The End of the Third-Party Cookie: How Can Marketers Be Prepared?

The End of the Third-Party Cookie: How Can Marketers Be Prepared?

It’s time. It’s time to get prepared for the end of third-party cookies. Google has been planning its removal for the past several years and is set to follow through within the next year or so (around 2023). Businesses around North America don’t want to find themselves wondering why chrome keeps deleting their cookies, it’s time to develop some new strategies.

The change has been delayed a few times because Google didn’t want to overwhelm the Internet marketing ecosystem with such drastic action. A lot of marketers depend on third-party cookies. Turning that spigot off all at once without warning could be very damaging to the Internet economy, and nobody wants that.

Defining Third-Party Cookies

A cookie is a small text file associated with a user’s browser (like Chrome, Firefox, or what-have-you) that stores information about that user when they surf the Internet. There are two types of cookies: first-party and third-party.

A first-party cookie stores information in the browser from a site the person is visiting. This information is used by that site the user is visiting when he/she visits it. This allows for such things as tracking the number of visits to the website, using login information so one can access the site, and generally improving the user experience of the site.

A third-party cookie is a little different. It, too, is stored on a user’s browser but it is active across multiple sites and domains which are not necessarily related to the original site that sets it. Basically, a user visits a site that sets up a cookie on his/her browser that remains active while he surfs throughout the Web.

Third-party cookies are the mechanism that lets companies track one’s browsing behavior and collect data on the individual for marketing purposes. If one has ever wondered why and how a particular ad followed one from site to site, third-party cookies are to blame.


Preparing for the Elimination of Third-Party Cookies?

As stated above, the impending death of cookies, or, at least, third-party cookies, is going to have some consequences. Smart marketers will start getting prepared for this as soon as they can. There are a number of steps and approaches a company can incorporate into its overall marketing strategy to deal with this.

These include:

  • Leveraging the use of first-party cookies for maximum benefit
  • Incorporating a contextual ad strategy
  • Creating marketing approaches as soon as possible
  • Developing third-party cookie alternatives

The rest of this article examines each of these in turn.

Leveraging the Use of First-Party Cookies for Maximum Benefit

With the removal of cookies generated by third parties, businesses must find ways to leverage their first-party cookies to compensate. A business’s site will contain numerous opportunities to establish touchpoints with customers.

The key is for the business to take advantage of those touchpoints and encourage visitors to share their information by choice. First-party cookies can then use that information to maximum effect. Some possible areas of interactions include:

  • Offering worthwhile downloads like whitepapers and such
  • Incorporating events pertinent to the business’ niche
  • Offering a newsletter to keep customers informed and up-to-date

Businesses should begin by brainstorming ideas and focusing on innovating. As always, they must make sure to incorporate a multi-channel approach so that they don’t become too reliant on one channel over all others. If there is a lesson from the death of cookies, it is that.



Incorporating a Contextual Ad Strategy

Contextual marketing, as its name implies, is a marketing approach based on the context of the website a user is using. For example, a search for laptops on a site will result in ads for laptops being shown to that user. Contextual marketing is probably the best option as an effective stand-in for third-party cookies.

The key here is for a marketer to incorporate his/her knowledge of market segments and customer personas. Augmenting such knowledge of the user’s shopping journey will allow him/her to strategically insert ads in the places where they’ll be the most helpful.

He/she won’t try to sell iPhones on a site dedicated to clothing, or vice versa. Ultimately, the end of third-party cookies may work out to be an advantage. With contextual marketing, an ad has a far greater chance of presenting itself to the user when they are in a more appropriate mindset for the product.

Finally, third-party cookies can often seem invasive and unseemly. Contextual marketing doesn’t suffer that drawback.

Creating Marketing Approaches as Soon as Possible

The next critical point to make is that businesses need to start thinking about this now. Time is of the essence. At the time of this writing, Google is planning to begin making the relevant changes within the next year, maybe two. Marketers need to start creating alternative marketing approaches as soon as possible.

With the going away of cookies, businesses need a plan to implement and follow through; and not just one, but several. Third-party cookies were fine for the early years of the Web. However, times are changing and Marketers can’t rely on them anymore.

They have to keep abreast of the impending demise of third-party cookies as events unfold. In the meantime, Marketers must take steps to develop and implement alternatives to third-party cookies.

Developing Third-Party Cookie Alternatives

The good news is that there are alternatives. Some have already been developed and others are in development.

To begin, there are already first-party cookies. Those were discussed above, so they won’t be rehashed here. Marketers should just take note that there are a lot of things that can be done with first-party cookies to pick up the slack and compensate.

There is also zero-party data. This is the notion that a site can get users to voluntarily provide it with important information. Generally, this comes through a form or what-have-you on the site.

Additionally, there are identification providers. These involve the users opting into a particular service. In this way, users give permission to marketers to use their data. One such example under development is unified identifiers which are based on email addresses.

Lastly, there is FLoC or the Federated Learning of Cohorts. This is a system being developed by Google to replace third-party cookies. The idea is to collect details from groups of users based on interests, not individuality. In theory, the individual users would be shielded by the sheer number of people in the collections.


As we said, the third-party cookie is on its way out. The informed marketer knows this, and the wise marketer is preparing for this. Wherever in the U.S., they may be—or elsewhere, for that matter--marketers don’t want to be caught off guard by a situation where chrome keeps deleting their cookies.

No. Businesses must prepare and start planning now.

It's a competitive market. Contact us to learn how you can stand out from the crowd.

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