How to Prepare For a Cookieless Future: An Ultimate Guide For Marketers

Ever heard of the cookiepocalypse?

Maybe not. But you’ve definitely heard that third-party cookies will get deprecated over time. It’s one of the main talking points online.

Well, if you’re an advertisers like us – you’re probably scared a little. What does cookieless future mean? Will marketers be able to… market?

First off, don’t worry. Most big advertising platforms and advertisers have already started preparing for this event.

And if you zoom out the timeline a bit, you’d notice that the transition has already started.

We’ll guide you through it and offer some advice that helped us – and should help you now and in the future. Buckle up.

🍪 What are third-party cookies? Third-party cookies are placed on a user’s browser (by a website other than the one they are currently visiting).

This allows the third-party entity, typically an advertiser or analytics company, to track the user’s browsing behavior across multiple sites and build a profile for targeted advertising or data analysis.

What Is the Impact Of A Cookieless Future On Advertisers?

Imagine your laptop screen suddenly going dark with only a small visible circle remaining.

That’s how cookieless future could look for advertisers. Not literally, of course, But user tracking would be severely restricted. 

It would impact you by limiting the way you can track user behavior across websites and platforms—affecting targeting and personalization strategies as we know them. 

This means you’ll have to rely more on first-party data and innovative tech like privacy-centric IDs and consent management platforms so you can ensure compliance and still target effectively.

Sounds scary? Well, it is. But despite these initial concerns, these changes should provide privacy-conscious, accurate, and more ethical advertising. 

And this can further lead to more consumer trust and engagement, and you forming lasting relationships with your customers.

How to Prepare For a Cookiless Future: A Step-By-Step Guide

Since the cookieless future is inevitable, let’s focus on what you can do.

how to prepare for a cookieless future

Double Down on First–Party Data Collection

The name says it all—third-party data was never data you could count on forever. 

And first-party–data solves two of the biggest pain points you can have as an advertiser:

  1. You will own the data—the email, the phone number, etc. Not the ad platform.
  2. Users opt-in their data by consent, meaning no trust is breached.

Awesome, right?

But for the same reason, acquiring first-party data can be a much harder task. You’ll need to incentivize users do give you their data. And who wants to do that? 

Some brands offer big discounts or gifts for an email or phone number opt-in, while others offer free services (demos, audits), or resources (ebooks, playbooks, and similar).

Once you get ahold of this data, you can use it both in your email marketing campaigns and targeted ad campaigns that allow you to upload a csv of your first-party data to target. 

an example of a first party data collection
Subscribe and save 10% on your first purchase One of the ways to gather first-party data.

Apply First-Party Cookie Strategy

This is a narrower term than first-party data, but it’s also useful to implement.

First-party cookies are small pieces of data stored on a user’s device by the website they are currently visiting.

These cookies are created and used directly by the website and their purpose is to store information about the user’s preferences, login status, and other session details. 

You know how, when you browse, your browser keeps a bunch of stuff saved for “next time”? Well you can use it to make more personalized shopping experiences for your customers.

first-party cookies vs third-party cookies explained

Be Transparent

You don’t want to be left in the dust by your peers—so it’s time to be as transparent as possible.

Why? Because people value clear and straightforward information about how their data is used. 

This can be achieved through dedicated emails, pop-ups, or SMS messages, rather than lengthy, jargon-heavy documents. 

But to build trust, you’ll have to show that there’s nothing to hide and also ensure your website visitors and potential customers that their data is secure. 

This will also boost brand loyalty and trustworthiness long-term. 

Here’s what you can do:

  • Share Your Privacy and Cookie Policy: Make it simple for users to understand how and if you’ll collect, store, use, or share their data by providing a clear and comprehensive policy on your website. Use accessible language to ensure everyone understands you.
  • Provide Consent Management: Empower your audience by allowing them to consent to data collection. Offer options to customize their preferences for specific purposes for bonus points.
  • Offer Opt-Out Options: Ensure users can find and opt out of data sharing by making your privacy policy readily available.
  • Notify Users of Changes: Inform your audience about any changes in data collection practices through clear notifications, such as cookie banners.
  • Implement User-Friendly Dashboards: Create dashboards where users can easily manage their personal information, enabling them to review and update their details effortlessly.
  • Partner with Privacy Advocates: Collaborate with privacy advocates to demonstrate your commitment to data protection. Participate in webinars, contribute to articles, and engage in discussions related to data privacy to reinforce your dedication.

Use Contextual Targeting

With contextual advertising, you display ads on web pages based on the content of those pages. 

How contextual targeting work? First, automated systems crawl and index web pages, analyzing the content to understand the context and categorize it accordingly. 

Then, based on the content analysis, ad servers match relevant ads to the indexed content using predefined rules and algorithms. 

Finally, a matching process occurs (in real-time) as a user navigates to a webpage—which ensures that the most relevant ads are displayed immediately.

How does that look like in real life? Think of a marketing newsletter that advertises marketing-related SaaS, or a recipe website advertising cooking products or kitchenware.

Unlike behavioral targeting, which relies on user data and browsing history, contextual targeting analyzes the text, keywords, images, and other media present on a webpage to determine the most relevant ads to display.

Create Cohorts

Without cookies, you won’t be able to target individual users directly the way it’s possible today—but you’ll still be able to group them.

In other words, you can leverage first-party data and other digital insights to target broader audience segments. To achieve this, you need to create cohorts, or groups of users categorized by shared characteristics or identifiers.

These can be formed based on various criteria, such as geographic location or recent purchase history. 

For example, you could create a group of users based in California only or those who have purchased a specific product within the last month.

Afterward, you can tailor marketing content to these groups and evaluate the effectiveness of your campaigns.

Of course, this won’t be as effective as third-party cookies. But in combination with other tips, it might prove a viable alternative.

Be Aware of Platform Changes and Updates

It’s not only you who’s preparing for the cookieless world. 

All platforms, especially those that rely on your ad dollars are actively looking for cookieless solutions as we’re writing—or as you’re reading—this article.

Therefore, sometimes the best thing you can do to prepare is stay informed.

Various platforms’s ad automation tools like Google’s Performance Max or Meta’s Advantage+ are already levering AI-powered algorithms. They also rely on cohorts and similar clusters of data from their “walled gardens” to substitute third-party cookies.

Furthermore, you can look at upcoming cookie regulation updates and follow recent trends so you’re aware and can adapt in real time.

Why Are Cookies Going Away?

Cookies are being phased out to boost online privacy. 

Cookies impact privacy by tracking and storing user behavior across the web, which can be used to build detailed profiles without explicit user consent. 

Here’s how they can negatively affect online users’ experience:

  • Tracking and profiling: Third-party cookies allow advertisers to track users’ behavior, habits, preferences, and more often without their knowledge and consent.
  • Data collection: Browsing history, login credentials, and personal preferences. Cookies collect this data, which can be sold to third parties or used for targeted advertising.
  • Privacy concerns: Advertisers can use collected data in ways that users did not intend—targeted ads, fingerprinting.

As far as 2019, Justin Schuh, Director of Chrome Engineering, said that cookies were originally designed to make ads more relevant, but ended up being used in privacy-compromising ways.

Most of these concerns were addressed by recently imposed regulations—both by the USA and the EU—that among other things, deemed third-party cookies as a violation of user privacy.

Now, half a decade later, Google’s Privacy Sandbox aims to establish standards that enhance privacy without unintended consequences.

This will ultimately lead to the planned removal of third-party cookies from Chrome.

🤔 Is it really about privacy? Some question Google’s motives, given their access to vast amounts of first-party data.

While it could benefit Google by increasing reliance on its solutions, the move does raise important conversations about data privacy and control.

Ultimately, Google doesn’t need third-party cookies as much as other businesses do for advertising and marketing purposes.

When Are Cookies Going Away?

At the time of this writing, Google delayed the cookie deprecation until 2025. 

When exactly in 2025? Nobody knows.

Before that, Google estimated that cookies would be gone in late 2024. The company retracted, saying that there are “ongoing challenges” that require more attention before it happens. 

And in case you were wondering—this is Google’s third cookie depreciation delay. The first being in 2020, which proved to be too optimistic at the time. 

With this in mind, there’s a slight reason to believe that not even the current timeline is final.

However, late 2023 we’ve already seen some aspects of Privacy Sandbox—such as Tracking Protection—gradually rolling out. 

Thus, things are already in motion.

If you want to dig through more regulations and laws, here are some stuff you can look into:

  • GDPR – EU’s Data Protection Law
  • CCPA – California’s Consumer Privacy Act
  • DSA– Digital Service’s Act

And there’s more. But this is a good start.


So you don’t tell us we just talk the talk…

Here’s what we at Top Growth Marketing suggest to our e-commerce clients to do to properly set up for the post-cookie landscape—if they want their campaigns to be as effective:

  1. First-party data collection. We help our clients optimize pop-ups and forms for phone and email collection, run giveaways to generate leads, and more. With first-party data, you’re not dependent on ad platforms and are closest to “owning” your audience.
  2. Retention. We try to increase lifetime value for our clients by utilizing first-party data and focusing on repeat purchasers. This helps the brand grow and maintain budgets for customer acquisition even in a cookieless world.
  3. Maximize tracking and store data. Nowadays. you should have multiple reference points mapped out so you can analyze performance. We build brand health checks and custom reports to provide clients with such results. If you’re interested in a free consultation to see what that looks like, feel free to reach out.
  4. Make sure your tracking and APIs and analytics tools are up to date. There’s plenty to keep track of—but platform-specific APIs like Facebook’s CAPI as well as third-party trackers are all regularly updated. So make sure everything is set up and updated on your end.
  5. Diversify. Stores need to grow from multiple channels versus just relying on one platform. Utilize integrated marketing to maximize your campaign efficiency. 
Learn how to prepare for a cookieless future. Find out how to collect first-party data, stay transparent, and adapt to new ad methods.


No Time to Cry Over An Empty Cookie Jar

While the transition to a cookieless future might seem daunting, it’s an opportunity to innovate and build stronger, more trust-based relationships with your customers. 

What you can do for starters? Embrace first-party data, be transparent, and stay ahead with the latest tools and strategies. 

And if you need help to get ready for the challenge, feel free to reach out. We can chat on the best ways to get you ready for what’s coming. 

What are you looking for?


Top Growth Marketing

TGM has spent more than $300 Million across social & search advertising platforms. Let us help grow your business using the best, performance-based customer acquisition strategies. 

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