A tide of cookieless internet is sweeping across the digital marketing industry. Mozilla Firefox and Safari web browser have already phased out cookies. And the biggest player in the web browser niche – Google Chrome – has announced it will follow suit by 2023

As the cookieless internet unfolds, you have to come up with better ways to track users online. But, where do you start when no one seems to have the crystal ball to predict what will happen when Chrome abolishes cookies? Fret not.

In this article, we’ll discuss the burgeoning cookieless web and how it impacts digital marketing. We’ll also tell you some fascinating ways to prepare for the wave of change.

Google Plans to Phase Out Cookies By 2023

When Firefox and Safari blocked third-party cookies, their move didn’t cause a buzz. Google Chrome has only announced its plan to abolish cookies, but there is a lot of fuss already. 

We can see why.

Chrome is the most influential web browser, controlling more than 64% of the global web traffic. That raises two concerns. First, Chrome runs the industry, and any change it implements could turn the digital marketing industry upside down. 

Second, the whole idea of a cookieless internet was to eliminate user tracking, however, Google isn’t for this idea. Rather, the company is only replacing third-party cookies with alternatives. As for what alternative Google settles for, that remains an open question. 

The process of finding a befitting cookie replacement is still in the inception stage with more than 30 proposals up for consideration. Already, Google has tried four proposals including the much-talked-about Federated Learning of Cohorts (FLoC)

In FLoC, Google groups internet users in large cohorts based on their traits, allowing marketers to target these groups instead of individuals. FLoC doesn’t completely prevent user tracking. Rather, it diminishes the marketer’s ability to track individuals while giving Google more control over the information it can collect. 

What Does That Mean for Marketers?

To help you understand, let’s start from the top. What are cookies and how do marketers use them?

Cookies are tiny pieces of code that are embedded in web browsers to track internet users as they visit different websites. They collect information such as the site a user visits, pages they look at within that website, purchase history, etc. By using this information, marketers can build robust user profiles of their customers – which they then use to send targeted ads.

Keep in mind, tracking cookies can either be first-party or third-party. First-party cookies track users’ behavior or activity under the same domain they’re currently visiting. On the other hand, third-party cookies track user activities under a different domain than they’re currently visiting. 

Google is set to block third-party cookies on Chrome, meaning marketers won’t be able to track user activity outside their domain. There are also private browsers for iPhone and Android that also focus on enhanced privacy by restricting third-party tracking. Essentially, that means marketers won’t be able to track user behavior on the web, meaning they can’t build robust user profiles. As a result, it will be difficult to send targeted ads, but make understanding first-party data super important. 

How Can Marketers Prepare?

The fact that Google isn’t abolishing first-party cookies is the silver lining here. But how do you make these changes work to your advantage?

The best way to prepare for the cookie-free world is to strengthen your first-party data strategy. As Tina Moffett, Principal Analyst at Forrester, says, “marketers should revamp their first-party data models to gain better insights about their existing customers. And then, base their knowledge of prospects, targeting, and measurement on that information.”

Already, the majority of marketers have heeded this advice. 85% of marketers in the U.S. claim that increasing the use of first-party data is their highest priority.

Your website is a treasure trove of information about your customer. From the name and email address to phone numbers and other personally identifiable details, there’s a myriad of customer details you can collect. The best part about this data is that you own it rather than relying on external cookies. 

CRM and Marketing Automation To The Rescue

Customers are becoming more privacy-conscious and are hesitant to share their information with every other brand. For this reason, you have to develop creative ways to win their trust before you can request their personal information. Enter: marketing automation and CRM tools.

Marketing Automation

Learning more about your customers doesn’t have to be a tedious, manual task. With a tool like BenchmarkONE, you can gather valuable customer information automatically with landing pages and pop-up forms. Once you gather that information, you can enroll site visitors into your email marketing and run A/B tests to determine what kind of email content is most relevant to them. Other types of marketing automation, like lead nurturing drip campaigns, can run in the background, enabling you to grow your first-party data without relying on third-party tools (or hiring expensive market researchers to do the work for you.) 

CRM Tools

Your customer’s needs, preferences, and interests change over time. A CRM tool such as BenchmarkONE helps you keep up with changes to maintain an accurate lead profile. 

For example, when you first add a customer to your CRM system you probably have their basic contact info like their name, address, and phone number. As you continue to interact with the customer, you’ll gather more details like purchase history, pages they visit on your website, and interactions with your brand on social media. Over time, you can get to understand more about what they may want from your brand so you can move them closer to a sale. 

You can also set up surveys to better understand your customers, and have those integrated directly into your CRM. Regardless of the methods you choose, your CRM serves as a reliable data-gathering and storage tool, keeping your customer data safe and accurate, while keeping your entire organization aligned.

Don’t let the promise of third-party cookie cutting put too much of a scare into you. As marketers, we’re all too familiar with the changing industry landscape. To persevere, it’s crucial to shift and adapt, and by focusing on first-party data (with the help of marketing automation and a CRM), your marketing plan can stay on course.