The death of cookies (but not exactly)

“The house smelled musty and damp, and a little sweet, as if it were haunted by the ghosts of long-dead cookies.” ― Neil Gaiman, American Gods

Without realising it Neil Gaiman might have predicted the future not of a house but of the internet.

First and foremost, what are cookies? Most of us will say they are delicious, and the ones of you that do say that won’t be wrong. Thankfully, that kind of cookies are not the ones dying and they will be here probably as long as humans are here.

This blog is about the end (but not the extinction) of different kind of cookies. The kind of in our computers. Simply put cookies are a small piece of HTTP data that is stored on a user’s computer by the web browser while surfing around the net.

The death of cookies sad cookie monster The Novice Marketeer Dublin Ireland

Cookies are used by business and marketers online to track their target audience and get better conversion of their sales or whatever KPI they may have. Cookies were created with not that exact same purpose back in the ‘90s. Netscape engineers designed the piece of code to help e-commerce users’ browsers remember what they have placed in their baskets.

Thirty years forward and that little text file is in the basis of the €280 billion digital advertising industry. Because most of the internet is funded by advertisements cookies are key in helping business know who their target audience is. If a marketer knows accurately who and where their potential customers are, they are willing to spend more on targeting them with relevant ads.

Predicted digital ad spend for 2020 is 615 billion dollars. Digital marketing stats

For the last couple of years, however, cookies have become a big concern for authorities. According to the public and institutions, cookies are violating people’s privacy and they are not wrong. This lead to two major legislations; the California Consumer Privacy Act and in the EU the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).
What these regulations did was important but not necessarily effective. Think about the last time you’ve seen the big pop-up window in your browser when a website is “asking” you to carefully read the cookie and privacy policies. Now think of the last time you took an action other than just pressing “accept all”. Just by giving the user a choice of controlling what and if any cookies can be used did not mean that they will do it.

The biggest issue here is with the cookies used by third parties. The first party is the website you are visiting, the second is you (the user) and third is…well no one can ever be sure who the third party is. It’s just that, a third party. Often the third party is someone like Cambridge Analytica and we all know how that turned out.
The EU and US congress are continuing their fight against big tech and how they use data. We see it in lawsuits and lately in US congress where the biggest CEO’s were getting preachified by state representatives.

Taking action

A solution to the problem one might think will be to just kill the cookies and everyone’s online privacy will be protected. Well, if that was the case everyone would have just used duckduckgo instead of Google. Or at least Google’s incognito tab. Truth is most people are fine with seeing relevant ads.

Another way to go is the way Google announced that they will in the upcoming months or a couple of years. They will be phasing out cookies used by third parties. Google’s web browser Chrome holds over 60% of the market share and when we add the runners up Safari and Firefox (which have already started blocking them by default) this pretty much means no more third-party cookies.

Google web browser Chrome holds over 60 percent of the market share

Even without third-party cookies, Google will be able to track users’ activity so long as they’re on Chrome. No more third-party cookies might lower the data breach chances and prevent another Cambridge Analytica but what it will definitely mean is no more target advertisement exposure to small and medium businesses across apps. Not only SME’s but also big players like Facebook will suffer loses.

If for example, you see now an ad for a dope environmentally friendly bamboo cutlery set on Instagram on your phone’s app and like it but take no purchase action the next time you visit your Facebook page from your Chrome browser on your computer, Facebook by using third-party cookies will remind you about the product. Because users are more likely to make a purchase from a computer, you might even buy it.

This is the desired conversion a Facebook advertiser pays the platform for. “It estimates that in cases where an ad was converted into a sale within 30 days, just 20% started and ended on the same app and the same device. Severing Facebook’s ability to measure the effectiveness of its ads is a threat to its business. And if that poses a challenge to the world’s second-biggest ad tech player, imagine the peril to the hundreds of smaller companies.” – Bloomberg Businessweek

If a giant of the size of Facebook will be suffering loses what is there for the little guy to do to fight for market share?

Quality content could be the answer.

Quality media sites are predicted to do better in the post-cookies ages because users will be returning to them to consume their content. If an eCommerce business has a quality free content that they offer to the consumer it will be a drawback for them to keep coming back to the store. Even if they do not buy something every time they visit the webpage, the brand will be in their mind and probably in their email box.

Consistent quality content beats cookies

We believe subscription models will also surge because there will be fewer advertisements or less revenue from then and marketers will have to find other ways to sustain their online business. Check out our article dedicated to the future of subscriptions.

Whatever the solution might be one is for certain; online marketers will once again have to completely change their short-term strategies for success. However, the long-term strategy stays the same, offer quality content to the user, giving them a valuable reason to be loyal to the brand

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