer trust is to “keep user data safe and to provide consumers with transparency and control over their data”.

By all accounts, a shift away from convenience and towards stringent privacy protections is now a surefire way to build brand trust and awareness.

Web Browser Security

So what else has changed, specifically, aside from Apple’s iOS 14.5 update, GDPR, and the ePrivacy Regulation? 

Tracking and privacy updates on web browsers might be one of the most impactful changes.

In recent years, Safari (Apple), as well as their iOS 14.5 update, Chrome (Google), and Firefox (Mozilla) all unveiled new, competing privacy policies.

For instance, Mozilla rolled out a Total Cookie Protection browser feature in June 2022 that competes with Safari by restricting cookie use and cross-site tracking. 

Others, like Google, plan to fully sunset third-party cookies by 2023

That’s the lion’s share of all web browser usage that just rewrote the rules of how you, as a marketer or brand, can track data to reach and target your audience. 

As the video shows and TechJury confirms, Chrome, Safari, and Firefox capture anywhere from 78-86% of the market share of annual web browsing.

That amounts to nearly 3.8 billion users per year

If you’re looking for the escape hatch, there is no evading these coming changes. 

With that, let’s define what cookies are and why this data is so valuable to marketers. 

What Are Cookies?

Simply put, a cookie is a personal data file stored in your browser that records your browsing history. Different types of cookies collect different types of data.

Some examples of data that cookies collect:

  • Pages you visit on a website.
  • Duration of your visit per page. 
  • Your personal information to pre-fill forms (name, email, etc.).
  • History of live chat sessions.
  • Shopping cart contents or product wish lists.

Cookies and Privacy Popups

You have likely seen companies’ newfound prioritization of privacy and cookie management firsthand. 

For instance, the pervasive pop-ups you see on every website that now asks for your permission to track your data is referring to the cookies you permit that site to collect.

Yes, they do disrupt the UX (user experience), and they are a little annoying—but hand you back control of your personal information and how others may use that data. 

For example, here is the Cookie Consent Manager for Statista, an advanced analytics software product:

targeting-cookie-getcredo

From here, you control what data the website is permitted to collect.

Some cookies allow you to pre-populate frequently used fields, such as your name, email, and phone number. These are ‘first-party’ cookies, which we explain below. 

Most privacy advocates are not so bothered with first-party cookies. 

However, they absolutely distrust third-party cookies and the lack of oversight of how companies and advertisers have used the data that those files collect.

The ‘Targeting Cookies’ in the Statista pop-up provide an example. These are third-party cookies, often sold to other companies for profit or collected by other domains (websites) outside of the website you visited.

Generally, third-party cookies are considered more malicious in how they are used and how personal data is farmed and stored—or even worse, how it is sold

What Makes Cookies Valuable?

Marketers value cookies for all the reasons mentioned above that are—or, were—mainly fueled by our collective, ever-dwindling attention spans.

Unsurprisingly, attention spans are at their lowest point in recorded history. 

According to an oft-cited Microsoft study, the average human attention span was about twelve seconds in 2000. Today, we clock in at 8.25 seconds—a 25% reduction. 

To put this into perspective, goldfish have an attention span that hovers around nine seconds.

So, yes. For the first time in history, having the “attention span of a goldfish” is actually a compliment. 

Our notably shortened attention spans highlight the power of the cookie by how it powers highly profitable “reminder” (retargeting) campaigns.

Fueled by third-party cookies, brands sprinkle digital reminders across websites, social media channels, and devices and allow them to reengage distracted users. 

For instance, users that showed interest in a product or service by visiting a page, but did not buy it.

Third-party data is the fuel for PPC (pay-per-click) ads and Facebook retargeting ads, which made it easy to retarget those users and remind them of their interests. 

Racking Up Touchpoints

Why does that matter? On average, it takes eight touchpoints to close a sale

A touchpoint is any interaction or exposure a person has with your brand. That includes everything from a Facebook ad to an email, to a phone call.

There is incredible value in expediting the process of acquiring those touchpoints by tracking oft-distracted users and serving up ads specific to their browsing history. 

Without harnessing the power of this data, you are leaving conversions, customers, and sales sitting on the table. But as cookies go away, that is all about to change. 

The Difference Between First- and Third-Party Cookies

Technically speaking, first- and third-party cookies are the same type of files.

What differs is how they are created, who collects the data, who uses the data, and their general use case.

From a bird’s eye view, first-party cookies function on a single domain (website), while third-party cookies allow advertisers to track users across multiple domains.  

The latter allows advertisers to deploy highly targeted, highly profitable ad campaigns that “follow” or “track” users from one website, device, or channel to another.

First-Party Cookies (The ‘Good’ Ones)

First-party cookies are generated by the domain a person is visiting. 

The data is then stored by the domain. Simple enough and mostly secure.

To be clear, some first-party cookies will likely survive all these changes out of pure necessity. This type of cookie only works on the website where it was created and is considered “essential” or “necessary” cookies and safe by data privacy laws.

necessary-cookie-getcredo

Why ‘necessary’? Say, for instance, you place an item in a cart and then navigate to check out. A first-party cookie is how the website recalls the item(s) at checkout.

Beyond the shopping cart, these cookies allow website owners to collect user’s data, such as email addresses and passwords, user names, passwords, language preferences, and other personal details. 

First-party cookies, for example, also allow you to auto-login to a website.

These small pieces of data improve the UX and remove barriers to entry by creating a streamlined, more convenient browsing experience. 

Let’s admit that we’re collective suckers for time-saving and convenience. 

First-party cookies provide both.

Third-Party Cookies (The ‘Bad’ Ones)

Unlike first-party cookies, third-party cookies can be created by domains other than the one the user is visiting at the time.

As mentioned, third-party cookies mainly track users for online advertising, but they also allow brands to provide select services on their websites, like some live chat features.

For instance, if a chat is closed due to a user error or a poor connection, third-party cookie data allows the website to re-engage the user, often at the exact point of exit and with the same customer service agent.

More Third-Party Cookies At Work

If you visit a webpage with five ads, that can generate five different third-party cookies, whether you clicked any of the ads or not.

A tracking pixel attached to each ad fires when you land on that webpage.

As a result, advertisers, brands, and analytics companies can track your browsing history across the web on any website or social media channel that contains those ads.

Say you view a product on Amazon. From that point on, you see that item on every webpage you visit, basically for eternity or until you buy the product.

That is a third-party cookie at work, tracking you across the web. And by no means is Amazon the only guilty perpetrator.

Until recently, this was considered best practice in paid advertising. But times are changing. 

Long story short, third-party cookies are referred to as ‘trackers’ due to how they are used in retargeting ad campaigns or to track online activity—now you understand why.

Retargeting vs Remarketing: Still Sound Strategy?

Both of these strategies, as mentioned above, are like digital reminders that rely on cookie data and have many similarities in use cases. 

These re-engagement strategies both provide valuable data for advertisers and brands. 

However, they have notable differences as well, usually in the medium or channel used.

Your Location Probably Determines Your Nomenclature

In some cases, the term you use is simply based on your geographic location. 

In New York, for instance, retargeting is used much more frequently than remarketing.

New York being New York, this should be a bellwether for the rest of the ad industry. 

But according to Google Trends, that’s not the case. 

retargeting-remarketing-getcredo

Take California for example. The state is almost split right down the middle:

remarketing-retargeting-region-getcredo

The terms are certainly used interchangeably, but as explained, they do technically differ in their use case. 

Specific Example of Retargeting Vs. Remarketing

While many in the digital industry often use ‘remarketing’ and ‘retargeting’ interchangeably, they have slightly different applications.

To clarify, let’s consider an abandoned shopping cart.

Boiled down, retargeting tends to rely on paid ads to re-engage visitors to your website and social media channels through third-party cookies. If a user left an abandoned cart, you can target the customer with a PPC or search display ad to remind them of a product they showed interest in by adding it to their cart.

On the other hand, remarketing relies heavily on email and first-party cookies to re-engage a past customer or lead. For example, if a customer left an item in their shopping cart, you can send an automated email to remind that user to complete the purchase. As long as they consented to you to collect that information, it can work.

What is Retargeting?

Retargeting is about moving potential customers down the path to an eventual purchase, whereas remarketing tends to focus more on user retention and return customers.

As mentioned, retargeting ads focus on consumers based on previous internet behavior. 

The process goes something like this:

  1. A person is interested in a specific product or service.
  2. They click through your website or a social media post to find the product.
  3. This validates interest (half the battle for advertisers).
  4. Advertisers know who to target and with what message. 
  5. Customers are then 70% more likely to convert.

Let’s Look At Link Retargeting

This is a useful tactic to nurture leads and guide prospects through your sales funnel. However, tactics such as link retargeting may engage users who have never visited your site or had any interaction with your brand.

Link retargeting is basically when you generate a pixel code in a shortened link and share the link—such as on Facebook or a newsletter.

The retargeting pixel tags any user who clicks the link, even if it’s not directed to your website.

This can lead to ad spend waste because the customer isn’t yet familiar with your brand.

Serving up a CTA (call to action) that is better suited for end-of-funnel conversion may push them away before they get a proper introduction to your business.

Link retargeting works, as other retargeting tactics also do, but you need to be careful how you deploy these strategies.

If you understand the five steps above, you can then dive deep into that data, create specific audience segments, and create personalized messaging specific to each audience.

Personalization matters because study after study shows that personalization not only increases conversions, but customers have come to expect it.

This may seem antithetical to the outcry for stricter privacy measures, but we human beings are curious creatures who have a hard time making up our minds—or agreeing on anything.

Retargeting Strategies

After a user is tracked by the third-party cookie, the most common forms of retargeting are:

  • Search Retargeting
  • Display Retargeting
  • Content Retargeting (overlap with remarketing)
  • Social Media Retargeting
  • Email Retargeting (overlap with remarketing)

We deep-dive into these various approaches, the psychology behind why retargeting works so effectively, and a simple setup process in a previous blog post

You can also find some of the top retargeting agencies to work with on the Credo network right here.

What is Remarketing?

Most specifically, remarketing re-engages customers via email marketing. 

You can use remarketing to turn leads into sales through effective email marketing but remarketing is best used to turn one-time customers into repeat customers. 

Remarketing could include sending a post-purchase email with a link to a review page, an email to renew a service, or a personalized email with an offer based on life events, such as birthday well wishes with an “exclusive” promotion.

This may seem like splitting hairs, but keep in mind that remarketing and retargeting strategies share similar goals.

Both utilize personal data to advertise products and services with the intent to increase brand awareness and sales.

Again, these brand “reminders” prod a user to act by using their personal information.

The Current State of Cookies

Some of the privacy-focused policy changes mentioned are already in place. Those changes unquestionably eroded the effectiveness of retargeting campaigns, especially.

For now, you can still run effective remarketing and retargeting campaigns with cookies. The problem is that there will be sizable gaps in your data, as mentioned in regard to iOS14.5 updates and other privacy measures. 

But you can still serve little ongoing reminders of your brand through display ads, email marketing, SERPs, and more like little breadcrumbs back to your brand. 

You can still deliver ads depending on the pages users viewed, products they clicked, and other personal details—depending on the type of cookie file that was used. 

Apple’s iOS update and other chances certainly threw a wrench in the ability to maximize your ROAS with these marketing strategies, but they can still work.

In a digital space of ever-increasing choices and exponentially decreased attention spans, the value of re-engaging previous customers and previous visitors to your website, ads, and social channels cannot be overstated. 

But these strategies, in their former applications, will continue to lose their punching power—and you need to plan ahead.

Looking Ahead As Cookies Go Away

Even if you are doing everything right, showing highly-targeted ads to specific customer personas, generating eye-catching content, and complying with new privacy policies, the ground is moving right below our feet. 

For instance, online publishers need to pivot quickly, or they’ll find themselves with a mostly useless business model in the near future. They’ll no longer be able to rely on advertising revenue or will need to find novel ways to keep that revenue stream flowing. 

The same goes for any business that relies on ads and clicks for revenue. 

That includes industries such as:

  • Online Publishers
  • Digital Advertisers
  • Paid Acquisition Marketers 

For these businesses specifically, the race is on to adapt to cookie-less advertising. 

We can expect much volatility in the coming years when it comes to standards and best practices for digital advertising. 

The Status Quo Is Up For Grabs

Those tasked with rolling out these new privacy provisions can’t even seem to agree on what’s what.

For instance, FLoC (Federated Learning of Cohorts) is Google’s alternative to third-party cookie tracking data. 

FLoC falls under the purview of GDPR and ePrivacy Directive for EU users, raising concerns about whether a web browser that cohorts, or groups together, users based on their personal information (without consent) violates the policy of these organizations.

Over the next year, you need to keep your ear to the ground in order to make sure you are complying with the newest policy updates—or hire a team who does that for you.

Understanding Google’s FLoC Is Just the Start

There’s a good chance you’ll hear a lot more about FLoC over the coming year.

In essence, FLoC is a way of targeting ads without exposing details about individual users. 

This allows advertisers to target users based on their interests by creating ‘cohorts’ of thousands of users that share interests.

Tennis fans, teachers, backpackers, and marketing professionals—there will be cohorts for each.

The idea is to create a Privacy Sandbox that allows websites to request certain information about users without misusing or abusing their trust.

To the benefit of these tech giants, this information is mostly siloed in “walled gardens”, meaning data won’t be shared between companies and advertisers.

Let’s just say that the ethical issues that arise from monopolies on personal data are an entirely different discussion for another time. 

What’s important is to understand the intricacies of new features like FLoC and how to use them to prepare for a cookieless future.

But what else can brands and advertisers do to prepare?

Personalization Through Privacy: How To Thrive In A Cookieless World

Let’s dive into strategies and tools you can use to keep your business churning as cookies go away, especially third-party tracking data. 

Here are three ways to start preparing today:

Focus on First-Party Data

Third-party data is on the way out, and you need to replace that information with new data. 

While cookies are mostly going away, some first-party data may still be collected.

Ideally, third-party data is replaced with first-party data that you collect. 

This is the information you collect directly from your customers or prospects through their consent.

Brands should focus on collecting emails, especially moving forward when first-party data gains in value. So much for the death of email marketing.

Our old familiar friend is very much alive and well—hydrated, unbothered, and taking over lanes.

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(Insights abound over on Instagram.)

Beyond growing your email list, there is a lot more you can start doing today to prepare for the cookie apocalypse. 

You could sign up for HARO and PrLeads as one idea. Guest posting is another valuable tactic to build backlinks and expand your audience organically. 

John, our founder, provides a couple of other unique ways that can not only automate your digital strategy but help gain organic traffic in sizable ways. 

Make it a priority to focus on organic traffic and email lists now to reduce friction as the industry moves through this turbulent, anti-tracking transitional period. 

Additional First-Party Tactics

Beyond collecting email addresses, advertisers can also consider:

  • Create first-party databases through a subscription or membership model.
  • Rethink any hesitancy to institute loyalty programs and loyalty-based tactics.
  • Double down on content marketing to generate more organic traffic.

Using first-party data, you can create a single customer view, a newfangled style of a customer persona, of a customer’s attributes and actions.

That is if you organize your first-party data effectively and securely.

Then, you can create more accurate segments based on these customer views, leading to a better ability to target specific users across your various marketing channels without need for tracking.

As IBM notes, truly knowing your customers can lead to stronger relationships, harkening back to the notion (and importance) of digital trust. 

However, an all-new strategy often requires all-new tools, and organizing first-party data is tough. 

To that end, IBM created an entire platform, IBM Security™ Trusteer®.

Trusteer helps brands and businesses detect fraud, authenticate users, and establish brand trust across the omnichannel customer journey.

As marketers, we are in unknown territory here but the strategies above are one way to identify new best practices for advertising without third-party cookies. 

Audit Your Digital Marketing Strategy & Tools

You need to take stock of your tech ecosystem, content stack, and overall digital marketing strategy.

What other new tools, like IBM’s Trusteer, are now available? 

Are you paying for software that will be obsolete by next year? 

A CDP (customer data platform), for example, fetches data from multiple sources and then combines that into actionable data without the use of third-party data. 

You can grow your brand with a multi-channel customer experience using insights from intelligent customer segmentation, customer personas, and buyer journey tracking. 

Tools like a CDP could very well be part of your new sales funnel in the years to come.

CDP-privacy-getcredo

You can then use your same CRM (customer relationship management) for customer-facing purposes and new leads, and use a CDP to fetch data on user behavior as it relates to your product or service, using them in tandem. 

Investing in Consent Management Platforms (CMPs) could be another worthwhile tactic to avoid legal conflicts and lawsuits as new privacy policies are enacted.

Are You Using Pixels Right Now?

Chances are, you’re tracking several cookies through various pixels right now.

Any good marketer should be. 

But now you need to look into how you use this data and whether that will still be possible in the future.

Consider all the tools and software you use for customer management, lead nurturing, and sales.

There may be new limitations to these tools, especially with those like PPC software, rendering them somewhat obsolete.

Will such companies pivot in preparation for these changes? Hopefully.

But if they relied on third-party data as part of their business model, they have an uphill battle ahead.

A full audit of your tech stack and digital strategy will help identify any gaps in your data collection that will likely change in drastic ways as cookies go away.

Addressing Attribution Without Cookies

As referee to by Mr. Dabaghi, customer attribution is going to get a lot harder without the third-party tracking data and cookies.

But as one targeting method goes away, new methods will emerge.

That gives you about a year or so to nail this down and find out which ones will work for you.

This short video features Hannah Stewart, VP of Marketing at ZeoTap (a CDP software provider). She succinctly provides a synopsis of all of these privacy changes and what top advertisers and brands are doing to prepare. 

Her final statement makes it plain: nothing is very clear at the moment. 

The data marketers will have at their disposal in the near future remains a point of anxiety, even for those with this topic at the forefront of their entire business model.

For instance, privacy policy differs from one area to another, such as from the EU to the US. In an increasingly globalized world economy, lack of clarity and contradictory digital policies pose a serious issue for advertisers and brands as they try to prepare. 

Prepare for what? They aren’t exactly sure, because the goalposts keep moving.

Here are some additional possible targeting methods, from ZeoTap, to consider:

  • Contextual targeting. This is the practice of advertising on a website that is relevant to the interests or characteristics of your audience. Old school.
  • Cohort-based. Think FLoC. You target people with similar browsing habits (in theory protecting their anonymity while providing advertisers with accuracy).
  • Probabilistic. This is also referred to as ‘fingerprinting,’ using a user’s metadata to build a targetable profile.
  • Authenticated users. If you’ve heard of ‘Universal Identifiers’, then this is the same thing – these are ‘premium’ audiences because they’ve willingly authenticated themselves on a publisher’s website.
  • Walled gardens. These are the data silos mentioned earlier. Facebook, Google, Tik-Tok, and their kind. Data earned is data kept in-house. 

Tying It All Together

For users, eliminating third-party cookies is a positive step that protects their online privacy. For advertisers, losing the ability to run retargeting campaigns is going to hurt.

But the truth is that large advertisers and platforms stepped over an ethical line that people were no longer willing to accept.

Privacy eclipsed convenience and the only option is to adapt to changing consumer demand.

Sadly, small businesses may be hit the hardest by these changes. Everything from mom-and-pop shops to ecommerce stores used Facebook ads to drive traffic. 

The ads offered high conversion rates at low costs and for that reason, they were a primary marketing method for many small and online businesses. Those businesses will need to get creative in order to even the playing field amongst these privacy changes. 

As organic content continues to be pushed out by paid ads, it will be interesting to see if that trend does a 180 when cookies go away. The pay-to-play model worked so well because of the effectiveness of the data used.

So what happens when that data is no longer accessible? We all have about a year or so to grapple with that lingering question.

Be Preemptive, Not Reactive

On a final note, digital marketing, social media, and online ads are still some of the most effective ways to scale your business. 

This remains the case with or without cookies. You just need to figure out how to use them in new ways.

Remember, a preemptive plan always wins over a knee-jerk reaction. Though the sun is setting on cookie-focused digital strategy, there is still plenty of time to plan for a fruitful future.

Need help during this transition? Yes! I want a pre-vetted digital agency to help make this make sense