For years the threat of a cookieless future has loomed over marketers’ heads. Although Firefox and Safari have restricted third-party cookies for over a decade, Chrome has continued to allow third-party cookies…that is until now. As of January 4, 2024, Google has turned off third-party cookies for 1% of Chrome users and has plans to phase them out entirely during the second half of the year.
And because Chrome is far and above the most popular browser, Google’s decision to remove third-party cookies has sent shockwaves through the world of digital marketing. So, now that the end is imminently near, what do we do now?
While there’s no shortage of thought leadership answering this very question, in this post we’re particularly focusing on how to prepare your website for the end of third-party cookies. Keep reading for actionable steps to safeguard your website strategy during this major shift in marketing.
What are Third-party Cookies?
Before we hop into our tips, here’s a brief refresher on exactly what third-party cookies are, how they work, and why they’re losing favor:
Cookies are small pieces of data stored on a user's browser, and they are commonly used to track user activity and store information about their preferences. Third-party cookies in particular are cookies that are set by a domain other than the one the user is currently visiting. First-party cookies, on the other hand, are set by the domain the user is currently on, and are used to store information login information, user preferences, and more. Chrome is not making any changes to first-party cookies at this time.
When you visit a website, it may include resources (such as images, ads, or scripts) from other domains. If these external domains set cookies on your browser, those cookies are considered third-party.
Third-party cookies are often used for various purposes, including tracking user behavior across different websites for advertising and analytics. However, concerns about user privacy and data tracking have led to increased scrutiny, leading Chrome and other browsers to restrict or block third-party cookies.
5 Ways to Prepare Your Website for the End of Third-party Cookies
As Chrome’s full deprecation of third-party cookies looms closer, here are five tips to get you started on preparing your website for the big change.
1. Don’t Wait to Restructure Your Website Strategy
Although Google announced over four years ago its plan to deprecate third-party cookies, many companies have not made many changes to their marketing strategies to accommodate this change. If this sounds like your company—good news, by reading this blog post you’re already taking a step in the right direction!
That said, you should take time to audit your website and larger marketing program to see where and how your company leverages third-party cookies on your website. We recommend gathering marketing leaders, marketing operations experts, and your website developers amongst other colleagues to understand how they make use of third-party cookies. Don’t just wait for the third-party cookie deprecation to break your systems, stay ahead of the curve and identify which parts of your marketing program will need the most triage in light of Chrome’s change.
That said, be realistic. Through the audit process, you may realize you don’t have the time or headcount to be proactive about the impending changes. Be aware of what your team can or cannot accomplish in the coming months, so you have a prioritized action plan when C-suite leaders ask what you’re doing in response to the change.
Ready to audit your website strategy? Download our Third-party Cookies Sunset Checklist to get started!
2. Focus on Collecting More Zero-party Data
The end of third-party cookies makes other forms of data increasingly more critical and valuable when building high-converting websites and elevated customer experiences. Because of this, you should turn your website into a zero-party data collection machine. Zero-party data is information that consumers willingly and proactively share with your business. Some common examples of zero-party data include email addresses, job titles, and phone numbers.
Because site visitors willingly provide this information it’s often seen as the gold standard of data in terms of privacy and accuracy. Using website elements like modals and chatbots, brands can make it easy for visitors to share their personal information, which brands can in turn use to create a more personalized website experience.
If you’re looking to get started with zero-party data, here are resources for ecommerce and B2B companies, respectively that can help!
3. Switch Up Your Cookies Banner
One of the small potential wins for companies in light of the end of third-party cookies, is being able to downsize those pesky cookies banner visitors are greeted with upon landing on a site! Reducing the size of these banners can improve user experience and make visitors' first impression of your website a more positive one.
That said, don’t make changes to your cookies banner until you have conferred with your legal team. Although you won’t be using third-party cookies by the end of the year, you will likely still be leveraging information that requires disclosure to website visitors. Even if you can’t remove the banner altogether, downsizing it can win you back some valuable visual real estate on your website.
4. Rethink Your Attribution Model
As marketers, we know that even the best attribution models leave some room for ambiguity. And unfortunately, once third-party cookies totally “crumble” there will be a lot more ambiguity for marketers to shoulder.
Meet with your marketing and business intelligence leaders to understand what parts of your company’s attribution model will break in light of Chrome’s change. Work cross-functionally to identify what parts of your website will need to be updated to support your company’s new attribution model.
But, more than anything—give yourself and your team some grace as you rethink your attribution model. We are entering uncharted, cookieless territory which means there’s no foolproof way to set up your attribution.
5. Invest In Cookieless Marketing Software
While you and your team work to eliminate reliance on third-party cookies, the brands that comprise your MarTech stack are doing the same. To avoid service disruptions, invest in marketing software that does not and has never relied on third-party cookies.
Intellimize is a completely cookieless SaaS platform that uses AI to optimize for 1:1 personalized website experiences across the entire buyer’s journey. With our technology, you can feel confident that your website personalization strategy won’t go up in flames once third-party cookies are gone.
It’s no secret that the end of third-party cookies means a lot more work for marketing teams in the coming months. But there is an upside— preparing your website for the end of third-party cookies will help protect consumers’ data and when you put the customer first in your marketing, you build trust with your brand.