Many are aware that the way cookies are used is changing – but there are many more people that aren’t fully aware of the consequences. Farhad Divecha, MD and Founder of AccuraCast explains why it is vital that businesses act now to avoid losing out, along with practical advice on how they can do so.
Apple’s quiet introduction of iOS 14.5 is only step one of the sea change we’ll see in digital marketing over the next year and beyond. Most marketeers are aware that the way cookies are used is changing – but there are many more businesses that aren’t fully aware of the consequences. Those who do know, aren’t much better off. In fact, recent research has shown that although 75% of businesses believe alternatives to third-party cookies are essential, the same research revealed that almost half of companies are not fully prepared for a future without cookies.
This poses the question; why? Could it be that other factors have taken priority, or could it simply be because they don’t know where to start?
It could be true that although the looming issue of a cookie-less future has hung over the heads of those in marketing for the past year, Covid has taken the crisis spotlight for the last 14 months. This would mean that cookie-less marketing has been less of an urgent priority for many.
While this is understandable, it also means the deadline to implement solutions to overcome marketing cookie restrictions edged closer and those that have not prepared for it are facing yet another crisis.
Don’t Fall Victim to Complacency
Although Google has recently announced they will delay rolling out changes to third-party cookie handling on Chrome, it’s still coming.
The lack of clarity from Google about how the changes to third-party cookie processing should be handled by advertisers, is perplexing. Whether Google uses this delay to consult with the CMA as well as different parties that will be affected by the changes – including advertisers, agencies, publishers and ad-tech & tracking solutions providers – remains to be seen.
More urgently, though, iOS 14.5 is already here, and a lot of advertisers are feeling the effects of resulting changes on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.
At some point, cookies that allow Facebook and Google to track users on other websites, such as after they have clicked on ads, will be disabled by default for nearly 90% of users. By 2023, the most popular browsers and apps will block third-party cookies by default, and if the opt-in figures on iOS are anything to go by, this will create big challenges for all advertisers.
Planning a Solution
Many are under the impression that they have ample time to overcome the cookie-less marketing challenge, but that’s simply not the case. It takes time to plan and implement solutions for something that impacts such a fundamental part of performance marketing. In fact, larger organisations may need to allow three to six months and free up development and marketing tech resources to implement a solution.
Building first party data to supplement the loss of audiences due to tracking restrictions will take even longer.
All brands will be faced with the risk of losing opportunities to optimise ad campaigns to drive more sales and retarget previous customers and visitors to their websites. Many customers will no longer see personalised and targeted adverts.
According to Facebook, advertisers could see a 150% increase in cost per acquisition if they lose performance tracking. This is a massive change to digital marketing, and brands that don’t consider it will find their costs increase very significantly along with the fact that it will be harder to track their customers.
But all is not lost. There are options to overcome this hurdle:
- Enhance tracking – Google Analytics alone isn’t enough. You need to implementserver side tracking otherwise you will find your costs rising and audience sizes shrinking
- Build up first-party data – don’t just rely on basic targeting via Facebook, Google Ads or Programmatic networks. You need to acquire more data directly from your customers (first-party data) and reach known and related audiences
- Upgrade your attribution modelling – I would recommend doing this to get a view on real cost per acquisition and translate what that means for your business. It will show where you should invest more money and where you should save. Doing this manually is fine if you have dedicated resources but if not, invest in the necessary tools.
Avoiding this could be catastrophic for your business – unless you plan now. Start building your own customer and target audience data and lists – in essence, your own first-party data. Plan and implement alternative tracking solutions that can supplement the potential data loss (e.g. Facebook’s Conversions API). And remember to update GDPR cookie notices because data collection methods on site will change.
You may be waiting for the big players; Apple, Google and Facebook, to lead by example and show you the way. Unfortunately, you could be waiting a long time. By the time they do provide guidance, it’ll most likely be too late and you’ll see damage done to your business already. The changes over the next year and beyond will be significant but the effect on your business needn’t be if you start now.
By Farhad Divecha
Founder and MD