· Written by Drew Wilson

To many marketers’ surprise, Google announced that before 2022, the use of third-party cookies will no longer be available. However, did you know that third-party cookies have always been flawed? They’ve never truly been the best way to effectively retarget and serve ads to your audience. Before we say whether or not this update will be held true, let’s define a couple of important key terms. 


What is a Cookie?

A cookie is a small piece of code developers put on a browser. We have two main cookies that stem from this: first-party cookies and third-party cookies. 


What is a First-Party Cookie?

Essentially, a first-party cookie is used by website providers to track user behavior. For example, this cookie remembers the pages you went to when you visited the site. It can also remember what items you’ve put in your cart, which is why you can close a tab, but then reopen it and see your items are still in your cart.

These cookies are not going away, as they are essential for web-providers to serve consumers well and make sure they have the optimal user-experience. 


What is a Third-Party Cookie? 

Put simply, a third-party cookie is a tracking pixel for retargeting. Have you ever noticed ads from a previous site you’ve been on? Maybe you were on a site for a protein powder you were interested in, but then decided to leave and go check Facebook. While scrolling down your feed, you notice an ad showing up in a video for that same protein powder. This is called retargeting and third-party cookies allow advertisers to track where a user goes.


Why should we be concerned about this change? 

Just remember: it all comes down to tracking digital behavior. Retargeting is going to be impacted the most in this removal of third-party cookies. But this does not mean all of your marketing efforts are now useless, as there are many alternatives that are more accurate than third-party cookies. 


Is there anything I should change right now?

If you are using a marketing company, simply start having discussions with them to learn what solutions they offer to fill in this gap. The ability to target ads did not change, but the way to retarget them is shifting substantially. 


What about Apple's IOS 14 update?

Apple changed their privacy policy in a recent operating system update. This is something that marketing companies were made aware of and since it is already in effect, companies (like Sokal) are watching it closely every day. What this update means is that the user has the power to opt in to whether or not they want to be tracked by web-providers.

While this does change how we are able to track and see statistics across people using Apple devices, so far we have not seen a massive disturbance in our analytics.   


Where do you see the future of advertising going? 

On the user’s side of things, we believe you will start hearing more about Unified IDs and hashed emails across the internet. This system is safer for the consumer. For example, a hashed email is a way to encrypt a piece of data into a hexadecimal string so that each email has its own string of data and it remains consistent no matter where the email is used as a login.

This system seems fitting with Apple’s recent update to put more privacy into the user’s hand, so naturally, topics like this will become more prevalent. 


Is there any reason to be nervous?

If you don’t have a plan, sure. There may be reason to be nervous if you are not able to effectively fill this marketing gap with other successful tactics. This is why we suggest immediately having conversations with your marketing agency to come up with a plan. Or, if you are doing your own marketing and need guidance, we would be happy to schedule a consultation with you to answer any questions you may have.


However, due to the fact that third-party cookies have never been perfect, there are many other solutions to target your desired audience well and provide for the consumer effectively. Remember, first-party cookies aren’t going away, and they are vital to tracking the behavior of your consumer while they are on your digital storefront. We suggest checking and updating your user-experience so that everything is in working order for your website and other important digital platforms. 


We hope you’ve found this blog helpful as we all start to navigate this big shift. To learn more, check out this discussion with our Director of Digital and Strategic Marketing Justin Harvey. You can head to the Podcast here, or you can watch the interview on YouTube. Sokal is here to help with any digital marketing or advertising you need, so don’t hesitate to let us know what we can do for you. 


Be sure to check back for more helpful marketing content. Until next time, go forward!