Google Chrome will join Safari and Firefox to end support for third-party cookies before 2022. Collecting customer data is essential to online retailers who are looking to deliver a more personalized and targeted shopping experience. But with shoppers and internet users becoming more aware of privacy issues, online retailers need to look at smarter ways to collect data.

Cookies & Third-Party Cookies

  • A cookie is a small text file that that is sent from the web browser to the user’s computer/mobile device, where it is stored. This cookie has the ability to track the user’s preferences and likes. So while you are browsing online, the website you are on will check for cookies on your computer and use some of that stored data to give you a more personalized experience.
  • First-party cookies are sent directly from the website the user is visiting. So if you are on a shopping site, that site sends a cookie to your computer to help personalize the shopping experience for you, that would be a first-party cookie.
  • First-party cookies can become second-party cookies when they are transferred from one company to another through some sort of data partnership. An example of this would be an airline that sells it’s first-party cookie data to a partner hotel chain for use in ad targeting.
  • Third-party cookies come from a source outside of the website you are visiting. For example, if you are browsing a magazine or news website, and there is a banner ad from an ad network at the top of the page- that advertiser could send a cookie to your computer. Since it is not coming from the website itself, this cookie becomes a third-party cookie. Third-party cookies are often used in retargeting campaigns, where ads from one online store follow you around to other sites as you browse the web.

The Question Of Privacy

Retargeting may just be a harmless way to help shoppers return to complete a purchase, but it still does appear pretty creepy. Most of the time, the data that is collected is done so with the user’s permission, even if it is unknowingly done. Most license agreements you click ‘yes’ to will have a clause about sharing information with third parties.

Steps are already being taken to ensure more privacy- Europe’s electronic privacy directive requires websites to notify users when they are deploying cookies, and you may have come across similar messages yourself. Users also have the option to alter their cookie settings in their browser.

New Technologies

With the upcoming deprecation of support for third-party cookies, marketers will be looking for new technologies to track consumers and provide special offers to them. These technologies already exist but their use is not widespread.

As of November 2020, Chrome is still king with more than 63 percent of the browsing market share. Google is pivoting from third-party cookies to a larger strategy of creating a privacy sandbox with open standards for tracking users while protecting their privacy through new browser APIs like trust tokens.

With 2021 just around the corner, retailers should keep an eye out for developments from Google on their privacy strategies and be prepared to adjust their marketing efforts.