Google’s Cookies are Going Away: Byte-Sized Updates for Dealerships

Author: Naked Lime Marketing

Date: May 11, 2020

Topics: Google

Google announced in January 2020 their plans to get rid of the third-party cookie by 2022. The immediate reaction was panic: “How are we supposed to track customer engagement online without third-party cookies?!”

In reality, this update was a long time coming. Policies like GDPR and CCPA have set the tone for data security and consumer privacy moving forward. Also, browsers like Safari (Apple) and Mozilla Firefox already restricted cookies over the last few years, so Google isn’t the first browser to announce this change.

It’s too soon to know exactly how to adjust since Google is still working on changes, but we’ll stay on top of updates to keep you aware of any impact on your marketing. For now, let’s look at what cookies are and how they’re used today.

Let’s Take a Step Back

What’s a cookie?

Basically, a cookie (also known as a web cookie, Internet cookie, or browser cookie) is a small piece of data collected by a website. Regardless of first- or third-party cookie type, they are simply used to capture user data during browsing sessions.

What cookies are impacted by this change?

It’s important to realize not all cookies are disappearing. First-party cookies are safe from the phase-out and are already your most reliable source of data used for targeted messages, relevant content, and tracking website user activity for your dealership. Google is only restricting third-party cookies.

Here’s a quick explanation of the difference between first- and third-party cookies:

First-Party Cookies Third Party Cookies
Created by a website when the user is on the site, and are usually data points the website owners use to track user experience and activity. Created by websites a user is not visiting for the purpose of tracking users across websites and retarget with data-reliant advertisements.
Consumers view first-party cookies positively, overall, because they improve user experience (UX). Consumers are generally wary of third-party cookies because they are served ads outside of the original website they searched. “How did X Company know I was looking for tennis shoes?”
Saved as first-party cookies:

  • Usernames and passwords
  • Language preferences
  • Items added to a shopping cart during a session
Saved from third-party cookies:

  • Clicks on a host website
  • Search history on a host website

The Impact on Marketing

Which parts of my current strategy might be impacted?

The good news: as long as you’ve primarily used first-party data, this change shouldn’t do much to your strategy. However, there are a few solutions that are universally impacted by this change. For example, ad retargeting relies wholly on third-party cookies. When users visit your website, any third-party domains linked will track their activity on the page. Once the user leaves your website and continues browsing, the cookies will trigger your ads to appear on other pages.

Is there a replacement for the targeting available because of third-party cookies?

This question is part of the reason Google is taking two years to develop and execute their plan. They recognize by restricting all third-party cookies they risk hurting businesses who invest heavily in web commerce and tracking.

For now, their plan to replace third-party cookies is to create something called the Google Privacy Sandbox. This privacy sandbox would protect consumer data by muddling some of the identifiable information used today to retarget them and learn about their interests. However, the sandbox would still allow marketers and other data partners to see pools of information of similar behaviors.

This idea is still developing as Google works with marketers to come up with a solution that protects consumers without hurting ad partners.

This Has Happened Before

What happened when other browsers cut cookies?

Apple’s Safari and Mozilla’s Firefox browsers have had anti-tracking features in place for a while now.  Google’s additional precautions should prevent some of the issues marketers saw when the two other leading browsers made the call to cut the third-party cookie, such as hackers finding workarounds that put users’ data at more risk.

The only problem dealerships and marketers should face with this change is difficulty with attribution—a.k.a. measuring the return on investment and conversions from ads. However, if your dealership and marketing provider rely on first-party data rather than these third-party sources, your reporting shouldn’t change much.

How to Prepare for the Change

With this change over a year and a half away, you do not have to panic and adjust all of your marketing channels. As Google and its partners (like Naked Lime) learn more about new options and strategies, businesses will learn which steps are right for their unique situation.

In the meantime, take some time to learn about what data your digital advertising providers use in your current strategy. First-party data is always more reliable and influential than third-party data, so becoming familiar with using those targeting methods will only prepare you better for the future.

As Google works toward its third-party cookie-free operations, we will continue to offer updates and assistance to dealerships.