How The Cookie Has Crumbled: Bye-Bye, Third-Party Cookies; Hello, AI

By: Zephyr Jaeger

October 30, 2023

Why your brand should be preparing to implement more AI-driven solutions as an alternative to third-party cookies. 

The end of a controversial era is upon us: third-party cookies will be gradually phased out from Google starting mid-2024. While the search engine giant has been announcing this phase out for a couple of years, pushing it back here and there for varying reasons, Google seems to have decided to finally take a hard line. Now, it’s time to start preparing for this internet-rattling shift, and Fishnet is here to help you explore an alternative to third-party cookies: artificial intelligence (AI) to leverage zero- and first-party data. Using this powerfully-evolving tool, zero-party, defined as knowingly- and voluntarily-given data that remains within the purview of just that website/business,  and first-party data, which is collected by a user’s activity on a website and kept on that website (not shared across sites like third-party data), become standout stars in the race for personalization in marketing. 

Why Is Google Phasing Out Third-Party Cookies?

Third-party cookies and the data they collect have been an integral part of the internet for decades, gaining traction in certain areas along the way. These data-collecting cookies are frequently used in the ecommerce and advertising spaces, but have also been employed across media and marketing platforms. 

The draw of third-party cookies has long been their ability to aid in tracking and acting on consumer habits across multiple platforms and websites; in other words, companies have been able to collect data on consumers’ habits and preferences and use that information to tailor advertising campaigns and content toward both individuals and groups. But now, all of that is going to change, and it has a fair amount to do with the strengthening demand for data privacy. 

Data from a recent consumer survey revealed that 95% of respondents want a “cookieless future” and they want it ASAP. More specifically, consumers want more control over their data, want stronger guarantees from brands about data protection/privacy, and want to be better informed about how their data is being used. At the same time, 66% of respondents said they will actually abandon brands that aren’t creating personalized experiences for them and 86% said that personalization increases their brand loyalty. Traditionally, third-party data collected by cookies has made personalization quite simple for a wide range of businesses, but the execution of that style of personalization, including how the information that enables personalization is collected and stored, has left a bad taste in consumers’ mouths. 

People want personalization but they do not want it at the expense of their personal data being in danger of theft or corruption. Plus – and we all know this feeling – the way ads have been following us around the internet and from device to device has gotten downright creepy and I think we can all agree with those surveyed that we want it to stop. 

Here’s what Google had to say about their phase-out of third-party cookies and their new(ish) initiative, Privacy Sandbox:

“The Privacy Sandbox initiative aims to create technologies that both protect people’s privacy online and give companies and developers tools to build thriving digital businesses. The Privacy Sandbox reduces cross-site and cross-app tracking while helping to keep online content and services free for all.”

AI As An Alternative To Third-Party Cookies 

Just to preface, artificial intelligence is by no means a catch-all fix or marketing tool. Think of AI like a hair detangling spray: you can spray it all over your knotted hair, but unless you then take the time to comb through each section, your hair is still going to be tangled. Human involvement and creativity remain necessary as we navigate this new world of AI-driven or guided marketing. You can’t send AI out to fully complete a task, but you can certainly use it as a game-changing helping hand along the way. 

One of the best things about AI in marketing right now is its ability to help us navigate this shift away from third-party cookie data use. As those of us in marketing face the dilemma of pleasing weary consumers who are also craving personalized experiences without the traditional way of using third-party data to do so, AI functionality is looking better and better by the day. Here’s how:

  • In order for AI to work well, it needs a steady diet of data and information. Think of the early days of Siri; iPhone users were told that the more they used the AI voice assistant and interacted with it, the better it would work for them because it would gain familiarity with the user’s voice, tone, cadence, shorthands, close friends’ and family members’ names, etc. All of that information users were giving to Siri about themselves was essentially. By collecting zero-party data from consumers and plugging it into your AI marketing tools, you not only increase consumer trust but you strengthen your AI tools’ abilities to create better personalization for individuals and groups. 
  • Collecting first-party data is also a highly valuable way to enable your AI marketing tools to perform at higher levels. It also allows your customer base to have more control about how and when they share their data and with which websites, again increasing their trust and improving your personalization efforts.

AI can leverage your first- and zero-party data collection in a way that satiates the modern consumer’s desires for data privacy while simultaneously delivering personalized experiences and giving your company leads on how to better target lookalike audiences. More customer satisfaction, more business opportunities, increased brand loyalty, fewer negative responses from weary consumers. 

While the phasing out of third-party cookies may be jarring to some who have long relied on them, there are boundless opportunities to harness and fuel AI’s power with other forms of data. 

How Fishnet Can Help Your Company Use AI To Strengthen Your Marketing Strategy 

So, is the cookie crumbling? Well, not entirely. As we’ve discussed, Google is definitely going to phase out third-party cookies due to popular demand. But marketers are actually being encouraged to utilize first-party cookies and zero-party data to improve their evolving AI marketing tools. At Fishnet, we’ve been doing that for a while in one very specific way: Drift chatbots for conversational marketing. 

Chatbots are by no means a new form of AI, but the ways in which they can be leveraged to improve your customer engagement and satisfaction have improved dramatically over time. We partnered with Drift a while back to help our clients foster unique digital experiences for their customers, build better relationships and loyalty, and increase response times for inquiring website visitors. The first-party information shared by web visitors in smart, modern chatbots can be invaluable when it comes to customer conversions, satisfaction, and improved loyalty. 

At Fishnet, we also employ AI  by utilizing tools such as Semrush for search engine optimization (SEO) and posting to social accounts like Instagram and LinkedIn. And while we have a constantly-strengthening content team, we still employ the use of content writing tools like Grammarly to help streamline our optimized writing. Think of it like switching to a lower gear when riding your bike up a hill; you’re still doing the pedaling and the steering, but the smaller ring chain is taking off the edge and increasing your efficiency all the way.    

With our team of developers, designers, and content creators, we’re prepared to help guide our clients through this shift away from third-party cookies and data to continuously strengthen their content presence. If you’re in need of assistance rejiggering your business website for this shift, reach out to us!

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Zephyr Jaeger

I recently started at Fishnet as their new Content Strategist/Copywriter, which encompasses a wide range of content and copy work. From Fishnet blogs, to writing and reviewing client website copy, to SEO research, I’m always jumping from one aspect of content production to another. I work closely with all departments, especially those on the creative side of things, to craft the best content possible for Fishnet and their valued clients.

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