As a business owner, your priority is running that business. It means you might not know (or care) about cookies all that much. If you’re a business owner who also gets to wear the marketing hat, you need to be aware that there’s a big shakeup coming your way.

Google—the king of search—will eliminate third-party cookies next year (2022). Consumers, for the most part, are relieved. Marketers that have relied on cookies will have to move on. Great, but to what?

Before we get to the what, let’s level the playing field and make some zero-based assumptions on cookies. Just like the non-digital kind, there are different flavors—and some are good for you. Here’s everything you need to know about cookies—third-party cookies in particular—but were afraid to ask.

 

Not all cookies work the same way

Jessica Rabbit, the cartoon femme fatale, is most notable for her line, “I’m not bad, I’m just drawn that way.” Cookies are the same way. They will remain the most common method for website owners to identify users and reward them with a personalized browsing experience. What is that important? A recent Accenture report shows that up to 91% of us say we’re more likely to shop with brands that provide relevant offers and recommendations.

First-Party Cookies: Cookies (but not all of them) allow this personalization and enhanced user experience to happen. These are known as first-party cookies. They’re stored by the website you visit and used only by that website. First-party cookies collect analytics data, remembering what you’ve seen and storing information about you that makes it easier for you to come back to the website and pick up where you left off. First-party cookies remember helpful, useful stuff, such as what language you prefer, your username, and other preferences.

The most important thing to know about first-party cookies is that they are only accessible via the domain (website) that created them. So, don’t blame these types of cookies for that creepy feeling of being followed across the Internet by an ad for comfy sweatpants after you checked out their website or lingered on their sponsored Facebook video ad for more than a second or two.

Third-Party Cookies:These are the cookies that Google will eliminate from their platform next year. Apple’s Safari browser, for example, began blocking third-party cookies by default in April of 2020.

This was mainly a result of the growing desire by the public to have their personal information protected. There are now laws and regulations that protect and educate website users about what cookies do and what information is captured. The two most well-known are the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and ePrivacy.

Third-party cookies differ from their first-party counterparts in one crucial way. They are tracking codes—but they’re not in place to help the user with a better website experience. These tracking codes are generated on a visited website by another website (hence, the third-party designation). For example, it’s Google generating cookies on the comfy sweatpants website you’ve visited.

These third-party cookies track website visitor information and then provide it to the entity that created those third-party cookies. While this sounds sinister and like an invasion of privacy, let’s bounce back for a moment to the idea of that personalized experience consumers say they desire. To advertising platforms like Google, a personalized experience includes relevant advertising messages. And that’s really how most marketers have always used third-party cookies.

Third-party cookies allow advertisers to understand consumer behavior. If these cookies determine you visit websites about comfy sweatpants, advertisers can target you with relevant messages. Third-party cookies also allow for campaign optimization. They track you across different platforms and provide a holistic view of how consumers engage with advertising.

You might be wondering if there’s such a thing as second-party cookies. Yes, they exist—and they have more in common with first-party cookies, even though this information is shared between websites. The sharing happens because of a relationship between the websites, where it makes sense for both parties to have data access. Using your favorite airline website to track an upcoming flight may execute a second-party cookie that’ll be shared with hotel chains that have reward programs involving the airline. So, after you’ve visited the airline website to check out a flight to Paris, you could start seeing ads for Paris-based hotels.

Now you know about the three most common types of cookies. In many cases, a visit to an advertising-supported website results in creating both first-party and third-party cookies. The website you visit wants you to have an optimal experience, especially when you return through first-party cookies. That same website may also be looking for ways to monetize its visitor audience and allow for third-party cookies to be saved to your computer. It’s important to know that this includes information about where you are and what type of device you’re using to visit.

 

The demise of the third-party cookie

It’s easy to understand why first-party cookies aren’t really in much danger. This information is usually not shared, and the sole reason for its collection is to provide a better user experience.

Third-party cookies, however, are definitely on the way out—especially now that Google has decided to pull the plug on them. In this case, consumers can have it both ways. They want a personalized and relevant experience with—and only with—the websites they choose to visit and buy from. They do not want where they visit and what they view to be shared. And they’ve learned that even withholding permission to share this information is often ignored or abused.

Considering that Chrome holds up to 70% of the desktop browser market share, their announcement to stop third-party cookies’ support likely means that the entire industry will follow suit.

 

What replaces third-party cookies?

Major publishers have taken a proactive approach. They can’t afford to part with monetizing their audiences, yet they also know how crucial it is to deepen the personalized relationship with regular visitors.

It’s why many brands who see their websites as foundational for marketing have already begun backing away from third-party cookies. Instead, they seek ways to strengthen the power of first-party cookies and amplify the ability to offer targeted contextual information based on what they know about you and what you choose to tell them. Yes, they’re actually asking you what you like.

Google’s approach to this is a new solution they call the Privacy Sandbox. It seeks to overcome what Google describes as the “pervasive cross-site tracking that has become the norm on the web and on top of which much of the web’s ability to deliver and monetize content has been built.” Google’s Privacy Sandbox seeks to “Create a thriving web ecosystem that is respectful of users and private by default.”

This advertising platform makes an estimated $50 billion daily. There’s no reason to believe they’ll successfully implement their Privacy Sandbox. But maybe it’s time to look at ways to completely get away from advertising platforms and social media networks that are always just renting you the ability to talk to prospects.

 

The AI/ML approach

Most marketers have seen this coming. Doing away with third-party cookies is more of a wake-up call. Consumers have become far savvier about how online advertising works. They dislike retargeted ads because too often they are seeing ads for products or services long after they’ve made a purchase, or for items they aren’t really interested in.

As consumers push to remain anonymous, marketing and advertising tactics such as organic search, social media, and even cold calls/cold email continue to become less effective at lead generation. You can’t reach people, and you know so little about them that you’re unable to understand where they are in the buyer’s journey to be able to reach them with messaging that is relevant to them.

One thing is a given. Regardless of how good your first-party cookies are in developing relationships and engagement, you cannot wait for prospects to visit your website. It’s one of the reasons why advertisers with considerable means have already pulled away from third-party cookies and much of SEO-assisted marketing. They have invested in ways to identify prospects who exhibit the signs of an imminent buyer because they could afford it.

It’s known as Identity Resolution. The process utilizes Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML) to sift through billions of points of information from multiple devices and usernames behind walled gardens and obscured by general IP addresses. AI/ML resolves this big data stream to correctly identify a specific individual or business ready to make a purchase.

Don’t confuse this with programs that offer look-alike audiences. Identity Resolution doesn’t take the third-party cookie approach to offer potential based on similar behavior. This next-gen marketing and advertising solution delivers the name and contact information of those in your market looking to purchase your product or service right now. Identity Resolution can even identify precisely what they’ve searched for so you can offer them the most appropriate marketing communication matching their buyer’s journey.

You have options that can finally help you stop riding the coattails of social media platforms and their walled gardens or advertising platforms that helped to create the problem they’re now trying to alleviate by killing the use of third-party cookies. Identity Resolution offers you a way to stop flying blind and become the top gun in your airspace, as we like to put it. It’s now affordable and so powerful it can help you reach that 3% in your market who are ready to buy right now.

Learn more about how AI-powered Identity Resolution delivers exclusive and qualified sales leads for your business. Visit our website and learn more about how we can help you.