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Farewell to 3rd Party Cookies: Explaining the Shift in Online Tracking

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Google, the last of the major browsers like Firefox and Safari to slowly move away from third-party cookies, has already announced that it will be completely free of third-party cookies by the end of 2024. We will explain below what this means and how exactly this should happen!

Cookies play an important role in tracking online activity on websites. They enable mechanisms such as profiling, retargeting and basic operational functions of online shops such as storing items in a user’s shopping cart. For this reason, eliminating third-party cookies can have a significant impact on tracking data such as conversion rates. It is advisable for CMOs, advertisers and publishers to start looking for alternative methods or tools.

Overview of the different types of cookies

To further explain the elimination of third-party cookies, here is a brief description of the different types of cookies, especially the two most popular: first-party cookies and third-party cookies.

First-party cookies are cookies set by the same domain. If you run an e-commerce website, your first-party cookies help your customers “remember” items and add them to their shopping cart.

On the other hand, if you have uploaded a video to YouTube that is now embedded on your website, third-party cookies will be set because the video comes from a third-party domain, namely YouTube.

Note: It is important to know that third parties can also set first-party cookies and they will still work. An example of this is Google Analytics. Google is a third party that sets cookies on your own domain that you can use for its analytics purposes. These cookies will not disappear in the future, even though they are set by an external domain.

Haven’t had enough of cookies yet? (Who will? 🍪) Here’s our detailed guide to all things cookies. Except the edible ones 😉.

What happens if third-party cookies go away? Does my website still need a cookie banner?

The simple answer is: yes! You still need a cookie banner. Remember that only third-party cookies go away, while first-party cookies continue to be used. These non-essential cookies, such as for marketing analytics, still require consent and therefore a cookie banner. LocalStorage, where the data remains on the client side and is not automatically sent to the server like cookies, will continue to exist. This still requires user consent under data protection laws such as the GDPR, making it all the more important to obtain consent using a cookie banner in order to process personal data.

However, the questions you should ask yourself are:

  1. What type of cookies do you use?
  2. What do you use cookies for?
  3. Will you use LocalStorage?
  4. Who sets the cookies?

Answering these questions will help you figure out what alternatives you should use instead of third-party cookies.

In addition, the EDBP’s new guidelines clarified that the transfer of IP addresses falls under ePrivacy processing and therefore requires a legal basis that is either essential or, if not essential, requires consent. This makes a cookie banner even more necessary.

You can find the official EDBP’s guidelines here.

Prepare for the start of the phase-out in early 2024 and the final phase-out by the end of 2024

The end of the use of third-party cookies has already been determined, and it is all the more important to have a precise overview of the time frame so that there is enough time to prepare for alternative tracking methods. According to an official announcement from Google, 1% of Chrome users will be affected by the first phase of phase-out of third-party cookies, meaning they will not have third-party cookies enabled by the first quarter of 2024. We expect that in the next phase, by Q3 in 2024, 100% of Chrome users will have third-party cookies disabled.

Other remaining browsers will follow: by the end of 2024, browsers will no longer support third-party cookies. More and more technologies will follow suit and no longer support the use of third-party cookies.

What impact does the disappearance of third-party cookies have on websites?

There are various scenarios that can be imagined after the complete elimination of cookies, although some changes may already be in development. We are talking about:

  1. Fewer tracked marketing goals and secondly, 
  2. no third party audience data being available.

If you work primarily with ads and need to be able to track your ad spend, you may find it more difficult to justify your ad spend in the future as the same level of visibility can no longer be guaranteed.

These changes in visibility could also lead to alternative methods. It could mean a shift from performance-based models to models based on clicks or impressions.

Quality becomes key, whether as an advertiser looking for quality websites or as a publisher producing quality content. Now more than ever, quality could be the deciding factor in advertising spending.

The second scenario that website operators must expect is the almost certain elimination of third-party data. This data includes, among other things, profiles, purchasing interests, gender and age categories. Instead, marketers and publishers will have little choice but to rely on first-party data.

What you can do to prepare & opportunities for site owners

It’s best to use data you already have. If not, you can start collecting data.

Start with data you may have already collected from newsletter subscribers, customer purchases, or data from previous surveys. And of course , before you start processing personal data , you should already have a cookie banner set up so that users can give their consent to the collection of their data. If not, now is the time to do it. After that, you can start collecting data without any legal problems!

To sum it up: Prepare for the end of third-party cookies by

  1. focusing on high-quality web content – ​​for publishers, also for advertisers. If you are in e-commerce, make sure your website content is attractive enough, including product photos, descriptions, and the usability of your store.
  2. Check out alternatives to third party cookies now!
  3. And finally, the use of a cookie banner is very important to be able to collect all kinds of data without legal problems! Start collecting first-party data now.

With consentmanager your banner will be ready for use in just a few minutes – and it’s free. Try it now!

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