Google announce the death of the cookie. What does it mean? How will it affect you? What is the best way forward?
We can only make informed guesses about the future, but what we do know is that cookies are on their way out. Google announced plans for the blocking of third party cookies in Chrome in January 2020. In response, companies like Facebook have also taken steps to reduce their advertisers dependency on third party tracking software like cookies from their sites.
Is it really time for us all to say goodbye?
“A majority of people think their personal data is less secure now, that data collection poses more risks than benefits, and believe it is not possible to go through daily life without being tracked”
In fact, 81% of the public say that the potential risks they face because of data collection via the internet outweigh the benefits, according to a study by Pew Research Center as early as 2019.
GDPR is the EU’s legislation covering data provacy. Where this visibly affects websites is that anyone added to a mailing list must give their consent. Post Brexit, the UK is leaning on the hastily cobbled together UK-GDPR and the Data Protection Act of 2018. Replacement legislation is promised but not so far forthcoming. It is sensible to plan on the basis of the state of the law today.
Something has to give and when regulatory bodies started to take an interest, Google announced plans for a cookie less future, closely followed by Apple’s iOS 14.5 and Facebook taking steps to re-engineer their ad enabling cookie technology.
What is a Third Party Cookie?
Third-party cookies are cookies that are set by a website other than the one you are currently on (a third party). For example, the Facebook pixel places a cookie on your browser that tracks your browsing with a view to showing you targeted advertisements for products that you may have browsed recently.
Why are third party Cookies so important to advertisers?
The holy grail in advertising is not to reach vast numbers of people although that obviously helps, but to convert a high proportion of the viewers you do reach. If as a customer I’ve actually looked at a website, I may be a more receptive audience for their ads than one that is selected for age/demographic/interest.
Retargeting can raise ad conversion rates substantially. Some say by up to 10 times. The most quoted statistic I’ve found is that marketers using Display Ads average a 0.07% CTR whereas Retargeted Ads achieve 0.7%. Our experience is that we achieve around 2% CTR for Display Ads but we consistently boost the numbers of conversions by retargeting.
What are Google Doing?
Google acknowledge that success or failure in internet technology rests on the preservation and universal adaptation of standards so they have proposed in keeping with this open approach a new initiative known as the Privacy Sandbox to develop a set of open standards to fundamentally enhance privacy on the web.
The goal is to make the web more private and secure for users, while also supporting publishers. One standard that Google have already published is a new technology called FLoC. This is based on the premise that advances in aggregation, anonymization, on-device processing and other privacy-preserving technologies offer a clear path towards replacing individual identifiers. Thus making cookies redundant. Data is anonymised but behaviour is aggregated into communities or Flocks. I know, it’s a painful pun, but that’s Google.
The idea behind FLoC is that targeting a community should be just as effective as retargeting individuals but it loses the creepiness that website visitors are beginning to associate with retargeting because it models behaviour over time rather than the web site you went to ten minutes ago. Inevitably this initiative has met with some criticism from privacy watchdogs, so the future is a little uncertain, but the smart money is that this idea will gain traction.
The technology will be built into Google Chrome which has a 65% share of the browser market (June 2021). Apple’s Safari is the next most popular with 18.34% so Google have the numbers to force this change through. Apple might grumble but ultimately they’ll have to fall into line.
Apple & iOS 14.5
IOS 14.5 introduced an opt-in to any app collecting and sharing data. This of course includes third party cookies on websites and apps such as Facebook. The report on opt-in rates published by Flurry Analytics this year suggests that only 6% of US users have chosen to opt-in to apps collecting their data.
The Facebook Pixel
When you consider that the iPhone has a user base of over 1 billion people worldwide, you realise that 94% less opt-ins represents a pretty hefty blow to Facebook’s ad revenue. Unsurprisingly, they have been quick to respond.
Facebook Conversions API
The Facebook Conversions API is definitely not a replacement for the pixel. Say Facebook. It may seem like semantics, but Facebook argue that data retrieved from your server is not subject to the same concerns as data retrieved from your browser.
To an extent this is true, your server cannot tell where you have been browsing, however it can know for example whether you have abandoned a shopping trolley. This is pertinent because retargeting abandoned shopping trolleys is one of the most lucrative targets available.
Adjusting to a Cookieless Landscape
The maxim that the most valuable data is the data you own has never been more true. Taking a few steps back, what we have seen in the last ten years is the intrusion of companies like Facebook and Google into the relationship between customers and suppliers. Critically, in this landscape, you are buying your hard won data back off Facebook in the form of retargeted ads. Third party cookies are just an enabler.
The fact is that mailing lists are still the most high converting type of marketing. The reason they are not used so much is that they are difficult to build from scratch and buying lists is borderline illegal.
We believe that businesses that nurture a relationship with their customers will be the ones to benefit from these technology changes.
Where should I focus my efforts now?
The smart response to any change in technology is to get ahead of the curve. The death of the cookie is no different.
It’s a cliche of course, but people buy from people. We recommend focusing on building relationships with your audience and directing some love to your mailing lists.
Like Cookies though, visitors have grown wary of invitations to sign up for what they fear will be a slew of sales material so to make it worth their while to subscribe, add a real incentive such as early bird discounts, exclusive access to key content and so on.
How Do I Build a Mailing List?
Marketers are generally expert at building lists. It’s not rocket science. Be attractive and the customers will come. Provide real value in the shape of posts so that potential customers will revisit your site and start to relate to your brand.
There are a number of reasons that people might sign up to a mailing list. The most persuasive is interesting and useful content. Here’s a list of some of the things you might consider.
- Essential Content
- Download a “How To” giveaway (this tactic has become ubiquitous so it needs to be something above and beyond your competitors offering). Think real value.
- Discount vouchers
- Early Bird Access
- Exclusive offers
Create a sequence of emails. You should have a double opt-in system in place. This means that the person joining your list is sent an e-mail that asks them to confirm that they want to join. That’s OK, you’ll lose some signups, but the ones that click the confirm button are motivated to get on board. So make that confirmation e-mail something more personal than the default notification.
Create a Newsletter
Make that newsletter a little ray of sunshine dropping into your subscriber’s mailbox like an eagerly anticipated gift once every couple of months!
Seriously, your newsletter should be interesting and like social media posts, should not be wholly concerned with your own offerings. Links to articles about trends in your industry. Competitions, Giveaways, Discounts should all be made available first to your subscribers.
Check out our post – 5 Benefits of Email Marketing for some interesting facts about the efficiency of newsletters.
The death of the cookie should hold no terrors if you’re willing to adapt and pivot your marketing efforts. Technology always changes, that’s the nature of the beast, so adapt, smile and survive!
If you need any help, We have extensive experience of data driven Social Media Marketing and of adapting to the Facebook Conversions API.
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