Browsers Respond to Consumer Distaste for Cookies
Google in January announced plans to phase out support for third-party cookies in its Chrome web browser over the next two years.
Cookies, which are used to track consumers from one website to the next and which are responsible for most of the advertising that consumers see on the web, are already blocked by Apple’s Safari and Mozilla’s Firefox browsers.
“Users are demanding greater privacy, including transparency, choice, and control over how their data is used, and it’s clear the web ecosystem needs to evolve to meet these increasing demands,” wrote Justin Schuh, Google’s director of engineering for Chrome, in a blog post. “Some browsers have reacted to these concerns by blocking third-party cookies, but we believe this has unintended consequences that can negatively impact both users and the web ecosystem.”
Randy Wootton, president and general manager of Percolate, a Seismic company, says Google’s move to retire third-party cookies is sending shock waves throughout the marketing industry, “and for good reason.”
“This might be a huge step back in personalization and compelling storytelling because marketers simply cannot deliver consistent experiences across walled gardens without some kind of data sharing. To date, tracking cookies have played a huge role in their ability to do this, so it’s no surprise that many are nervous that the largest search browser and digital publisher is following others’ footsteps and doing away with them,” Wootton says.
Kyle Henderick, senior director of client services at Yes Marketing, a provider of cross-channel marketing solutions, favors the move to eliminate cookies, calling it “a long overdue evolution that sophisticated marketers have already begun putting into place.”
Diaz Nesamoney, founder and CEO of Jivox, a digital marketing technology provider, says the Google announcement is the latest initiative toward the industry taking consumer data privacy more seriously. At the same time, he thinks it’s already too late for companies to completely regain consumer trust.
But while interest in cookies wanes, tech and marketing insiders are largely unsure of the alternatives.
In the place of cookies, Google hopes to lay down a set of alternatives that might be less invasive and annoying. This includes an effort that began in February whereby Chrome limits insecure, cross-site tracking access to cookies without a SameSite label as first-party-only. It will also require cookies labeled for third-party use to be accessed over HTTPS.
Google is also working on increased security to protect consumers using search engines or visiting websites through its browser. It began this effort in August with its introduction of Privacy Sandbox, a secure environment for personalization that aggregates user data and keeps more of it on the device rather than storing it in the cloud.
Apple has proposed an API for helping retail websites track conversions.
Wootton argues that there are no easy answers. He points out that industry associations have already rolled out initiatives to establish new policies, procedures, and guidelines. The IAB, for instance, just announced Project Rearc to harmonize consumer privacy and personalization.
He fears, however, that the IAB and others “are often solely focused on the B2C experience, leaving B2B organizations with extra challenges to wrangle.
“To truly tell a unified story, it’s crucial they’re still able to align digital marketing campaigns with the human outreach being executed by the sales team,” Wootton continues. “That means B2B marketers not only need to start testing new data collection methods now, but they must also develop processes to ensure that data is properly funneled throughout the entire organization to inform content creation and delivery.”
Henderick argues that in the absence of cookies, marketers should focus on first-party data collection, identity resolution, hyper-targeted digital ads, and contextual advertising. Of those, he expects optimization of identity resolution across devices to have “the biggest and longest-lasting impact for marketers.”
“There are pros and cons to both identity resolution and contextual advertising; however, the pros outweigh the cons when it comes to delivering a quality customer experience,” Henderick says. “At the end of the day, what matters most is that marketers perfect their strategy and leverage the alternatives in a way that elevates the customers experience with their brand.”