The digital world is becoming more convenient and more immersive by the day. Precise data analytics, ad targeting, and refinement of features like geo-location tracking and artificial intelligence are creating a seamless customer experience.

But at the same time, concerns around privacy and data protection are on the rise. And cookies — the technology that enables much of this customization — are coming under fire.

Apple released updates in 2021 for devices that require users to opt-in to tracking and data collection on individual apps across their devices. And all the major web browsers (including Chrome and Firefox) are eliminating support for third-party cookies by the end of 2023.

Digital marketers and advertisers have long relied on third-party cookies to understand and reach their target audiences. A cookieless future dramatically changes the digital marketing landscape, but it’s not the end of customized consumer experiences.

Instead, this shift encourages us as marketers to build deeper connections with our customers. If we focus on fostering trust, we can obtain quality data with our customers’ permissions and use that data to make recommendations that make their lives better.

Are you ready for a cookieless future? It’ll require rethinking your marketing strategy. And here’s what to do to get there.

The state of internet cookies

What are cookies?

Cookies are bits of code that are saved on websites in between your browsing sessions. All cookies exist to personalize your experience on the internet, but cookies are collected and used in a handful of ways, some of which expose user information and raise privacy concerns.

First-party cookies

First-party cookies are collected by the site you’re visiting. These cookies save information like your username, preferences, and what’s in your shopping cart, with the purpose of enhancing your user experience.

Second-party cookies

Second-party cookies are collected by websites like Google and Facebook as you use them. You might voluntarily share their information on these sites, and the company shares or sells that data with other parties.

Third-party cookies

Third-party cookies, on the other hand, are collected by other websites besides the one you’re visiting. These cookies collect information about your browsing activity across numerous sites, as well as your search activity.

The primary purpose of third-party cookies is cross-site tracking, ad serving, and retargeting. Some third-party cookies are anonymous, but some tracking services collect personal identifiable information (PII).

Why do cookies matter in digital marketing?

Cookies deliver a highly targeted user experience. Third-party cookies are the reason you see ads for the thing you were thinking about buying on every site you visit — whether it’s a news outlet, your favorite blog, or social media site.

From a digital marketing perspective, cookies are a key part of advertising strategy. Third-party cookies help advertisers understand their consumers, so they can create campaigns and content that reach them more effectively. Cookies also help marketers evaluate the performance of their ad campaigns.

How does a cookieless future change digital marketing?

For years, digital advertisers have relied on third-party cookies to target, personalize, and measure ad campaigns. Removing third-party cookies from the internet changes the digital ads as we know them.

All the same ad channels will be available, including display, social, and search. Targeted ads won’t disappear, but how you’ll target audiences and how you’ll measure results changes.

Cookies will need to be first- or second-party. To increase both transparency and privacy, consumers must give consent for their data to be collected and used.

How to prepare for a cookieless future

The future of digital marketing is consent-driven data that’s used and measured effectively. Here are five steps you can take right now to start preparing.

1. Understand the potential impact.

How are you using third-party cookies now? Do you rely heavily on retargeting ads to bring in new customers?

Identifying how you use cookies now helps you predict how your marketing and advertising strategies might change. For example, you might need to allocate more resources to defining target audiences to keep ads bringing in quality leads.

2. Build trust with your customers.

In the cookieless future, your audiences and customers will need to explicitly consent to sharing their data with you.

Start being transparent about how you collect, use, and protect their data, now. Then later, those customers will be more willing to trade data for an enhanced, more personalized experience with your brand.

3. Enhance first-party data collection efforts.

Invest time, energy, and market research to develop compliant data collection strategies. Focus on collecting clean data that you own and control. This is data collection that your users opt in to on your website and through your other marketing channels.

Collect first-party cookies through elements like newsletter opt-ins and account creation features. First party cookies also show you what your users did while on your site, how often they visit, and other useful metrics.

With this data, you can put your customer relationship management (CRM) system to work and develop or automate more effective marketing strategies. Expanding the data you have allows you to better understand your customers and future-proof your business.

4. Explore new methods of advertising.

Third-party cookies aren’t the only way to market in the digital world. Take this opportunity to explore different methods of advertising, such as utilizing second-party data or implementing moment marketing.

5. Look forward to stronger customer relationships.

Ethical data handling doesn’t have to mean the end of profitable digital advertising. In fact, it can be the start of better customer relationships and clearer brand strategies. Building trust with your customers helps you understand their needs and wants better, resulting in more effective campaigns.

Our team at Iconic Digital develops future-focused marketing solutions. Whether you need to refresh your website to capture better first-party cookies or you want to hone your sales funnel to make your marketing efforts more effective, we work with you every step of the way.

Make the cookieless future just a little bit sweeter and contact us to set up a strategy consultation.