Analyzing The Impact Of Google Chrome’s Third-Party Cookie Phase-Out

Published: February 7, 2024

The funeral proceedings for third-party cookies started on Jan. 4, 2024, when Google Chrome started restricting data usage for 1% of its users. With the elimination of these third-party insights, B2B marketers are contending with reduced targeting accuracy, limited attribution and measurement and data compliance risks.

“Historically, brands have relied on third-party data like cookies to track website visitors, improve user experience and collect data for personalization techniques in their marketing efforts,” said Manu Mathew, CEO and Co-founder of brand customer network and engagement platform Cohora. “For better or worse, this is simply how it’s been done for years. Stringent legislation promoted by privacy concerns have left major browsers to phase out support, leaving publishers to face potential losses of more than $10 billion, as reported by the Interactive Advertising Bureau.”

As Chrome plans to extend those restrictions to 100% of users by Q3, only 8% of marketers feel fully prepared to adapt to the changes, while 22% indicated they are mostly prepared. For the 70% who haven’t prepped their alternate strategies, the clock is quickly ticking.

“Marketers may feel unprepared for the phase-out of third-party cookies for various reasons,” explained Carol Howley, CMO of email signature management platform Exclaimer. “The heavy reliance on these cookies for tracking user behavior, targeted ads and campaign measurement is a huge challenge. A lack of familiarity with alternatives adds to the sense of unpreparedness, as some marketers struggle to understand and implement new technologies or strategies.”

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The Impact Of The Phase-Out On Marketers & Buyers

With about five months until the privacy hourglass runs out of sand, just 17% of marketers no longer rely on third-party cookies — meaning that the 83% still leveraging that data source are in for a rude awakening.

“The phase-out will have significant implications for marketers, especially those still heavily reliant on tracking user behavior for advertising and analytics purposes,” said Howley. “This will have potential impacts on advertising, analytics, personalization and privacy efforts. It will become more difficult for advertisers to track users across different websites, limiting the precision of targeted ads. Additionally, tracking and attributing conversions will become more complex.”

Despite the complexities associated with third-party alternatives, the shift toward opt-in collection processes will ultimately benefit both sides of the buying journey. Mathew explained that third-party data often restricts brands from interacting with customers meaningfully, because that data is often given to marketers in segments instead of at the individual level. On the flipside, prospects and customers benefit from more control and ownership over their purchasing process.

“By and large, when a consumer allows third-party data gathering through cookies, they don’t know what they’re consenting to or how their data might be used,” said Mathew. “Eighty-six percent of consumers care about data privacy, demanding transparency and control over how businesses use their data, and 47% of the respondents have switched companies due to poor data policies and practices. Because of this, brands are now pushed to find ways to access zero- and first-party data sources that foster a transparent relationship between brands and consumers.”

Analyzing The Alternative Data Sources

As first- and zero-party data bubble up to take the wheel, marketers need to increase the incentives and benefits of information sharing for prospects. Because of this move toward alternative data sources, marketers will be forced to become more creative and in-touch with their customers.

“Marketers need to look for alternatives and create a plan that will move the needle for their business,” said Howley. “This is an incredible opportunity to shake up marketing and do better by your customers and prospects.”

She continued that marketers can explore the possibilities around AI and machine-learning as effective third-party stand-ins. She continued that predictive analytics and customer behavior models built from on-site interactions can replicate the personalized experiences that once hinged on cookies. However, leveraging these tools requires tight internal alignment.

“Collaboration will become an indispensable tool for marketers,” explained Howley. “Strategic partnerships will create paths for shared benefits and strengthened brand identity while preserving user privacy. Marketers will see that the best way to foster trust will be 1:1 communication.”

How To Leverage Alternative Resources For Increased Personalization

With opt-in information becoming the new currency for marketers, zero- and first-party data will be the cashflow that supports practitioners’ initiatives. Although these data sources might be more difficult to collect — as they require more cooperation from the buyers themselves — it’s ultimately more valuable.

“Direct ownership of zero- and first-party data allows a company to have a much more personalized and intimate relationship with their customers, since they have insight into an individual customer’s interests and preferences,” said Mathew. “In turn, this enhances the overall customer experience by personalizing every step of the journey, not just the initial offer.”

Additionally, Howley explained that content-driven strategies will be marketers’ biggest support in their strategy for collecting first-party data. In fact, 62% of marketers plan to increase their database investments in the new year. When it comes to the top reasons for investing in data collection and enrichment practices, 73% of practitioners want to generate better insights to personalize content and messaging.

“We’re now in the era of focusing on creating a strong human-centric brand and the personalization of content at scale,” Howley. “We need to craft every message, every campaign with the individual in mind. The future belongs to brands who adapt and venture down new paths in data management and customer engagement. Marketers have an opportunity to not just adapt, but to thrive and redefine the marketing playbook in a post-third-party cookie era.”

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