Chrome’s Cookie Tracking Changes Shakes Up Ad Industry – What It Means for Online Marketers In 2020

 

Chrome has always had a dominant presence in the online world and all
decisions made by Chrome has a profound impact on the Internet. This will
be no different.

For years, advertisers have been relying heavily on one online advertising ecosystem
to get insights on consumers and to target and retarget potential buyers. No special
technology was ever needed, simply the ability to use tracking data from tiny text
files, namely cookies. However, last year Google made a big announcement that will
end this. Come February 2020, Google Chrome will join its competitors Firefox and
Safari, to completely block third-party cookies to be sent between websites unless the
cookies are HTTPS secured. Furthermore, it plans to phase out cookies completely by
2022. This change from Google comes in line with its efforts to bring about a balance
between privacy and profit. Indeed, blocking insecure cross-site tracking is a major
gain for a better online experience for consumers and their privacy, but it brings about
a big roadblock for advertisers, and many are scratching their heads wondering what’s
next for them.

“Chrome will limit insecure cross-site tracking
starting in February, by treating cookies that don’t
include a SameSite label as first-party only, and require cookies labeled for third-party use to be accessed over HTTPS.”
– Justin Schuh, director of Chrome Engineering

Chrome already gives its users the option to deactivate cookies to protect their
privacy. But it did not prove to be very effective. However, the complete blocking of
it in a browser is, and it is a major change in how online marketing has been working
for the past 25 years. Especially because Chrome accounts for the biggest portion of
the global desktop and mobile sessions. Advertisers who have relied on third-party
tracking for their marketing efforts and increased revenues will now have to scramble
for a replacement. But what?

The effect on the affiliate marketing industry

Affiliate marketers have been banking on cookies to collect data on consumers who
search for their offerings online and on those who make purchases. Insights from this
data were then used to target new potential buyers through ads. Generally, advertisers
also add affiliate links to publishers’ sites. These links direct to the affiliate’s ad
servers, leaving third-party cookies in the process. By blocking cookies, advertisers
can no longer target users in this way or attribute sales to specific publishers. These
are major concerns. But is it all gloom and doom?

Fortunately, not. While the purge of cookie tracking will bring change to the world of
online advertising, it will bring about new and more innovative data sourcing
methods. The affiliate marketing industry inevitably has to adapt, but luckily, they are
well-positioned because ad content is usually customised to be more relevant to
consumers’ interests. This means affiliate advertisers can still reach a portion of
internet users while considering replacements for third-party tracking. Likewise,
publishers need to find new ways to recoup ad revenue.

During the two-year window, advertisers now have to work to find alternatives that
ensure consumers’ privacy while still being able to reach them. This may bring about
some challenges along the way, but it should be seen as a period of innovation that
may even lead to improved solutions.

Alternative to third-party cookie tracking

While the cookie is slowly but surely disappearing, many advertisers are looking for
ways to get their hands on data. It is now essential to create advertising experiences
that add value to consumers’ online experiences while protecting their privacy. Not an
easy task, but there is a silver lining as many publishers and digital marketers are
discovering and exploring new and innovative ways of collecting and using data.

• Keyword contextual-based advertising
Many advertisers are going back to this way of targeting consumers. Contextual
targeting does not focus on overall behaviour but involves ads that are based entirely
on the content consumers search for. This means that the online advertising world will
move back to creating relevant content, with predefined keywords, as the cornerstone
of their marketing efforts.

• Google’s first-party data within its tools
With most of Google’s major announcements, the search giant is almost always the
biggest winner. Unsurprisingly, with the cookie disappearing, many advertisers will
now be forced to use Google’s tools. Google collects a lot of first-party data on users
through its own services, including YouTube, Maps, Gmail and its search bar. This
positions Google as a dominant force in digital advertising.
Google has also announced that it is planning to create a ‘Privacy Sandbox’ within its
own environment, with a range of tools that will allow advertisers to run targeted ads
without them having direct access to internet users’ data.
Additionally, some major ad tech vendors and advertisers are exploring a replacement
for third-party tracking by having access to first-party data through identifiers such as
a login. Undoubtedly, however, digital advertising without the cookie is still very
much unknown territory and open for exploration. In an effort to involve all parties in
the process, Chrome encourages feedback and suggestions, “We are looking to build a
more trustworthy and sustainable web together, and to do that we need your continued
engagement.”

A new era of digital advertising

From the planning stages of ads to the evaluation of how they perform, Cookies have
always been essential to all steps involved in the digital advertising sphere. Changes to
this type of online tracking will allow consumers a more personalised online
experience and ensure privacy protection but will inevitably change the online
advertising world. However, this is not a death warrant. With the online world being
more consumer-focused than ever, advertisers can still gain; alternatives should
simply be considered and implemented as soon as possible. The cookie may finally
crumble, but it simply opens the environment to innovation.

YIELDKIT is a data-driven tech platform which enables advertisers to increase revenue
& sales and publishers to monetize their content.