The end of third-party cookies: a quick guide in 5 key steps

Attention, this is not an episode of “Black Mirror”, this is digital marketing reality!

Imagine a world where cookies only mean sweets😋, and not tracking. Yes, in 2024 (this should be the year), Google says “Goodbye!” to third-party cookies, plunging publishers, media, and advertisers into a world where they have to play Sherlock Holmes on the web without their usual data.

The announcement of the end of third-party cookies by major web browsers has sent shockwaves through the digital marketing universe. This change, far from being a mere technical modification, symbolizes a real turning point in how user data is collected and used on the Internet. Here is a quick guide to prepare you for this revolution.

Ready to dive into a cookie-less world (at least, the digital ones)? 😏

1. Understanding the impact on the digital landscape

The disappearance of third-party cookies represents a significant evolution, marking the end of an era of almost unlimited tracking of users on the web. With 76% of internet users expressing distrust towards the use of their personal data, it becomes imperative for companies to rethink their data collection strategies. The removal of third-party cookies by browsers like Safari and Firefox has already led to a loss of more than 25% of web traffic, a foretaste of the challenges to come with Chrome’s decision to follow suit.

INSEE graph illustrating the proportion of people who have limited or given up an online activity in 2019 due to their concerns about security due to third-party cookies - source - INSEE
Proportion of people who have limited or given up an online activity in 2019 due to their concerns about security, according to the fifth of living standards – source: INSEE

2. Exploring available alternatives

In the face of these changes, the sector is actively seeking alternative solutions. Google’s Privacy Sandbox, with its proposals like FLoC (Federated Learning of Cohorts) now called Topics, suggests targeting by interest groups rather than individual tracking. This approach, while less invasive, raises questions about its effectiveness and impact on targeted advertising.

Web Push Notifications are emerging as another viable complementary solution for publishers allowing them to monetize their audience and offering a direct and privacy-respectful way to engage users without compromising their personal data.

Existing alternatives

In anticipation of the post-third-party cookie era, it is essential to familiarize yourself with the alternative solutions available on the market. Here is a table that summarizes these options, highlighting their respective advantages and disadvantages, as well as their typology of operation.

First-party cookies, for example, are set by the websites you visit directly and are used to collect data, allowing for advanced personalization and precise user tracking. On the other hand, solutions based on third-party identifiers, such as ID5 or Google’s Topics, offer a new tracking method while considering user privacy.

If you want to learn more about Topics, you can read the technical documentation that covers all topics concerning this new technology.

Solutions Advantages Disadvantages Typology
First-Party Cookies Direct collection, advanced personalization, precise tracking. First cookie = one publisher or a group of publishers = complex management, no gateway between the campaigns one can have on different sites, short lifespan. Deterministic
Cross-domain First-party Cookies Significant inventory, precise tracking, direct data collection. Management of different technologies, solutions need to be installed on the advertiser’s side too, country-specific approach, thus complicated for international, requires expertise Deterministic
Third-Party Identifiers or Shared IDs like ID5, First ID, Utiq, EUID, Ramp ID, and Panorama ID Already accounted for in the programmatic ecosystem Need to obtain user consent (CMP) Deterministic and probabilistic
Third-Party Identifiers – Hashed Email Cross-platform, easy access via SSO, precise and long-term tracking Not everyone wants to leave their email address even via SSO Deterministic and probabilistic
Third-Party Identifiers – Fingerprinting Precise and matches the machine, easy installation, independent of cookies Not cross-platform, not durable over time, high cost. Deterministic and probabilistic
Google Privacy Sandbox – Topics Respects user privacy, centralized management by the browser Potential impact on advertisers, less precise targeting based only on interests between 3 to 5, need for new advertising practices Deterministic and probabilistic

Other complementary cookieless solutions

These complementary solutions are not new; some have been known since the beginning of the web. This is just a reminder that, even though third-party cookies will disappear, the actors of these solutions are still adapting and will always offer new technologies that meet the needs of publishers and advertisers.

Solution Advantages Disadvantages Actors
Web Push Notifications Cookieless retargeting technology, customizable targeting, facilitates recurring traffic and audience engagement, GDPR compliant and bypasses adblockers. Limited to compatible browsers, fewer data than traditional cookies Notifadz by Adrenalead.
Targeted Social Media Campaigns Broad audience, granular targeting. High cost, dependence on social platforms. Meta Ads, X Ads, LinkedIn Ads, TikTok Ads.
Email Marketing Direct communication with subscribers. Need to obtain opt-in and user’s address + need to revalidate opt-in every 3 years, risk of saturation and low subscription (opt-in) rates. MailChimp, SendinBlue, Brevo.
Contextual, Semantic Targeting (banners, skins, exploiting words in an article) Contextual relevance, less intrusive. Less behavioral targeting (no third-party cookies = no performance tracking), targeting limited to specific contexts and works only during determined periods, solution more oriented towards branding than performance. ContextWeb, Infolinks.

3. Adopt a strategy centered on first-party data

The post-third-party cookie era emphasizes the importance of first-party data collected directly from users. This data, obtained through voluntary interactions like signing up for newsletters or downloading white papers, becomes crucial for authentic personalization and privacy-respectful engagement. With the cookie rejection rate jumping from 22% to 39% in France between 2019 and 2023, ethical and transparent collection of first-party data is now at the heart of successful marketing strategies.

4. Reinforce transparency and trust

In this new context, transparency becomes the cornerstone of the relationship between brands and consumers. Companies must not only comply with GDPR but also go beyond legal requirements to establish real trust. With over 4 billion euros in fines imposed for GDPR non-compliance, it is clear that respecting privacy is not only a legal obligation but also an ethical and business imperative.

5. Prepare for the future with agility and innovation

A future without third-party cookies requires a constant reinvention of marketing practices. Brands must be agile, ready to embrace new technologies and privacy-respecting methods. Innovation in data collection and analysis, user engagement, and campaign personalization become key elements to stay competitive in this changing environment.

The future belongs to those who prepare today. 😉

Conclusion: a future without cookies? 🥵

Meme: it's over for cookies

Although the end of third-party cookies presents challenges, it also offers the opportunity to build a more ethical and user-centered digital future. By adopting strategies that value transparency, trust, and privacy respect, brands can not only comply with new standards but also strengthen their relationship with consumers.

Expert opinion:

✅ Necessary innovation: marketing strategies need to evolve. The time is for innovation, seeking new methods that respect privacy while being effective.

✅Adaptability and agility: brands and publishers need to be agile, able to quickly adapt to new regulations and technologies (starting by setting up their GA4 quickly before July 1, 2024, for Google users).

✅GDPR compliance: personal data protection is now a central pillar of marketing strategies. It’s a challenge, but also an opportunity to strengthen consumer trust.

✅Alternative solutions: all the solutions mentioned earlier in the table can be exploited via Web Push Notifications allowing a granularity of retargeting, combining privacy respect and marketing efficiency (but keep in mind that not all the tools offered are complete, it will be necessary to surf between several tools and the difficulty will be in assembling all these data).

✅Monitoring new techniques: it is crucial to remain vigilant about new tracking methods that might emerge, like fingerprinting.

The end of third-party cookies is thus a challenge, but also an opportunity, to create a more respectful web for the user, based on content quality and the trust relationship with internet users.

FAQ: everything you need to know about third-party cookies

Here are some frequently asked questions about the end of third-party cookies and their answers:

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