Website cookies are crumbling.  Safari and Mozilla have started blocking third-party cookies. They may be the first, but they are likely not the last browser companies that will take this action. Google and others still allow retargeting and customer conversion tracking but are providing opt-outs for their users.

Does this mean the end to many of the tactics that online marketers have come to depend on? Will the industry no longer be able to build audience databases for customer retargeting? No more lookalike modeling? Is the holy grail of sales attribution—tracking customer conversion—doomed?

Don’t despair! There are quite a few new and emerging tactics that online marketers can start putting in place now to help with tracking, attribution, modeling and conversion. They just take some rethinking on the online marketer’s part. It may be an adjustment at first but, with some smart planning, online marketing can still be highly effective, efficient, targeted, and attributable.

The Difference Between First and Third-Party Cookies

Not all cookies are alike—just ask anyone who has debated the merits of chocolate chip versus peanut butter chunk! Understanding the difference between first-party and third-party cookies is an important first step to knowing what new online marketing strategies to put into place.

If the domain of the cookie matches the domain of the website it’s on, that is a first-party cookie. No other party is involved. If the cookie is collecting data for use by a site other than the website where it is placed, that is a third-party cookie.

The difference is not just in placement, but in the intended use of the data collected. First-party cookies tend to be used for website functionality, such as remembering user preferences or knowing what’s in a shopping cart. These uses are viewed as a primary benefit to the end user. Third-party cookies, on the other hand, enable one company to gather user data from a different company’s website. This is considered a benefit to the marketer rather than enhancing the consumer’s own online experience.

Still confused?  Check out our nifty infographic!

Defining New Online Marketing Strategies and Tactics

So, what’s a marketer to do? Of course, there is no one-size-fits-all answer. But here are some of the new and emerging tactics online marketers should consider as they plan new strategies now:

  • Cross-Browser Conversion Modeling
    One solution is to model out conversions on Safari and Mozilla based on similar conversion characteristics on Chrome. Some DSPs, like Amobee, are already using methodology like this to continue optimizing to the best-performing inventory with more limited tracking capabilities. Of course, it is not as accurate as actually measuring conversion on those browsers, but it can do a good job of approximating behavior.


  • Identity Resolution
    Companies such as LiveRamp and others are perfecting methods that create a profile of users across devices, yet in a manner that does not gather personal data that might otherwise violate privacy restrictions. These methods allow for both cross-device targeting and device-specific attribution. However, due to the premium pricing, online marketers must decide if the additional cost is worth the impact against ROI.


  • User-Generated Preference Profiles
    Britepool is one company that enables consumers to build their own advertising preference profiles. Only this information, and not personal data, is shared with marketers. It’s an interesting concept that enables consumers to receive relevant information while still protecting their privacy. You might say it’s like having your cookie and eating it too!


  • The Advertising ID Consortium
    The ID Consortium addresses two different concerns of online marketers. On the one hand, many different companies having their own unique customer identifiers can lead to confusion of data and a confusing consumer experience. Collaboration and ID sharing among companies can lead to greater self-regulation to prevent further outside control on privacy issues and, at the same time, more efficient targeting. It’s certainly a development to watch.


A Balance Between Consumer Concern and Marketer Need

Above all else, browser companies are blocking third-party cookies to address consumers’ growing privacy concerns. Keep in mind, those same concerned users are your potential customers. The online marketers’ need for customer targeting and conversion attribution certainly are not going away. But being responsive to the concerns of those customers is just as crucial to maintaining positive customer relationships and a positive brand image.

Of course, you could simply take Mozilla and Safari out of your plans altogether. This will certainly make your conversion metrics more accurate. But then, is that worth giving up on the 20% of potential customers who rely on those browsers? Besides, nobody can be sure if—or when—Google might start blocking third-party cookies as well. It might just be a matter of time.

Finding a way to be transparent with customers while at the same time implementing efficient and effective replacements for third-party cookies—now that’s what we consider the ultimate online marketing, ahem, sweet spot!