The Cookies Crumble – Google Begins to Phase Out Third-Party Cookies

Since the early 2000s, web cookies have been a fundamental part of web browsing, serving a number of invaluable purposes for businesses operating within the digital realm, including session management, personalisation, analytics, and more.

These tiny text files allow websites to remember user information, making it convenient for individuals to navigate and interact with online platforms and playing a crucial role in enhancing a user’s digital journey. However, concerns over user privacy and data security have also led to increased scrutiny into how businesses are using cookies, resulting in the development of regulations that ensure transparent cookie usage and, most importantly, explicit user consent.

The General Data Protection Regulation, or GDPR, was rolled out in May 2018, with one of its central principles being that businesses have to obtain clear and informed consent from users before processing their personal data; this applies to cookies as well. Websites that use cookies for non-essential purposes, such as analytics or advertising, must obtain user consent, leading to the widespread adoption of annoying cookie consent banners or pop-ups on websites, allowing users to choose whether to accept cookies or not. GDPR has already created challenges for business trying to understand their customers, but the removal of third party cookies could quickly become a nightmare for many.

61% of web users in the UK typically provide consent for cookies, allowing businesses the invaluable insight into their website users that they require. However, the digital landscape is dramatically shifting once again, as Google takes steps to phase out third-party cookies within its Chrome browser as part of the “Privacy Sandbox Initiative”. This move is expected to be completed by the second half of 2024, and with Chrome accommodating 58.6% of the European internet browser market share, presents a significant and immediate challenge for businesses that heavily rely on their third-party cookies.


The Challenge

Since the rollout of GDPR in May 2018, in order to understand and target their users businesses have already had to navigate the need for clear user consent with regards to personal data processing. Now, Google’s Privacy Sandbox Initiative poses a new challenge, with a far from clear and obvious solution. Businesses and advertisers who heavily depend on third-party cookies to track customer journeys and deliver personalised information now face the risk of a vital part of their digital activities becoming undone – and almost overnight.

Without third-party cookies, and with Google stating that they won’t directly replace them, businesses will find it incredibly challenging to tailor not only their advertising, but also the entire digital journey. Where previously they would get detailed insight of external website activity, enhancing the user’s experience and allowing highly personalised advertising, business and marketing teams now face losing this information entirely.

Without the ability to track and understand user behaviour, digital journeys will become less precise. Overall user conversion will likely experience a slump, as individuals experience a less tailored and smooth browsing experience. It will also add a major hurdle in front of effective customer segmentation, as businesses struggle to understand exactly who is going through their digital journey, and why. Even on browsers where third-party cookies are still available, this population may well demonstrate different behaviours and actions to the majority so may not provide reliable insight in the future.


Tracking Digital Journeys in a Cookieless World

It goes without saying that the ‘do nothing’ risk to a business here is severe. Therefore, its important that the relevant business teams act now to ensure that they aren’t faced with an insurmountable challenge in the frighteningly near future. If the digital side of your business is reliant on even just a few third-party cookies, a significant amount of time and effort invested into both the cookies, and the subsequent user segmentation and analytics, will instantly become redundant.

The transition to a cookieless world requires swift changes to systems and processes. These adjustments must begin promptly to allow time for implementation while the insight from cookie data is still available. The need for a smooth transition is paramount to avoid disruptions in understanding user behavior and maintaining effective business continuity online.

Your first party data will become even more valuable. This is the data that a business owns outright, where users have directly provided their information. First party cookies are the ones typically described on the consent form as “essential” and allow you to gather information on how specific individuals interact with your website.


The PrinSIX Solution

Chrome isn’t the only browsing platform to begin the phase out of cookies. Others, such as Apple’s Safari and Mozilla’s Firefox are also removing third-party tracking in their own ways.

In the face of this evolving landscape, the PrinSIX platform emerges as a solution to tackle the challenges posed by the phase-out of cookies. With fast development times, without the need for significant IT resource to provide tracking of individual digital journeys with an auditable record, the platform operates without relying on third-party cookies; instead the PrinSIX platform records the information entered by each customer at each stage of the process, in real time, providing a greater depth of understanding of each individual customer than cookies ever provided. The details captured, along with the more granular customer insight, allows businesses the opportunity to retarget customers with personalised communications to drive better customer experience and conversion, continuing to enable deep understanding of each customer as an individual. This means that businesses using the PrinSIX solution won’t experience any disruptions in personalised digital journeys, ensuring that continuity in user experience and advertising optimisation can still be achieved via other communication methods such as SMS and Email.

As the digital world adapts to the changing cookie landscape, the PrinSIX technology will play a crucial role in helping businesses maintain their competitive edge and navigate the challenges of a cookieless future.


If you’re interested in learning more about how PrinSIX’s technology can help you to gain a deep understanding of your individual customers, then get in touch with a member of the team here.

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