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What you need to know about Google's third-party cookie deprecation

The world’s most widely used web browser has officially started the “cookiepocalypse”, but what does it really mean?

Param Gopalasamy
Content Marketing Specialist, CIPP/E, CIPP/US, CIPM
January 22, 2024

Businessman working remotely on his laptop from his dining table.

Picture a bustling digital bakery, where for years, third-party cookies have been the secret ingredient in every advertising recipe. But on January 4, 2024, Google officially started slowly removing these cookies from its Chrome pantry, starting with 1% of users. By the end of Q3 2024, these cookies will be a recipe of the past.

Imagine third-party cookies like sprinkles made by someone else, used widely in our digital bakery to add flavor to advertising and user experience. Now, Google’s bakery is slowly phasing out these external sprinkles. The change won’t happen overnight; it’s starting with just a pinch of users and will gradually include everyone by the end of Q3 2024.

As third-party sprinkles leave the shelf, it’s time for the main dough – first-party data – to rise. This data is like the flour and sugar you’ve collected yourself, essential for any baking. It’s more valuable because it’s directly from your customers, telling you exactly what they love and how they like their digital cookies baked.

You may be thinking, there’s no way this cookie/baking analogy can keep going throughout this blog right? Think again.  

 

Before and after: The marketing menu shift in the digital bakery

The era of third-party sprinkles: Before the change 

 

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In the bustling digital bakery of the past, third-party cookies – those sprinkles from outside sources – were the go-to ingredient for personalization. Marketers used them like magic dust to understand customer preferences, even if those customers never directly visited their website.

  • Widely shared recipes: Marketers could easily pick up these sprinkles from various digital sources, which helped them bake up targeted ads and personalized experiences.

  • Baking blindly: While effective, this method often lacked transparency. Customers rarely knew how their data was being mixed into different marketing recipes across the web.

 

The new era of home-grown ingredients: After the change

 

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Adapting to the new baking standards

In this new era, the art of baking (marketing) demands a closer relationship with the customer. It's about:

  • Gathering ingredients responsibly: Collecting first-party data through direct and transparent interactions.

  • Baking with precision: Using tools like machine learning to analyze this data and create high-quality, personalized experiences.

  • Staying true to ethical baking practices: Ensuring that every piece of data is used ethically, with respect for privacy and consent.

The departure of third-party cookies marks the end of an era and the beginning of a more privacy-conscious digital bakery. Marketers are now embracing the challenge to bake with first-party data and new solutions, creating a digital marketing world that is not just effective but also respectful of privacy and consent. The future of digital marketing looks different, but with the right ingredients and techniques, it can be even more delightful and satisfying for everyone. 

In case this analogy has gone too far, what I mean is, first-party data will not only benefit customers by providing more direct control over their data, it’ll also help marketers, who’ll now know exactly how, from whom, and for what purpose they’ve collected personal data. 

No matter what recipe you choose, there’s one golden rule: consent. Just like you’d ask a guest if they're okay with nuts in their cookies, you need to make sure your digital visitors are okay with how you use their data. It’s all about keeping the baking process transparent and respecting preferences.

 

What now? Adapting your organization to the post-cookie era

As the digital bakery turns a new leaf, it’s crucial for organizations to realign their strategies. Let's break down what this means and the steps to take in this new landscape without third-party cookies.

 

Why you need a CMP for compliance

The heart of data collection: Just as a baker would ask customers about their preferred flavors, organizations need a system to manage customer consent and preferences. This is crucial for collecting first-party data ethically and effectively.

Building trust: By transparently managing consent, you not only comply with privacy regulations but also build trust with your customers, making your digital bakery a place they love to visit.

Even with third-party cookies gone, you still need a CMP to collect consent for other types of tracking technologies out there. For example, in the wake of third-party cookies, identity-based solutions, vendor trackers, and even Google’s Privacy Sandbox all still require consent from your website visitors to use in accordance with major privacy regulations. 

 

Enrich your first-party datasets

Understand your ingredients: Know exactly which data ingredients you need. This means identifying what customer information is essential for your marketing recipes and why.

Quality over quantity: Focus on collecting data that adds value to your customer's experience. More data isn't always better; the right data is.

 

Conducting a data mapping exercise

Locate your ingredients: A data mapping exercise is like taking inventory in your pantry. You need to know where all your marketing data is stored and how it's used.

Streamlining data flow: Understanding the flow of data helps ensure that it’s used responsibly and strategically. It’s like making sure your baking ingredients are fresh, stored correctly, and used before their expiration date.

After going through these steps, you’ll now be ready to start your customers on their personalized journey with your brand, learning more about their preferences and tailoring their experience to something uniquely special to them. 

 

Explore other solutions as you see fit

With third-party cookies gone, there’s a whole new host of solutions here to take its place, obviously headlined by first-party data. However, first-party data isn’t the only solution out there. 

  1. Vendor services: These include tracking technologies that don’t rely on third-party cookies – think services that provide you with heatmaps of web users. 

  2. Identity-based solutions: These solutions just focus on your “known users”, or users that have given you their information previously, letting you provide them with the best possible user experience.

  3. Google Privacy Sandbox: Google’s service that allows companies to shift away from third-party cookies while still delivering relevant content through APIs and privacy compliant boundaries.

 

A fresh start in the digital world

Adapting to a world without third-party cookies might seem daunting, but it's an opportunity for organizations to cultivate a more trust-based relationship with their customers. By focusing on transparent data practices and respecting user preferences, businesses can bake up a digital experience that's not only effective but also privacy-conscious and customer-centric. The future might require new recipes and techniques, but the result promises to be more rewarding and sustainable.

Learn more about how OneTrust Consent & Preferences can help your organization today. 


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