The banning of third-party cookies has ignited a heated debate about the future of online advertising.
Experts are predicting that the post-purchase marketing landscape will look very different as a result, with brands having to rely more on first-party data to target consumers. But, there's one thing we know for sure: brands and marketers will have to be innovative to maintain customer loyalty in a cookie-free world.
In this article, we'll help you answer key questions, including:
- What are third-party cookies, and why do they matter to me?
- How can eCommerce retailers survive in a post-cookie world?
- Can 1st-party cookies save the day?
- How can positive post-purchase experiences reduce reliance on 3rd party cookies?
Ready to jump in?
What Are Third-Party Cookies?
Let's start at the beginning.
Third-party cookies are small text files that are quietly placed on your device when you visit a website. Once they are on your device, they are able to track and report your surfing activity. Data about where you go, what you watch, and what you buy becomes available to the highest bidder.
As a consumer, the red flags are obvious: privacy concerns, data breaches, and the feeling of being watched all come to mind. But for brands, third-party cookies have been an essential part of driving website traffic and sales.
They are used for a variety of purposes, including targeted advertising, remarketing campaigns, and used to power website analytics. Marketers can get a clear picture of how users interact with their website and what kind of ads are most effective. It takes out some of the guesswork.
A 2021 study found that 83% of marketers in the US rely on third-party cookies – accounting for a marketing spend of roughly $22-billion USD.
So, the fact that they’re going away is a big deal, to say the least.
Why Are They Being Banned?
Governments and privacy advocates have been calling for the banning of third-party cookies for years due to concerns over user privacy. In May of 2018, the European Union's General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) went into effect, which requires companies to get explicit consent from users before placing any type of cookie on their device.
As a result, many websites have begun to ban third-party cookies altogether.
Some of the most notable tech giants have already fallen in line with their own response:
- Google will be ending its use of third-party cookies by the end of 2023
- Apple already released updates giving consumers the ability to decide which apps can have access to their activity
- Mozilla has made it a default setting to block third-party tracking on all of their browsers
This spells trouble for marketers who have relied on third-party cookies to target and retarget ads. Without cookies, companies will no longer be able to track their customers across the web, which means that they'll have to find other ways to reach them.
What Does This Mean for Brands?
With the ban, brands are losing a key opportunity to track users' browsing activities and generate targeted ads. This result is that companies will need to find other ways to track user behavior and promote relevant products.
This presents a huge obstacle for marketers. According to studies by Hubspot and GetApp, 41% of marketers believe their biggest challenge will be their inability to track the right data.
These changes usher in a new way of thinking about post-purchase marketing. It's no longer enough to focus on acquisition and driving users back to your website through retargeting. Instead, you need to think more creatively about how you can keep customers engaged and interested in your products once they've made a purchase.
This opens the door to a strategy that can minimize the negative consequences of lost tracking cookies. You can still keep your customers interested and reduce churn by utilizing the data you currently have access to while also taking control of the customer experience.
How Can eCommerce Retailers Survive in a Post-Cookie World?
In short, the answer is adaptation.
eCommerce retailers will need to find new ways to target and engage customers without the use of third-party cookies. This may include relying more on first-party data (information that is collected by the retailer itself), using customer segmentation, or developing more sophisticated marketing automation tools.
While it's certainly not going to be easy, there are a few things that retailers can do to make the transition. Here are a few tips:
- Increase ROI by collecting first-party data: This means gathering information about customers' browsing habits and preferences directly from your website with tracking codes from first-party cookies or customer surveys. In a study by Google, retailers saw an ROI increase of 12% - 35% when using personalization from first-party data.
- Develop targeted marketing campaigns: Once you have a good understanding of your customers' needs and wants, you can develop targeted marketing campaigns that are more likely to resonate with them. This may include personalizing your email newsletters, creating custom landing pages, or sending abandoned cart reminders.
- Invest in marketing automation: Automated marketing tools can help you target customers more effectively and efficiently. These tools can be used to segment customers based on their interests, preferences, and purchase history, which allows you to send them personalized messages that are likely to convert.
Can 1st-Party Cookies Save the Day?
Unlike third-party cookies, first-party cookies can only be read by the website that placed them on your device. This means that they don’t follow you across the internet and they are not shareable with third-party ad networks, which means that your surfing data will remain more private.
Building a marketing strategy around the first-party cookie is not a new concept, but it is one that is gaining more traction in light of the ban.
Using first-party cookies, you can send personalized emails to customers or use tools like Meta for Business and Google Ads to create custom audiences based on the actions on your website. For example, if someone abandons their shopping cart, you could send them a targeted email reminding them to complete their purchase, or serve up an ad to return to your website after abandoning a cart.
Despite these drawbacks, first-party cookies offer a number of advantages over third-party cookies, including:
- They are more private: First-party cookies cannot be shared with third-party ad networks, which means that your data will remain more private.
- They are more accurate: You have more control of the information that you ultimately gather. With first-party information, you can start building relationships with the exact information you need, in real-time. As a result, you'll have more precise and dependable data to power your marketing activities and customer-first experiences.
- You gain a competitive advantage: First-party data is a great source of knowledge about consumers. This allows for a deeper understanding of customers as well as the ability to contact them with a personalized offer that is relevant and accurate. As a company collects data on how people interact with its website and other digital assets, it learns what it can improve.
While the loss of 3rd party cookies will strike an inevitable blow to eCommerce retailers and marketers alike, careful use of data from 1st party cookies will offer new opportunities to engage and attract shoppers.
Are there other ways to drive traffic to my website?
In response to the ban and the limitations it will place on marketing efforts, many brands are looking to other parts of the buyer journey to build revenue-building relationships. One proven strategy is to use a service like AfterShip to create customized post-purchase experiences.
From increased shipment availability and notifications to analytics and accurate delivery date predictions—these tools help retailers deliver an effortless post-purchase experience for their customers. But when it comes to innovating with first-party data, the ability to have branded tracking pages is the feature that shines the most.
Beyond the obvious benefit of giving you a landing page that provides a seamless experience, you also get to keep more traffic and strengthen SEO. With AfterShip, you get to white label the domain and enable SSL for increased security, instead of sending your customers to a page hosted by another vendor. These pages look and feel like your brand.
Branded tracking pages open the door for other revenue-generating strategies. You can use them to upsell customers on complimentary products, cross-sell products from other categories, or even simply offer discounts on future purchases—all without the need for paid advertising.
All of this is possible because you have full control over the customer experience. You decide what information is displayed and how it's presented. This gives you the ability to create a truly personalized experience for each and every customer.
Let’s take a deeper dive into the main advantages that branded tracking pages provide:
1) A Space To Promote Relevant Products To Your Audience
With the loss of cookies, there will be a natural decrease in the ROAS on paid ads.
The dollars in your ad spend will have to work much harder to bring the same results as they did before. You'll need to be more strategic in how you place your ads and what kind of products you promote.
A branded tracking page gives you a space to do just that. By placing relevant products on your tracking page, you can make sure that users who are interested in those products will see them even after they leave your website. It's an effective way to keep users engaged with your brand post-purchase.
2) A Way To Drive Customers Back To Your Website
Driving website traffic is an area where cookies have been incredibly successful. The ability to track users' browsing activities and generate targeted ads has allowed brands to spend millions of dollars on ads that are directed specifically at their target audience.
With the ban, this avenue is now closed to brands. However, branded tracking pages can be used to drive website traffic in a similar way.
For example, if a user is interested in buying a new pair of shoes, the branded tracking page can be used to promote the brand's latest line of shoes. Doing this will help to keep the user engaged with the brand's website, which will allow for first-party cookies to be placed on the user's device.
This can lead to a significant increase in website traffic and, ultimately, sales.
Building a Better Post-Purchase Strategy
Every hurdle is an opportunity to innovate.
The ban is a perfect example of this. It's an opportunity for brands to rethink their post-purchase marketing strategies and find new ways to keep users engaged with their products.
A recent Shopify study reported that, as third-party cookies phase out and advertising conversion rates continue to plummet, 80% of marketers will likely abandon personalization efforts by 2025.
At the moment, studies have shown that roughly 46% of marketers feel “very prepared” for this shift—leaving more than half scrambling to adapt their post-purchase strategies.
Now is the time for brands to start thinking about how they can use branded tracking pages to create positive post-purchase experiences for their customers. Thinking ahead will help brands stay ahead of the curve and keep their customers coming back for more.
AfterShip helps e-commerce businesses provide their customers with amazing post-purchase experiences that drive brand loyalty and sales. Let us show you how. Book a demo today.