Third Party Cookies: What’s a Marketer To Do?!

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First of all, what are cookies?

And no, I’m not talking about delicious baked goods. I’m referring to the type of cookies that allow marketers to:

  • Track website visitors.
  • Improve the user experience.
  • Collect data on what your visitors do online 24/7.
  • Target ads to the right audiences.
  • Create a hyper-targeted online experience.

Think of a cookie as a little piece of code that third-party companies (like Facebook) use to track and tag all of your movements and behaviours online.

Have you ever noticed that after you browse an online store and log into Facebook (or any other social media network), you just happen to see ads for the exact things you were just looking at? Well, that’s a prime example of third party cookies hard at work.

As a marketer, this is incredibly useful information to have. As a consumer, this represents a huge privacy issue. Do you really want companies to be able to track ALL your movements online? *shrug* followed by a *side eye*

Because of these privacy issues, third party cookies are being phased out. In fact, Google recently announced that it will be phasing out third party cookies for Chrome users in 2022.

So, what does this mean for marketers? How are we supposed to create hyper-personalized experiences for our customers without the data from third party cookies? Well, that’s a great question and I’m glad you asked!

Two Key Ways To Future-Proof Your Marketing Efforts

There are so many things marketers can do to future their marketing without the use of third party cookies. But, my two favorite ones are right here:

  1. First Party Cookies and Google Analytics
  2. Social Media Insights

First Party Cookies and Google Analytics

Let’s take a deeper look into both of these. First off, we have Google Analytics. The data collected by Google Analytics comes from first party cookies. These types of cookies are fully legal and are set by the website owner. What kind of data can one gather from first party cookies?

Here are a few examples:

  • Session data including time on site
  • Pages visited
  • Exit pages
  • Items left in a shopping cart

The main difference between first and third party cookies is that first party cookies are available only on the website owner’s site. The information does not appear anywhere else on the internet. So, how can we use this to our marketing advantage?

I decided to test out how Travelocity uses first party cookies and I was delightfully surprised. Here’s what I found:

Day 1: We visited Travelocity’s website and searched for flights and travel packages to Las Vegas. It’s COVID after all and a girl can dream, right? (I should mention that I’m already a subscriber to their email list). I browsed some flight options for about 5 minutes, then I left the site.

Day 5: I revisited the site and was immediately shown deals for the exact same Las Vegas hotels and packages I viewed 5 days ago. In other words, ALL the prices were cheaper. How in the world is this wizardry even possible?! It’s because they used their first party cookies to remember me as a user and they logged all my actions on their site. Travelocity remembered what deals I looked through before, and showed me more deals that I would likely be interested in. So, like a good little researcher, I viewed these new deals and then left the site again.

Day 7: This was the real kicker. I got an email advertising an even better Las Vegas travel deal: 4 nights and 3 days for $99 at the hotel I was most interested in staying at. Travelocity remembered that I viewed this hotel several times, but hadn’t yet made a purchase. They used my email (from when I first signed up) to try and entice me back to them. They wanted my business, so, like the Godfather, they made us an offer we couldn’t refuse. (But, in the end, I did refuse it because COVID!!)

Social Media Insights

In addition to first party cookies, we can also use social media insights to help future proof our marketing efforts and gauge whether our content is engaging the right audiences.

Let’s use YouTube as an example.

One of my clients is a YouTuber known for posting at-home fitness videos to her channel. Her pre-COVID content consisted of high-intensity workouts designed to push you hard enough to hurl during the warmups (yes, that’s been tested by yours truly).

Now, let’s fast forward to peak COVID days. She used her YouTube analytics and was able to see that her audience was starting to skew older, and these users were requesting workouts that were still intense, but not so hard on their bodies (e.g. low impact, no jumping, etc).

How did she respond? Using the knowledge she gleaned from her analytics, she created a whole new playlist of workouts that were manageable for older people and those recovering from injuries. She was able to continue to grow her account and create content that was relevant for a whole new demographic, all thanks to YouTube analytics. If that doesn’t make data sexy, then I don’t know what does!

Now What?

As a business owner or marketer, you too can use these tactics to grow your customer base. Strategic marketing decisions backed by data and steeped in creativity are the best ones you can ever make.

Still not sure if you can do this on your own, well then let’s chat! I’d love to help!

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