The end of third-party cookies may not be the end of the world as we know it

Without third-party cookies, how are you going to track your conversions? The wonderful world of cookieless tracking!

Google to phase out third-party cookies

As most marketers will have noticed, Google is to phase out third-party cookies by 2022. Firefox, Mozilla and Safari have blocked third-party cookies for years – one of the reasons why tracking has already become difficult. According to Google, the move to phase out cookies is based on privacy concerns. Critics have however argued that Google is opting for even more control of the ad market, as they will still collect personal data and sell access to “cohorts” of users. But that is a different discussion, and does not solve the problem at hand for marketers.

GDPR has already made tracking difficult

Third-party cookies have been under pressure for some time. For those of us who must comply with GDPR and explicit cookie-consents, the availability of data for tracking advertising ROI has deteriorated significantly. Cookie-blockers and javascript-blockers have not helped the situation. Europe is not the only jurisdiction where cookie-consent is required, and certainly not the last.    

What now for marketers?

Whilst waiting for Google’s next solutions, the marketing community seems to have formed a consensus that future focus should be on contextual marketing, content marketing and consent-based solutions. This is undoubtedly good advice, however not an easy change for E-commerce marketers that have focused heavily or maybe even exclusively on cookie-based optimization of their digital marketing activities.

Google’s 5 pillars of a holistic marketing measurement plan

In a post from January 2021, Google suggests 1) Leverage the power of first-party data, 2) Bring first-party data together with cross-platform tools, 3) Be transparent about data usage with your customers, 4) Fill measurement gaps with modeled data and 5) Predict customer behavior with a secure cloud-based solution. Again sound advice, but not a quick fix.

Cookieless tracking

In recent years, new technologies for tracking have been developed that do not use third-party cookies. “Cookieless tracking” can be confusing, as it is partly used as a term for analyzing website traffic without knowing the referrals for the visit. Cookieless tracking technologies are however attempting to harvest data that has similar value for a marketer as do third-party cookies. Cookieless tracking utilizes scripts that run when a user visits a web page but does not store information on the user’s browser device. The user remains anonymous, and cross-tracking is impossible. Without accessing or storing personal data these technologies add significant value to a digital marketer.

Fingerprinting is cookieless, but…

Fingerprinting has been around for many years, and its use has increased significantly, partly as cookie-consent requirements have increased. A digital fingerprint is created when a company makes a unique profile of you based on your computer hardware, software, add-ons, and even preferences. etc. The practice of fingerprinting allows tracking for months, even when the user clears the browser storage or uses private browsing mode. The first problem is that this works as a third-party cookie, without ever asking for the user’s consent. The second problem is that Google will block it as they view is as a workaround of the third-party cookie ban. Again, Mozilla, Firefox and Safari were ahead of Google in this regard.

Digtective: the solution for continued tracking without cookies

Digtective is a marketing software that is not based on cookies or fingerprinting, nor collects personalized data of any kind. Digtective offers 100% accurate and updated information on the performance of your campaigns and ads, enabling marketers to stop any marketing activity that is not producing the required conversions and spend more of their budget on profit-generating ads and campaigns. Digtective can be set up with an API to your CRM system without exchanging personal data, providing the opportunity to measure any post-sale metric such as recurring revenue, returns and defaults against customer acquisition costs.

Yann A, Skaalen

About the author

Founder and CEO Yann Skaalen has been involved in digital marketing since 1997. His latest venture was MyBank, a challenger bank which he co-founded
Digtective has been a pet project for Yann since 1998, with only a limited number of customers until recently when realizing the immense potential for the technology given the increasing difficulties for tracking.

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