Marketing in a world without cookies

Marketing in a world without cookies

Apple’s Safari browser and Netscape’s Firefox browser have already abandoned the use of “cookies,” but those browsers represent only a small share of internet users. Now Google has announced that it plans to stop using cookies on its Chrome browser, and doesn’t plan to replace the cookie system with an alternative way to track customers. That has internet marketers wondering how they will survive in a world without cookies.

What’s a cookie, anyway?

A cookie is a little piece of software coding that tells the computer who you are. A first-person cookie can help collect all your shopping choices on a web-site, so you can pay for them all at once. A third-person cookie collects your information not from page to page, but from web site to web site, and you don’t even know it’s there. That’s the kind of cookie that’s about to become extinct.

More and more sites are now asking you to consent to cookies on their landing page, but these little data clusters have been operating in the background for a long time. That’s why if you spend some time window-shopping for bows and arrows and then start looking at vacation possibilities, the travel web site will put up some options for archery camp. How does it know? It knows because it has seen the cookie you picked up at the archery supply site. This is also why, if you look at recipe sites during the day, you’ll find your Facebook feed full of ads for cookware that night. Because of cookies, the internet knows where you’ve been, and it uses that information to tempt you to buy something you might like.

Cookies have become wildly popular with advertisers. According to marketing research company Statista, 80 percent of internet advertisers rely on cookies—and when cookies disappear, those companies are going to have to figure out another way to work.

Business without cookies

How can your business adjust to the coming cookie extinction?

  1. Internet marketing experts advise that companies who rely on cookies start to test advertising campaigns on browsers that are already cookieless, like Safari.
  2. Put more thought into contextual advertising—essentially placing your ads on pages where you know potential customers might turn up. This means placing ads for your cookware right on the recipes web site. Geo-targeting—using a potential customer’s location to advertise things that might be used nearby (such as ads for hiking gear running in an area known for hiking trails) might work if your product or service is location-specific.
  3. Look at data from the publisher—the site that will host your ad—on what kinds of campaigns have worked before.
  4. Think about ways you can collect first-party data. Many shoppers will happily supply an email address in exchange for a discount or access to a bonus.  

Customer privacy is a trend that will not go away. With cookies on the way out, marketers will need to find ways to respect privacy while still getting the information they need.

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