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Cookieless tracking: The potential impact on the world of advertising

Tracking cookies is a vital part of advertising. It’s really not a secret at this point, but those valuable insights into what a user is looking at or interested in on the internet have helped advertisers make ads and target relevant audiences for years now.

That being said, the news of the imminent cookieless tracking crisis has left a lot of businesses and advertisers feeling like they’re backed into a corner. Data privacy laws and regulations are being put into place that will prevent advertisers from viewing and using user data.

Although it’s not the most ideal situation, there are a few things we can count on, and a few workarounds that we know about at the moment. The aim of this article is not to scare you, but to inspire you to make the most of a new cookieless advertising world.

Thankfully, LeadsBridge is here to help you with an array of automated integrations with tools such as Facebook Conversions API – which we will look into later on in the article – that can help you work around cookieless advertising. If you’d like to look for a specific integration with Facebook Conversions API, you can easily do so yourself by typing in your desired source.

Without further ado, let’s get started with the question that’s looming on everyone’s mind as we march forward into a cookieless future.

How to track in a cookieless advertising world

Cookieless tracking and cookieless retargeting sound fairly impossible. After all, cookies were invented pretty much for that sole purpose. In a cookieless advertising world, there’s nothing to track. There is no longer a trail of breadcrumbs leading the advertiser to the audience. So how’s it done?

Well, before we dive into the details, it’s important to distinguish the difference between the types of cookies: 1st, 2nd, and 3rd party.

What are first-party cookies?

First-party cookies are created and managed by the publisher of a website, on said website. These cookies are created and used to remember website users’ preferences while visiting a specific website. Settings like language and light/dark modes are good examples of this. If, for example, you have Dark Mode activated on YouTube, the cookies that track that preference will not be transferred between websites. Instead, you have to manually activate Dark Mode on each website that you visit, if it’s offered.

What are second-party cookies?

Second-party cookies are cookies that are simply transferred from one company to another in a collective data partnership. The perfect example of this is when a bank or credit union sells first-party data to a credit card company. The credit card company can then use said data to accurately target audiences, and better understand who qualifies for a credit card, and who doesn’t. Because this data is sold for targeted advertising purposes, it is classified as second-party.

What are third-party cookies?

Third-party cookies are the cookies that are being done away with. These cookies are collected as you travel from website to website, gathering information about your preferences, interests, and habits. For many people, sharing information like this is concerning, which is exactly why the GDPR and CCPA have decided to step in and regulate third-party cookies.

GDPR-data-privacy

Saying goodbye to third-party cookies

The use of third-party cookies in advertising has provided a solid foundation for marketing teams for years. Unfortunately, Consumer Privacy Acts like GDPR and CCPA are making active efforts to further protect user data by making it unobtainable to advertisers, at least not without consent and full transparency.

Data speaks for itself. According to Statistain 2021 42.2% of users continuously rejected cookie consent banners. With almost one in two users refusing to share information, it’s impossible to build a detailed customer profile and provide a personalized experience.

Major platforms like Firefox and Apple have already done away with third-party cookies, and have made their way towards ITP2.2 and ETP. This is done by completely blocking third-party cookies entirely.

As the reality of the cookieless advertising world hits, Google has announced that they will be taking the steps to block third-party cookie tracking as well. At the time of this article, Google has announced that it delayed its plan to phase out third-party cookies in the Chrome browser until 2023. By doing away with third-party cookies, a lot will be affected, and not in a good way. It will affect a company’s ability to target the following fields:

Cookieless retargeting & tracking solutions

With everything above being said, we all have to ask ourselves: What does the cookieless advertising world have in store for us next? The answer to that really isn’t as clear as we’d hope. Although there are plenty of companies out there looking for solutions and tools to help with this situation, right now, we all have to kind of use what we know. We’ll get into tools in a moment, for now, let’s discuss some temporary workarounds.

Using first-party data

Although it’s not nearly as insightful, first-party data can be used from CRM tools, web traffic, and generic in-app data. This data is collected primarily from users that have already shown some sort of interest in your specific product, but it is definitely better than nothing, and it will still help with conversions.

LeadsBridge makes this connection automatic with easy integrations between your CRM and Facebook Custom Audiences, LinkedIn Matched Audiences, and Google Customer Match.

Below, you can find some of our most popular integrations for these tools.

If you’d like to learn more about how Google Customer Match works, you can watch the recording of our webinar in partnership with Google.

Contextual advertising

Contextual advertising is essentially targeted advertising specifically for advertisements that appear on websites and other media. This includes content displayed in mobile browsers. In contextual advertising (or context advertising) media is controlled based on the content of the website using linguistic elements. Essentially, advertisements that appear on the webpage are related in some way to the content of the page.

contextual-offers-nyt-example

Whitelisting

Whitelisting consists of targeting a list of domains, channels, and even apps that are relevant to the industry, and making the user see ads populating the site. Periodical maintenance and optimization would help to increase the conversion rate in this case.

Cookieless advertising on Facebook

For a long time now, tracking Facebook Ads Campaigns was as simple as plugging in a few lines of Javascript code and allowing Facebook Pixel to do the rest. Unfortunately, with the rise in data privacy laws, and the lack of third-party data, this will no longer be the case in our new cookieless advertising world.

Fortunately, Facebook still has an answer, and it’s called Facebook Conversions API, or CAPI for short. This tool was created in response to Pixel’s decreasing reliability but works in unison with it. Here’s how it works with a simple infographic.

As you can see, this process is fairly simple. Customers’ actions, signals, and events are so precious. Browser data, Pixel, and cookie-based technologies have been working great for years. However, we are moving towards a new era, where cookies and browser data are no longer as effective for tracking purposes as they were.

Thanks to its integration capabilities, LeadsBridge is able to establish a server-based connection between the marketing stack and the Facebook Business Event Manager without coding.

As an advertiser, you will be able to directly connect your CRM, Website, Ecommerce, Call center, mobile app, and any other systems with Facebook, making cookies unnecessary.

Regardless of the variety of systems that you use, LeadsBridge is able to retrieve, centralize and dispatch data to Facebook via a reliable server connection avoiding interruptions and loss of data.

With the combination of Conversions API and LeadsBridge, advertisers can leverage a reliable server-based connection, gain a granular understanding of the customers’ journey across multiple online and offline channels, and get a better grip on cookieless advertising.

Below are some of our most popular integrations with Facebook Conversions API.

Attribution without cookies

In the next few years, cookies will disappear because of the privacy changes started by Apple and the changes made by Facebook and Google in user-level tracking. Many channels that marketers are using to collect data will become obsolete. This is the reason why marketers are now looking for ways to do attribution without cookies. They are preparing for a cookieless advertising world and data privacy. The truth is, the end of cookies doesn’t signify the end of the track. In fact, there are alternative ways you can follow to get data for your campaigns.

As said above, LeadsBridge provides a solution for attribution without cookies: that is our integration for Facebook CAPI. With LeadsBridge and Facebook Conversions API, you can share your data easily. With it, you can track conversions such as leads, phone calls, purchases, email subscriptions, etc.

Secondly, focus on first-party data. Collect them by giving them something in exchange for the information. Connected TV is also an alternative you can consider. They can give you accurate data to understand the buying decisions of users.

Retargeting without cookies

Retargeting is a way to re-engage website users who have interacted with your business. Retargeting ads are profitable. Research shows that the average CTR for retargeting ads is 10 times higher than regular display ads.

However, most advertisers use third-party cookies for ad retargeting. Remember, third-party cookies are going to be obsolete soon. So, how do you run a cookieless retargeting campaign? The good news is, retargeting is still possible without using cookies. One thing you can do to achieve this is to use a landing page for your ad campaign. Run the campaign and send users to the landing page. Thereafter, you can run a retargeting campaign for the visitors that came to the landing page. This is an efficient and effective way of retargeting because you are re-engaging people who may be likely to convert.

Cookieless advertising: Google’s update and how it’s been received from advertisers

In March 2021, Google took its distance from other advertising companies by announcing that it won’t collect personally identifiable information (PII) graphs from alternative identifiers like users’ email addresses.

Google opted out of PII collection methods because it has implemented what seems to be a more secure alternative: Federated Learning of Cohorts (FLoC), aka Privacy Sandbox.

According to Google, the Privacy Sandbox is a “privacy-first” and “interest-based” advertising technology. Instead of third-party cookies tracking a user’s browsing habits across the web, Google Chrome will do this instead: Users will be placed into an audience or “cohort” grouped according to their habits, and advertisers will then be free to target their ads to these unidentifiable cohorts, rather than individual users, therefore maintaining their personal data private.

Why is Google eliminating cookies?

According to Justin Schuh, Google’s Director of Chrome Engineering, Google wants to take its distance from third-party cookies because users are demanding more privacy, transparency, choice, and control over how their data is used.

As a matter of fact, 86% of people stated that they were actively concerned about their data privacy. A further 78% expressed concerns about the amount of data collected. So the issue seems to be real.

But what does this mean for advertisers? When Google first announced its decision to phase out third-party cookies in January 2020, the Association of National Advertisers released a statement that expressed their “deep disappointment” with Google’s decision and acknowledged fears it would “significantly” disrupt the advertising industry.

The benefits of cookieless targeting

But it’s not all bad! In fact, cookieless targeting offers marketers and advertisers a great opportunity to experiment with new targeting solutions and innovate their strategies in a cookieless targeting world.

We’ve listed below 4 key benefits associated with cookieless targeting.

  1. Cookieless targeting helps you reach users when they’re in the right mindset.

For example, when a user is browsing for a specific topic, this signals their intent at that very moment. More specifically, if a user is reading about bed linen, it means they are in a receptive mindset for content and ads related to bed linen.

With cookieless targeting, that user could be served ads for bed sheets or pillows, as it’s likely at that time they’re thinking about bed linen-related products. The kind of content a user is consuming gives out an immediate signal about their intent at a specific moment in time, and with cookieless targeting, you can reach them in that specific moment with exactly what they want.

2. Cookieless targeting helps you target niche audiences.

Contextual advertising – which we’ve talked about earlier – provides the opportunity for marketers to target niche audiences by specifying a topic or a set of keywords. For example, a marketer who is running a campaign for a hair care product may want to target a specific pool of users by highlighting the fact that the product is vegan.

Cookieless targeting would enable them to indicate keywords related to vegan hair care products to precisely target a niche audience. This strategy is effective because it ensures your ads are served to consumers who are extremely receptive to your product.

3. Cookieless targeting provides real-time metrics

Since contextual advertising campaigns are served programmatically, you can review metrics in real time and optimize campaigns for maximum performance. This way, you can review your selected topics and keywords in real time.

Also, being able to make real time changes means you’re able to make adjustments that will reduce any ad dollar waste.

4. Cookieless targeting is safe and it builds trust

Now more than ever, consumers care about where they shop and are extremely careful about sharing their personal data. Contextual advertising helps you deliver advertising that is safe, by leveraging content rather than user data to reach the right audience.

For example, a consumer who is interested in environmental issues will likely browse the internet for content that provides insights on sustainable living. With contextual targeting, a brand that is promoting zero-waste products can target the keyphrase “sustainable lifestyle” with its ads to appear next to content that covers such topics.

How to be prepared for a cookieless world

Even though the timing of it is still unsure, we know for a fact that a cookieless world is in store for us, and the best way to face it is to be prepared for it, as much as possible. Below, we gathered some best practices to face the upcoming cookieless world with confidence.

Use a single online domain name

Having one single domain makes it easier for you to track your customers authenticated and persistent IDs across your website, with a unified first-party data management. This way, you’re able to recognize your customers without duplication, both across web and mobile, to monitor their connected journey.

A single online domain helps you gain a holistic view of your customers as they interact with your business, as well as a clearer understanding of potential cross-sell & up-sell opportunities that would have been hidden in a siloed, multi-domain environment.

Capture people-based identifiers

People-based identifiers are like authenticated IDs, but they link marketers and advertisers, while addressing privacy concerns. Durable identifiers that we know of today are email addresses and phone numbers. Maybe, moving forward, something new will eventually be developed that also classifies as an identifier. These are extremely important to effectively target users across platforms and reach audiences.

For example, hashed emails allow you to access valuable data on your customers and their online habits by leveraging the same email, which has a unique string that remains consistent across the web, tracing a customer’s activity across devices.

Develop second-party partnerships

Third-party data are a no-no, but second-party data can still be leveraged to some extent to face a cookieless world. Second-party data is another company’s first-party data that is shared with a partner, through a mutual agreement, either by dropping a container on the partner’s website or by exchanging files.

These partnerships are especially useful between companies with businesses that overlap in some way or have similar customer bases – for example, credit card companies and airlines can collaborate on branded cards with frequent flyer miles. Obviously, transparency with consumers is a must: they should be asked to give consent to this kind of data sharing.

What does the cookieless advertising future hold?

The future of cookieless advertising is a scary one, but nothing that can’t be figured out. The cookieless tracking techniques that we have now will only evolve, and the more we learn, the better our methods and strategies will become.

In addition to the methods listed above, there are some ways to work around it, but nothing is as headache-free as using third-party cookies. For years now, analog methods for measuring cookies have been available, they just aren’t the go-to. And it’s for good reasons.

In marketing the word analog instantly raises a red flag. Analog means more time, effort, and even money. The reason a lot of companies even exist is to automate these processes, LeadsBridge being one of them.

Fortunately, it’s not all lost. With the power of LeadsBridge and CAPItargeted advertising through Facebook doesn’t have to be difficult or analog. In fact, it’s quite an easy process that has helped companies land tons of leads, all automatically and in real time.

Conclusions and takeaways

For years now, advertisers have relied on third-party cookies to accurately target and retarget their audiences. And although the cookieless world might seem like a daunting future, in reality, it will be okay.

For ultimate control over this cookieless advertising and retargeting situation, the combination of LeadsBridge and Facebook Conversions API is unbeatable. Not only can you automate the process, but you can rest assured that all data transfers are both GDPR and CCPA compliant.

If you’d like to request a demo to better understand how LeadsBridge can set your Facebook Ad Campaigns on autopilot, then be sure to reach out to us. We have a dedicated support team ready to help you and guide you through the entire process.

Zachary McDaniel

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