For almost as long as the Internet has been around, cookies have been there. They’re so much a part of our online experience that we often just click the ‘Accept Cookies’ pop-ups without really thinking about it.

However, things are set to change. Last year, Google announced that they were planning to phase out third-party cookies by the end of 2021. As Safari and Firefox already block third-party cookies, this means that by 2022 the web will be entirely free of third-party cookies for most people.

Obviously, this carries big implications for marketers. As cookies play an integral role across many different marketing channels, including remarketing, businesses will have to adapt. As a result, it’s important to ensure you’re familiar with what cookies are and what they’re used for.

What are the different types of cookies?

There are two types of cookies: third-party cookies and first-party cookies. While they function differently, they’re both focused on repurposing user data to provide a better online experience.

First-party cookies are tied to a specific domain, and the data they record generally isn’t used beyond that domain. Often, they’re implemented to provide the user with a better experience on that site. For example, they may record pieces of information, such as items you had in your cart or your username and password, so you can come back to a site without having to start over again. They help make your online experience that little bit more streamlined.

In comparison, third-party cookies have a much wider scope and are normally used for tracking and online advertising. They help allow businesses to provide targeted advertising and remarketing. For example, if you come close to buying a certain product – adding it to your cart, but not purchasing it – the company might choose to show you targeted display ads for that product further down the line.

It’s worth remembering that it’s only third-party cookies that Google will be phasing out; first-party ones are set to stick around.

What are the implications of third-party cookies being phased out?

It’s too early to know what the full implications of this shift will be, but it’s important for businesses across all sectors to be prepared.

While the end of the year may still feel like a while away, adapting your marketing strategies sooner rather than later is only going to help you stay ahead of your competitors. The first step is to identify which areas of your marketing strategy are currently reliant on third-party cookies and then identify the ways you can adapt these when the shift comes.

A number of different technologies are emerging that hope to fulfil a similar purpose to third-party cookies while protecting people’s data, but it seems unlikely there will be one unified solution by the time third-party cookies are phased out. First-party cookies in particular seem likely to become more important than ever; establishing meaningful and trusting relationships with your users has never been more essential in this respect.

Additionally, several sites such as Facebook and Google will still be able to deliver audience data through their platforms, so don’t expect a complete shift away from targeted marketing.

The best approach that businesses can take is to stay up to date on the developments around the phase-out and ensure that they’re familiar with how their company is currently using cookies. For help developing a strategy to traverse this shift – or for additional support with any of your digital marketing goals – please get in touch with us.