Google’s Third-Party Cookie Ban Delayed – What To Do Now?

by Roopa Carpenter - July 12, 2021

The news is spreading like wildfire that Google recently announced its third-party cookie ban is being pushed back to the end of 2023. As teams breathe a sigh of relief, this begs the question of whether you should still be concerned or is the third-party “cookiepocalypse” mainly hype?

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Understanding the Why Behind Third-Party Cookies Going Away

Before diving into the answer, it’s important to understand the why behind the efforts to eliminate Google Chrome third-party cookies. With brands these days competing based on the digital experience, a core aspect of the experience is to build and maintain customer trust. Let’s face it, although third-party cookies are utilized extensively by many in marketing, third-party cookies as a foundation isn’t really the ideal approach for promoting customer trust. In fact, for years now consumers have complained about ads being too aggressive. Ultimately, their frustrations are rooted in a lack of consent, transparency, and control. The deprecation of third-party cookies is one avenue to rebuild trust and put control back in the hand of consumers.

Although third-party cookies are utilized extensively by many in marketing, third-party cookies as a foundation isn’t really the ideal approach for promoting customer trust.

In addition, given the recent state legislation focusing on consumer privacy, including California Consumer Privacy Act and Virginia Consumer Data Protection Act, our expectation is that customer privacy is here to stay. Further, we expect regulations will only get increasingly restrictive in the future and you should plan accordingly.

Is the Risk Real for Your Business?

women evaluating the risk of the third party cookie ban

Evaluating the potential risk of Google’s third-party cookie deprecation depends on how reliant you are on third-party cookies for your marketing efforts. A recent 2020 study from Epsilon highlights that around 80% of marketers are either very dependent or moderately dependent on 3rd party cookies. Moreover, a majority of marketers (83%) expect a moderate to significant impact on their digital advertising efforts when these cookies go away.

While industry metrics are useful, you really need to evaluate the potential risk for your own marketing strategy. For example, it’s important to understand what percentage of your marketing effort (including advertising spend) is reliant on third-party cookies, including remarketing, personalization, and frequency capping usage. Ultimately, if this makes up a very small portion of your overall advertising efforts, then there may not be a need to panic. Instead, we recommend staying vigilant of future privacy changes.

However, if this is not the case, then you need to have additional conversations regarding next steps. Specifically, you need to determine the risk of not acting, or taking steps towards a more viable solution in a cookie-less world. For example, what’s the increased likelihood of wasted spend by not serving personalized ads during a time when customer expectations demand a customized and highly relevant experience.

Why Now is the Perfect Time to Act

With Google’s recent cookie announcement of pushing the third-party cookie ban to the end of 2023, it’s perfectly reasonable for you to question whether you should act now or wait. Considering the challenges that we’re seeing marketers face in taking next steps, we recommend that you look to take action now rather than kicking it further down the road. In fact, although a majority of marketers are expecting a negative impact with 3rd party cookies going away, the Epsilon study reports that less than half (46%) feel very prepared to tackle the challenge. This lack of preparation is exacerbated by teams feeling frustrated and overwhelmed about how to take those next steps. Think of this as your chance to get ahead!

Many organizations and vendors are working hard to find a viable solution to Google’s 3rd party cookie deprecation, however, to test the true efficacy of these potential workarounds, you will need to wait until third-party cookies actually go away, which now won’t be realized until 2023. If your marketing efforts are reliant on third-party cookies, there’s a real risk of losing the competitive advantage if you choose to wait to see how things play out. The good news is that you can take steps now that will leave your brand in a better position to handle the changes in 2023. Specifically, with all the various solutions being proposed, the one universal insight that is being shared is the need to shift the foundation for marketing from 3rd party data to a first-party data strategy.

Rebuilding this foundation with first-party data cannot be accomplished overnight and requires thoughtful planning and strategy. In other words, this is something that you can and should be taking care of now. Google’s cookie announcement gives you an extra year to prepare and execute. In fact, this is an opportune time to consider leveraging a customer data platform (CDP) as part of your marketing technology (martech) stack to de-silo your first-party data and provide your team with a more complete view of your customer. After creating this foundation by unifying your first-party data, valuable audiences can be built within a CDP. The real benefit of a CDP is that these audiences can then be utilized to activate across your various marketing channels, including social, remarketing, and personalization efforts.
framework for a successful digital experience flowchart

With adopting a first-party data strategy it’s important to recognize that everything takes time, and this includes building the size of your first-party data-based audiences. If your team is able to get audiences set up now, the size of the audiences available in 2023 will be significantly larger than waiting to build this foundation in 2022 or worse, 2023.

Take Advantage of the Extra Time to Prepare

The brands that will succeed in 2023 and beyond will likely be the ones who understood the importance of acting now. First, your team should take the time to evaluate the potential impact of 3rd party cookies going away on your marketing efforts. If there is a real risk, then we highly recommend tackling this challenge head-on and preparing an action plan.

The brands that will succeed in 2023 and beyond will likely be the ones that understood the importance of acting now.

It’s widely agreed that the future of marketing is one based on a first-party data strategy. This is further reinforced by the increasing focus placed on privacy and consent by Google and state legislation. However, knowing what needs to be done and taking the steps to accomplish this are two different things. If you don’t have existing capabilities within the organization (for example, expertise on leveraging a CDP within your martech stack), we recommend that you work with an experienced strategic partner to plan and execute a first-party data marketing strategy. Doing so will enable your brand to continue to deliver a highly relevant digital experience and build customer trust even after the cookies crumble.

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