Google Chrome cookies

Google’s new cookie policy is big, but savvy marketers can still thrive

Earlier this month, Google made sweeping changes to its Chrome browser, which could dramatically change the way online marketers gather customer data. Essentially, the update places strict limitations on third-party cookies with a view to eliminating them entirely by 2022. 

By Tanja Lategan, CEO, Enlight Strategic 

Marketers around the globe are railing against the change and pundits are suggesting it could see a massive shift to alternative browsers, such as Firefox, as the changes may render some websites unusable. 

Any resistance to change, however, is a little like screaming at the ocean in the hopes that it will stop being wet. 

Marketers should instead focus on ensuring that they have everything in place to take ownership of their customer data. It’s also critical that organisations start collecting this data now in order to build up historical databases before the three-year period has lapsed. 

Understanding cookies

In order to understand how big a change this really is, it’s important to remind ourselves how big a role cookies play in digital marketing. 

For the uninitiated, cookies are essentially pieces of text placed by websites on the hard drives of people visiting those websites. In doing so, they allow marketers to track which websites consumers have visited. As a result, they’ve formed the backbone of programmatic advertising, remarketing and ad targeting.

But they’ve also become controversial in the wake of Brexit and the 2016 US election, where they were used to build profiles of potential voters and target them accordingly. 

There is, therefore, more pressure to give users control over their own data, or at least be seen to be curbing the practices which gave rise to those issues. 

Google isn’t the first company to restrict cookies – Apple’s Safari and Mozilla’s Firefox have done so for some time. Google’s dominance of the browser market (Chrome accounts for 68% of desktop and 40% of mobile browser traffic) means that it doing so has a much greater impact. 

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The future of marketing 

For anyone heavily invested in the current system, Google’s decision to ditch cookies can feel catastrophic. Certainly some marketing tech companies  took a hit in the wake of the news. 

But even if circumstances had been different, chances are marketers would’ve had to move on from cookies anyway. They are a legacy technology from a time when most people’s interaction with the internet was via the desktop-based web.   

Thanks to the near ubiquity of the smartphone, that world has been disappearing for some time now.  And, with the rise of connected TVs, smart speakers, and other technologies will make third-party cookies increasingly irrelevant. 

Savvy marketers have been preparing for that change for some time and are investing in new identification technologies. 

Groups of marketing technologists and digital publishers, for example, are working on Shared ID solutions which allow for a greater degree of privacy on the user side without compromising on the ability to provide relevant, targeted advertising to those who consent to it. 

Adapt and enhance 

That said, it’s important that marketers who currently rely on the third-party cookie ecosystem remember that they do have time to adapt. What they cannot afford to do is pretend that everything will be fine if the status quo is maintained. 

Even those who are ahead of the curve right now will have to adapt again in the future. This is the nature of marketing in a constantly-changing digital world. 

While that can sometimes feel intimidating, there is no reason for a marketer with the right partnerships in place to be overwhelmed and swept aside by change. 

Make sure that you have the right tools and technology in place to own your data starting today. Not sure where to start? Speak to a consulting partner like Enlight Strategic to future proof your business. 

Is your business ready for transformation? Take our 5-minute Digital Maturity Assessment to find out and get a FREE report.

Tanja is the CEO and co-founder of Enlight Strategic. She has more than a decade’s worth of experience as a senior executive in the digital publishing and agency space and is passionate about the role technology can play in transforming businesses.