The Evolution of the Cookie

Ever wonder why you see ads for products you recently added to an online shopping cart but didn’t ultimately buy?

Ever wonder why you see ads for products you recently added to an online shopping cart but didn’t ultimately buy? Well, this is because you are being tracked…but don’t freak out (yet). It’s all about cookies.

What is a Cookie?

A cookie is a small file stored on your device. It’s designed to hold data specific to you and the websites you visit. Once the cookie is placed on your device, it allows servers to deliver content tailored to your usage. These pages can also contain a script that is aware of the data in the cookie which lets it carry information from one site to another. Marketers have been using cookies for years to track website visitors, improve user experience, and collect data that helps them target the right audiences.

Pros and Cons of the Cookie

So, now you know you are being watched. But does this at least work in your favor? Or is it an invasion of privacy?

The answer is complicated. First off, cookies are beneficial for your online shopping experience because most eCommerce sites allow you to put things in your cart, leave, then come back at any point and resume shopping with your cart intact. Handy, right? They are also great for remembering submitted information on forms such as names, dates, addresses, phone numbers, etc. This saves you a lot of time and aggravation. Additionally, cookies help with security because they allow web servers to know whether or not you are logged in—making it harder for someone else to access your account.

But of course, there’s a potential downside. Cookies have been deemed controversial by some. The main concern relates to privacy and how most browsers accept cookies by default. Cookies are stored on your device every time you browse the Internet which leads to your browsing history and IP address becoming public knowledge. That’s why most sites are now required to ask if you will accept cookies on your device as a way to keep your information secure.

The Death of the Third-Party Cookie

So what are third-party cookies? A third-party cookie is created by domains that are different from the site you are currently on. Once the third-party cookie is placed they are utilized for cross-site tracking, retargeting, and ad-serving. Google recently announced that they will phase out the third-party cookie on Chrome browsers by 2022 because users are demanding more privacy and choice on how their data is used. Firefox and Safari have also started to phase out their third-party cookie. The death of the third party cookie is one of the biggest conversations in the advertising community as it will heavily affect both the consumer and marketer.

RIP. But Marketers can Survive This

Many marketers and advertisers rely on third-party data as data is pulled from websites, social media networks, surveys, subscriptions and more, allowing them to find highly nuanced information about their audiences. The biggest takeaway about “the death of the third-party cookie” is that first-party cookies are still very valuable. They are stored on devices by default and therefore allow companies to collect data automatically without relying on other parties.

Ultimately, marketers can look at this like a good(ish) thing. It’s allowing for exploration of other, less-vulnerable, options in the event that new laws drastically alter marketing tactics. Many data management platforms are already creating new tools to aid advertisers in tracking their data in new ways similar to the third-party cookie.