The Shift to First-Party Data

January 14, 2022

For years, marketers have been using cookies to track users in order to improve their website experience and serve them targeted ads. Cookies also allow us to learn more about what users are doing when they are browsing other websites. But the way we use these tools is about to change.

In fact, Google plans to have third-party cookies phased out soon. Other browsers, including Safari and Firefox, have been blocking third-party cookies since 2013. So what does this mean for your business? Although there are big changes afoot, there are also available alternatives. But before we get into that, let’s start with the basics.

First off: What are cookies?

You may have heard of third-party cookies before, but there are actually 3 types of cookies. Before we dive into third-party cookies, here are the definitions of each type:

First-party cookies: These are stored under the domain you’re visiting. Nearly all websites today use these types of cookies to identify users between pages and to store user preferences or a shopping cart.

Second-party cookies: Second-party data is just first-party data shared between partners. This is a debatable topic, as some people may say second-party cookies don’t exist at all.

Third-party cookies: These types of cookies are stored under a domain you are not currently visiting. They can be used to track users and display ads relevant to you between websites. For instance, if you search for dress shoes online, and a few days later, you start seeing ads for dress shoes, this is not merely a coincidence. You’re seeing these ads because your web browser stored a third-party cookie and is using that data to serve you more relevant ads.

Although the website you’re visiting may have a cookie notice, it may not specify which types of cookies are being used on the site. If there are ads on the website, it’s safe to say you can assume it’s using both first- and third-party cookies.

How can I clear my cookies?

The instructions for deleting cookies at the end of each session are dependent on your browser as follows:

  • Firefox: Clear history
  • Chrome: Only keep data until you exit the browser
  • IE: Delete browsing history 

Are they useful?

Third-party cookies allow digital marketers to track users and target them with relevant advertisements. This could be seen as a benefit to users, as the advertisements will be more in line with their interests. However, many feel as though their privacy is being invaded with this tracking method. Because of this, governments have started to seek protection of web users’ privacy and rights.

The future of third-party cookies

Laws and regulations such as GDPR, ePR, and CCPA have created penalties for those companies that fail to inform their web users of cookie tracking. Under these laws, website operators must let users know what data is being collected, as well as with whom this information is being shared. They are also required to provide the user with the option to opt out at any time.

These laws, as well as the consensus of the general public, have led many in the digital marketing world to believe that third-party cookies will soon be a technology of the past. While Safari and Firefox block third-party cookies by default, Google Chrome does not -- yet. They plan to in 2023. This makes sense, as a whopping 90% of Google’s revenue is generated from online advertising. In the meantime, Google has implemented a tool called SameSite to protect the privacy of Chrome users.

It’s time to embrace the change

With these laws changing, we have to be responsive and develop creative ways to gather user data that don’t involve third-party data. At WiredViews, we view this change as an advantage.

This allows digital marketers to be transparent and honest. Want data? Just ask. An engaged user will be happy to give it to you. From social media marketing to content strategies, digital marketing is constantly changing, but this shift to first-party data doesn’t have to be seen as a negative. It can be seen as an improvement - to both marketers and consumers.

The “death” of third-party cookies allows marketers to focus on the data collected directly from customers. This means we can better analyze how customers interact with your website and your brand, and further, that we can provide personalized experiences to help retain existing customers and help you create new relationships.

So what’s next?

Learn how you can use first-party data to your advantage in social media, content strategies, and more, in our upcoming post, Third-party data transition: part II, coming soon.

Katie Lawton is a Marketing Client Manager at WiredViews. She communicates with clients on a daily basis, develops marketing strategies, and manages projects for the WV team.

She loves to go running in the wee hours of the morning, walk her dog, Gizmo, watch horror movies (The Shining is her favorite), and check out the latest restaurants in Cuyahoga Falls.