Tech Line

Future-Proof Your Business with First-Party Data

Cookies Don't Just Crumble In the Mail

A simple settings change in Google’s Chrome browser is going to wreak Y2k-like havoc on the entire digital marketing industry by the end of 2024. That change? Third-party cookies will default to being blocked.

A before-and-after view of default cookie settings in Google’s Chrome browser.

Why is this such a big deal? Safari and Firefox eliminated support for third-party cookies a decade ago, and the world didn’t end. The difference, of course, is size and market share. While Safari and Firefox together account for about 15 percent of browser usage, Google’s Chrome browser serves 65 percent of the market. An estimated 2.5 billion users will be affected by the change.

Why are Third-party Cookies Being Blocked?

If you buy remarketing campaigns on Facebook, you are making use of third-party cookies. To work, remarketing campaigns require Facebook—the third-party in this example—to know who’s been on your site so they can prompt them to return. Technically, the way this works is that Facebook drops a third-party cookie on your visitor’s browser.  

But here’s the rub: The browser has to allow third-party cookies to be set. So far, Chrome has said yes to third-party cookies. But by the end of 2024, Chrome’s and its 2.5 billion users will join Safari and Firefox by setting the default to not allow these cookies to be set.

And it’s not just remarketing that will be impacted. Programmatic advertising also drops third-party cookies to track users. Behavioral targeting is also often built on third-party cookies. Cross-domain and cross-device tracking also can rely on third-party cookies.

An example of third-party cookies set by a programmatic-ad network showing the same user-ID on two different sites.

Use of third-party cookies is nearly ubiquitous in the marketing industry. According to Forbes Magazine, 80 percent of marketers have used third-party cookies to target advertising. As recently as early March 2023, Martech reported that 75 percent of marketers still rely heavily on third-party cookies and 45 percent are still spending half their budgets on third-party cookie-based programs.

For marketers who predominantly rely on third-party cookies to reach eyeballs, the demise of third-party cookies is bad news, indeed. In fact, marketers today don’t have a reach problem, they have an engagement problem. This new arrangement won’t help. Google was set to deploy the third-party cookie setting change back in 2021 but put in place a two-year delay, specifically to give marketers and developers a chance to adapt their systems and processes.  

A First-party Solution to a Third-party Problem

What’s a marketer to do? Well, according to experts such as Gartner, the game is shifting from third-party data to first-party data. First-party data refers to the data that marketers collect themselves. The cookies that marketers use for this—called first-party cookies—are not impacted by the 2024 settings change to third-party cookies.    

A Gartner survey found that 82 percent of the 400 marketing leaders surveyed are prioritizing first-party data.  

While collecting first-party data comes with its own slew of data-privacy concerns and regulations, it also comes with rich rewards. A mini-industry has emerged for a type of software called a Customer Data Platform (CDP), which manages privacy issues while giving marketers full-throttled access to the data. Such as:

  • “Own” vs “Rent”: With first-party data, companies have more control over what data is collected and how (and how often) it is used.
  • Demographic Understanding: The ongoing collection of data about customers and those interested in the product category provides a more profound, data-driven understanding of customers and their needs and wants.
  • More Access to Customers: Companies that typically sell through intermediaries could find that first-party data provides the framework for them to service customers directly.
  • Behavioral Data: It’s possible to collect behavioral information about visitors and then use that information to more efficiently transition prospects to customers.
  • Personalization: First-party data can engender deeper customer loyalty since it’s more practical to make a web experience more relevant to their needs.
  • ROI: A report from identity-marketing found that “First-party data garners the highest return on investment of any data type....

High-engagement Marketing Systems

Notably, having a robust first-party data strategy enables companies to integrate with external, high-engagement marketing systems, such as direct mail, to shorten their sales cycles. By integrating their direct mail provider, such as PFL, with their CDP or CRM, marketers can deploy personalized direct mail as one of the touchpoints in the customer journey. This allows marketers to use their own data to personalize and trigger sends at any scale--from hundreds to millions. It also allows marketers to manage and measure direct mail performance and ROI.

The PFL platform offers deep integrations with leading CRMs and MAPs, including Salesforce, many of the Salesforce Clouds, Marketo, and Iterable, enabling businesses to seamlessly leverage digital signals and behavioral data to trigger physical touchpoints. Leading organizations use PFL to deliver on-brand experiences that earn the attention of their core audiences, build brand affinity, and amplify business growth. All without the need for third-party cookies.

While the demise of third-party cookies will no doubt present an obstacle for marketers who rely on them heavily, shifting to a first-party strategy now makes total sense. Deploying the proper systems and strategies will help to ensure—as organizations such as Deloitte and Epsilon have noted—that you can future-proof your business. The addition of first-party, data-driven direct mail can go a long way to driving business success.