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How will cookieless affect retailers’ digital strategy?

The cookieless era is here to stay, and retailers and brands are already changing the way they are collecting data, building audiences, and delivering experiences. For more than two decades, cookies have been crucial for online advertising. The vast majority of the industry has comfortably relied on it to accurately target online users and measure the performance of digital campaigns. But suddenly, user privacy has become an important criterion for companies. In recent years, several browsers have been gradually abandoning third-party cookies, such as Safari in 2020, followed by Google Chrome in 2023. 

Retailers and brands are aware that they are facing a major inflection point with the cookieless era, and industry professionals are wondering: how can we continue to track customer behavior online and still create personalized experiences that delight customers?

But first, what are cookies in digital marketing?

A cookie is a text file generated by a website that contains small pieces of data and is shared between a sender and receiver. More concretely, the sender is the server where the website is located, and the receiver is the browser used by the user to surf the Internet.

The main purpose of cookies is to store the history of the user’s activity on a website in order to identify the user when he/she returns. In this way, you can be offered personalized content based on your behavior.

Using cookies in digital marketing makes it possible to display a retailer’s or brand’s ads on other websites, attract new customers, track users who visit a website, and display customized products or content based on their previous activity.

The difference between First-Party and Third-Party Cookies

First-Party cookies are directly stored by the website visited by the user. This allows the owners to collect the data of their visitors, such as language settings, to offer them a good user experience. Third-Party cookies are created by domains other than the user is visiting. Their function is to use this data for advertising purposes. 

Why are cookies going away?

The problem with cookies is related to the risk of loss of privacy and what would happen if the data ended up in the wrong hands. The root of the problem is not the use of this information for advanced segmentation.

Large corporations such as Facebook, Google or Amazon possess a massive amount of information about users. The problem is the high probability of personal information being linked to specific people and names. Facebook and Google have already introduced user-level tracking, and Apple has made changes to its privacy settings. This means that many common avenues for data collection are going away.

Digital Marketing for Retailers

This is how the future of Programmatic Advertising looks like

The digital landscape is constantly evolving, and programmatic is no exception. The end of Third-Party cookies, browser updates and government regulations are making it more difficult to reach the right audience. As data is no longer available through Third-Party cookies, programmatic will be driven by retailers’ own data.

Data-driven marketing still has a long way to go. Ad tech can continue to operate without third-party cookies and offer greater user control and privacy. Explicit consent from the user is key. Many brands and retailers are working to build secure advertising ecosystems that require explicit consent to display personalized ads and content. 

In a cookieless world, programmatic advertising must prioritize consumer identity, security and trust. Explicit authentications and security controls for each user are necessary for the protection of their data and cyber-attacks.

How do retailers and brands must prepare for Cookieless Marketing

Today’s most significant change is the demise of third-party cookies. Fortunately, retailers and brands have time to adapt to the new reality and find innovative ways to capture data. But in the meantime, they’ll need to re-evaluate their current strategies. The cookieless era will force retailers to revamp their data-driven marketing strategies and they will need to adopt a first-party approach to remarketing.

Retail marketing professionals should place the customer at the center of the entire process and establish a relationship of trust by explaining as clearly as possible what data is being requested and for which reasons. This will generate satisfying user experiences without being intrusive. Now only the customer has the power to start the conversation. Everything revolves around the customer. Therefore, retailers have no choice but to put the customer at the center of their attention.

Retailers will also have to find alternative solutions. These changes will necessarily involve a great deal of innovation to find other ways of intelligently targeting consumers. While the cookieless era has initially been perceived negatively, in reality, it could represent an opportunity for all players in the industry. Cookieless will bring with it a new, more transparent online advertising paradigm based on an explicit agreement between retailers and users.