Google has announced a plan to do away with third-party cookies by 2022. So, how does your business survive if you depend on cookies for advertising and general targeting?

News of Google’s intention to “phase out” support for third-party cookies in Chrome first broke about a year ago. A few people already saw it coming when Google announced the Privacy Sandbox initiative in August 2019. However, for most people, it wasn’t until around January that they learned about the plan.

The company makes it crystal clear on its blog that it “plans to phase out support for third-party cookies in Chrome.” They also say that the “intention is to do it within two years” and “plan to start original trials by the end of this year (2020).” The blog says conversion measurements and personalization, in that order, will be the first to become unavailable in the cookie section.  

The biggest question for marketers and advertisers is how to survive without the cookies that fueled nearly all advertising and marketing personalization campaigns.

Google's third-party cookies

A Little Background

Perhaps we should begin with why Google is discontinuing cookie support for third-party marketers and advertisers.

According to David Temkin, Google’s director of product management, the company has come under heavy criticism recently for sharing user data with advertisers and marketers.

“Our industry strives to provide consumers with relevant ads on the web. To this end, we provide thousands of companies with significant amounts of user data, collected through third-party cookies,” he says.

“Unfortunately, sharing our users’ data with third-party organizations has led to an erosion of trust for Google. Today, 72% of our customers are convinced that almost everything they do online is being tracked by advertisers, tech companies, and others. 

Additionally, 81% say the potential risk of having their data captured far outweighs the benefits.”

“We must all change to address the growing concerns about user privacy and how personally identifiable information is used. Otherwise, the future of an open and free web is at risk,” he concludes.”

It’s also likely that the recently enacted General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) has had a hand in Google’s decision. Google has already faced several multi-million-dollar fines related to the new regulation and the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA).

Meanwhile, a few experts see it as Google’s initiative to cement its monopoly in digital advertising, saying the company is weaponizing privacy for their own gain.

The bottom line is that you may no longer have access to third-party cookies starting 2023. Unfortunately, Google hasn’t specified the cutoff date yet.

Potential Consequences for Businesses, Marketers, and Advertisers

Should Google go through with the threat and discontinue third-party cookie support, the consequences could be grave.

Cookies were originally designed to store information such as the items added to the shopping cart and the exact time the consumer was on a particular site. 

However, cookies later found an even bigger job–informing digital marketer and advertiser targeting. Nearly every advertising and consumer targeting campaign today runs on cookies. 

Third-party organizations retrieve the information from browsers to better understand the consumer’s habits so as to offer highly personalized ads.

Suppose Google makes cookies inaccessible to advertisers and marketers (remember that the company is also trying to convince other browsers to follow suit). In that case, digital marketing and advertising as we know it today could be gone.

  • It would weaken targeting campaigns

How could you possibly target consumers you don’t know their needs? It’s impossible. How do you tell the right time to display a specific ad? Remember that cookies tell advertisers that the user on their site yesterday is now visiting a particular website, thus prompting targeted ads. Without cookies, it all falls apart.

  • Retargeting would be affected as well

Retargeting is considered one of the best advertising strategies. It wins businesses up to 25% of lost leads thanks to the high click-through rates. However, how would you retarget when you can’t track customers who’ve been on your site or viewed your products before? How would you know where those customers are? How would you even tell that they’re online? It’s impossible.

  • Impact on performance measurement 

Cookies are central to digital marketing analytics and measurement. Without cookies, advertisers wouldn’t know how often to show different ads because they wouldn’t know if the user is interested in a specific ad in the first place. In the end, it becomes impossible to track your progress and measure your performance.

What Can Businesses Do?

The first thing is to understand that you’re not alone. If the plan goes through, nearly every small and medium-sized business will be affected. Only the big boys may escape without a scratch. So, we’d advise as follows;

  • Don’t panic. The data you need will still likely be available

As we mentioned earlier, this is most likely a ploy by Google to monopolize the market. They can’t afford to lose the marketing revenue from advertising. Therefore, even if they make true their threat and remove third-party cookie support, they’ll likely repackage the data and make it accessible to marketers in a different format.

  • Adopt better data management practices

If there’s something the current scampering tells us about digital companies, it’s that despite the massive amounts of data collected, very few companies extract value from their data assets. Perhaps this move from Google is a wake-up call for organizations to build capacity for better data quality, governance, and management measures.

  • Become a little more independent 

Even when Google eventually presents SMEs with third-party data in a different format, organizations must use this as a lesson to become more independent. You must find ways to optimize your metrics, indicators, and strategies without solely relying on third-party information.

The Moment of Truth SMEs Needed

We think we should see it as a learning moment rather than see it as a challenge and blame Google for all the potential turmoil. SMBs can be independent. You can find ways to target customers and measure your performance without third-party data from Google. Maybe this is the time we tried alternative options.

If you’d like to learn more about the crumbling cookie and potential alternative solutions, United Perfectum would be happy to hear from you.