Since the announcement of the end of the tracking cookies by 2022, marketers have been trying to find the right successors to close this chapter. Despite being a tremendous challenge, there have been some proposals that are likely to change the way advertisers play the game. But what are the challenges ahead? And what are the real implications?
What are tracking cookies?
Cookies are widely used to collect users’ data and preferences. These small pieces of code are stored on the web browser while the individual is using the internet.
Cookies can be divided into first and third-party cookies. First-party cookies send data back to the domains’ owner, allowing, for example, to remember login details. On the other hand, third-party cookies send the data to different domains and are used by advertisers to target, track and measure audiences.
Third-party cookies, or tracking cookies, are the ones under fire. With the recent privacy laws, such as General Data Protection Regulation-GDPR, tracking cookies can only operate if the user consents.
Being so, browsers have to adapt to the new rules. While Apple’s Safari and Mozilla’s Firefox have already blocked third-party cookies, Google is now on its way to doing the same.
What are the alternatives to tracking cookies?
This is the answer advertisers are looking for.
Throughout the years, ads were displayed to the relevant individuals due to tracking cookies. Now that the end of cookies is near, the industry is reinventing itself to get even better results. Some alternatives might be:
First-Party Data: take the best out of it
First-party data is collected by the websites, CRM, and in-app data. By using the data individuals give, advertisers can organize and customize content for each user, increasing the interactions.
Moreover, studies have shown that consumers are willing to offer more information about themselves provided that they benefit from it. According to an article published by Deloitte, “while consumers state that they want more protection and security, the reality is that they may be more willing to provide their personal information”, given that companies fulfill certain criteria, namely: “are transparent about how they intend to use consumer data”; “allow consumers to easily opt out of data sharing” and “provide brief and readily understandable privacy policies and agreements”.
This also means that companies that are already collecting first-party data will have an advantage when it comes to targeting ads.
As Julia Beizer, chief product officer and global head of digital at Bloomberg Media, emphasized to The Drum “we need to focus on what we – premium publishers – do best, which is building deeper relationships with our audience and delivering the best user experience and content.”
Google’s Privacy Sandbox – FLoC
Google is working on Google’s Privacy Sandbox which utilizes FLoC, Federated Learning of Cohorts.
But how does it work?
FLoC, a machine learning system, will allow Chrome to track users on the web and then place them into groups or cohorts according to their preferences. Each group will be labeled with a FloC ID, which will be exhibited to everyone the user interacts with. As a result, ads will be displayed to the cohorts rather than the individuals.
With this tool, marketers will be able to target the relevant cohorts without using inappropriate tracking. However, there are many concerns as to know if this will work and if it will comply with privacy regulations.
Contextual Targeting: exploiting new paths
Another solution for the replacement of tracking cookies is contextual targeting. Instead of focusing on the individuals, it relies on where and what content users view. As a result, ads will be displayed on websites with relevant content to their product or service.
For those asking how it can be done, let’s think of an example.
If someone is reading about sustainable clothing in an online magazine, then the person might be interested in the environment and healthy lifestyle. At this point, marketers can conclude that an ad about t-shirts made in organic cotton might be relevant.
Contextual targeting might not be as complete as cookies, since there is no individual identification. Nevertheless, it can allow advertisers to work according to general categories of interest and still target the audiences.
Consent management: permission is the key
This alternative is intended to be used by marketers to replace tracking cookies.
One option would be for each user to have a number for some websites, and the other would be the creation of databases to store IDs. Thanks to the creation of CMPs (Consent Management Platforms), brands will be able to record consumers’ preferences, permissions, and refusals. This means that individuals must consent to its use.
Conversion measurement: it all comes down to this
Advertisers must evaluate the effectiveness of their campaigns all the time. In a world with no tracking cookies, the development of a conversion measurement Application Programming Interface (API) is of great importance.
Despite Chrome’s disbelief in these types of tools due to their limitations, this idea could be the beginning of further studies in this field.
The beginning of a new marketing era
The phasing out of tracking cookies is just the end of one chapter and not the end of the story.
In the past few years, a new set of strategies focusing on awareness, engagement, conversion, and customer loyalty have been gaining more and more importance. The result is what is known as inbound marketing or pull marketing.
The key is to create content and experiences that are useful for consumers, by delivering important information and naturally providing value.
Instead of focusing on reaching the public and pushing the products to them (push marketing), inbound marketing concentrates on being present in peoples’ lives and engaging with them, even if they don’t wish to buy the product right now.
To succeed in pull marketing, it is vital to know the target audience.
Consumers’ behavior is constantly changing, therefore brands must understand the buying journey and adapt their strategies to it.
When combining the first-party data and other tools mentioned above, it is possible to overcome the challenges left by the end of tracking cookies.
It is important to mention that there isn’t a perfect replacement for third-party cookies, and the solution might rely on a combination of different tactics and creativity. However, content must be considered the golden star for all of them.