How the cookie crumbles

How the Cookie Crumbles.

The future may be cookie-less.
But there's no need to throw a tantrum.

Little girl mobile

We’ve all seen it at a family party. Confiscated cookie in hand, a parent foolishly tries to quell a screaming toddler’s tantrum. “While cookies are yummy and we can enjoythem sometimes, they are not an ‘every-day food'” they say, only to discreetly eat the cookie themselves post-lecture. Cookies are delicious, even if we know they don’t contain the nutrients we need to maintain a healthy diet (even if they’re oatmeal raisin).

Similarly, marketers know that digital cookies (code that stores an individual user’s website activity) don’t have all the nutrients we need to feed our marketing plans long-term. For decades we’ve had the ability to use cookies to deliver personalized web experiences while also collecting audience online behavior data. So, why would we choose anything else?

Little Girl

Marketers use cookies to collect information on audience interests based on browsing activity, purchases, and preferences. They enable user-friendly customer experiences like helping consumers remember items in their shopping carts or serving ads for products relevant to their interests.

Cookies Will Disappear (Eventually)

We continued coming back for more helpings to fuel our programmatic media campaigns year-after-year. Only this time when we reached for a cookie, Safari said “No.” Firefox said “No.” And Google said, “Ok, but only ONE more.” A response that was likely influenced by the EU’s 2018 General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), the implementation of the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) in 2020, and an influx of data breaches from online platforms like Facebook, Zoom, and credit bureaus over the past decade.

Firefox blocked cookies in February 2021 as a part of its “Enhanced Tracking Protection Strict Mode.” Safari has been increasing cookie restrictions through its Intelligent Tracking Prevention (ITP) since 2017. So we shouldn’t be shocked that Google announced it would be phasing out third-party cookies on Google Chrome in July 2024 (a date that is a constant moving target).

Why the delay? Google controls 2/3 of the global browser market (and Google Ads uses cookies and other technologies to serve their advertisements) so discontinuing cookies – even gradually – is extremely disruptive to brands who are completely reliant on third-party tracking.

From Tantrum to Teachable Moment

Now that we’ve been told “No” our instinct is probably to get annoyed or angry, just like
our toddler. But maybe the tantrum we want to throw is a teachable moment in disguise,
challenging us to gain a deeper understanding of our consumer, their wants, and their needs.

To keep our diet and our revenue streams healthy in a cookie-less world, marketers should: 

Give Consumers More Control

Consumers have been asking for more data transparency from brands and online advertisers, with as many as 94% expressing they want control over the information they share with companies per a study by Qonsent. This idea of consumers being the owners of their data should be central to your website UX plan if you want to build trust. Think about how this concept applies to your contact forms and the data you collect. Providing the minimum number of required form fields not only makes it easy for online visitors to convert, but also means you have less PII (personal identifiable information) to protect from potential breaches.

Provide Transparency

77% of consumers shared that transparent data practices positively impact their purchasing decisions, with over half reporting that they try to purchase more from transparent brands. Most consumers don’t realize just how much data they are giving up when online – with 25% aware they are sharing their location, 17% aware that they are sharing their IP addresses, and just 15% their web history, per Harvard Business Review. Marketers must be intentional with consumer data, not hoard it. Ask yourself, what are you trying to accomplish with their browsing history or personal email? The data collected must be used in a way that provides value both to the consumer and to your business, like sharing information on discounts related to e-commerce products in their cart.

Continue to Personalize

80% of consumers are more likely to buy from brands when they provide them with a personalized experience. Without cookies to lean on, marketers will need to go straight to the source to get the qualitative and quantitative data needed to craft a personalized experience for consumers across digital properties.

LEAP Agency’s scientific and human-first approach to primary research helps marketers leave no “nutrients” behind. Led in-house by a PhD, the team leverages traditional research methodology and combines it with the individual project’s needs to create personalized stratetgy tailored to the needs of the audience and project. This may involve:

  • Distributing a highly focused survey to your consumer base determining how your product
    or service is perceived differently across
    geographic regions.
  • Getting to know the real reason behind why a user clicks on your listing on Google’s Search Engine Results Page (SERP) and how they navigate your site’s UX through a digital, self-paced module.
  • Exploring psychographic segmentation by moderating a focus group to find similarities in motivations of your consumers.

This data, collected with explicit consent from your audience, is leveraged to create personas that explore the person behind the cookie, giving you insight into what drives their behavior, and how you can inspire them to take action. This provides the context you need to select a channel on when and where they are going to be most likely to engage with your
brand, heightening your chance of success.

Cookies are tasty, but your marketing efforts and subsequent company revenue will grow best with a steady diet of getting to know your consumer and meeting their needs. And while you’re snacking on the last of the cookies that Google has put out on the table, now’s a good time to start plotting your transition to contextual, creative advertising rooted
in consumer consent.