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May 25, 2021

Web Cookies Are Going Away - How Your Brand Can Cope

Starting in 2022, web browsers like Safari, Chrome, and Firefox will no longer support third-party cookie tracking. What does this mean for your e-commerce business, and what can you do to prepare?

By Jinesh Shah, Co-Founder @ Endear

What Are Cookies?

A cookie is a packet of information that a computer receives while browsing the Internet. The goal of their use is to help the websites you visit identify you as a user, and keep track of what you're doing on their site to improve your browsing experience.

For example, have you ever wondered how a store remembers the items that were in your cart even after you've closed the window? Or how that information remains many days later, even after you’ve restarted your computer? The answer is cookies! 

How Do Cookies Work?

So, how exactly do cookies work so that they can accomplish the tasks described above? 

The process starts when you open up your internet browser and visit a website. In that first response you receive back from the site, a cookie containing some data will be included, and your browser will save that cookie. The next time you go to that website, and the next (and every) page you visit on the site, the cookie will be included as part of the request your browser sends.

Let's imagine you are trying to browse for products on Amazon. When you type the URL into your browser, it automatically sends a request to Amazon’s servers for them to send you their homepage. Just before this happens, your browser checks to see if it has a cookie that came from Amazon. If it finds one, it will send it to the Amazon server along with the page request.

When Amazon's web server receives the URL request and the cookie data, Amazon will use it to determine whether you have visited their site before and, if so, whether you are logged in. That way, when the page opens, your personalized recommendations will appear - and any items that you had left in your cart will still be there!

By letting the website know that you’ve been there before, a cookie also enables them to customize the site so that it’s specific to you, even if you’re not “logged in”. For example, the site can keep track of what products you’ve looked at, how long you spent looking at them, and then show you similar products that it thinks you might like.

What’s So Bad About Cookies?

With all the usefulness described above, you might be wondering why they are going away.

What we’ve discussed so far generally falls into the category of “first-party” cookie use. However, there’s also a concept of “third-party” cookies that serve not to identify you to the website you’re visiting, but rather to identify you to an advertising or marketing service. These cookies don’t just affect your experience on a single site, it (attempts to) follow your behavior across all sites that you visit. The information gathered by this enables marketers to create targeted ads that are matched to your profile in a highly granular way. Over the years, this form of marketing has proven very powerful and effective for the companies that use it.

While most of this activity is essentially invisible to the user, as the conversation on privacy continues, more and more people are becoming aware of it, and are demanding that they not be profiled or have their data captured.

What Exactly Is Going Away

The majority of site functionality on the web is built around first-party cookies, which are not changing. These cookies are only used on the sites you are actively visiting. However, third-party cookies, cookies designed to follow you around the web, will start to be phased out. This especially impacts marketers and marketing tools that are oriented around profiling new customers by their overall online behavior.

What does this mean for your e-Commerce business?

It’s very common for e-commerce businesses to rely on these sorts of cookie-oriented marketing approaches to get themselves in front of new customers and determine valuable information about their existing customers. Almost every brand uses cookies for targeting ads and behavioral marketing.

Since this will be changing very soon, brands will need to adapt their customer acquisition and sales strategies to remain competitive.

The best way to do this is to invest in a CRM tool that allows your business to stay in touch with customers, and develop those relationships directly. Endear’s CRM integrates seamlessly with your existing E-commerce sites and applications and allows you to send personalized messages - at scale - and enables you to measure how effectively those conversations convert into purchases.

The key is to use the data you already have about your customers to engage with them, create personalized content, and open communication channels in order to continue to learn more about your customers individually.

Since you’re developing these relationships firsthand, if you do this with the right tools, you can build your business in a deep way - with customer profiles that you built yourself. You can develop your own marketing segments based on an audience that you’ve already invested in, and is invested in you. These channels help you understand better and, ultimately, sell more effectively to your audience. This communication is what Endear specializes in.

Going Offline

Another way to adjust for the loss of third-party cookies is to consider new channels for customer acquisition. One such channel is physical retail! As rents drop dramatically and as competition through digital advertising rises, you may want to consider the potential return on a physical store, especially now with so many new ways to take on an in-person presence. Stores are a strong top-of-funnel strategy (like a 3D billboard) while also serving as additional revenue streams and brand-building opportunities.

Especially if you already have e-commerce, coupling these two channels together with a resource like Endear will further set you apart from your competitors thanks to your ability to speak to your customer both online and in-person. 

Although the transition away from third-party cookies is a major shift, the businesses that take this as an opportunity to enhance their customer engagement strategy will develop a competitive advantage that sets them apart in the future!