An Overview of Tracking in 2024: Current Status and Preparations

An Overview of Tracking in 2024: Current Status and Preparations

In the fast-paced world of digital marketing, staying ahead of industry changes is crucial to success. One such change that is causing a stir among marketers is the impending death of third-party cookies. While this may not be a new concept, it’s important to understand the depth of its ramifications. In this article, we will explore what is changing from both a technical and marketing perspective, as well as provide four real steps that marketers need to take to start planning for this transition.

From a technical perspective, it’s important to note that we are talking about the death of third-party cookies, not first-party cookies. First-party cookies, which are owned by the website or app itself, will not be impacted by the Chrome update. However, third-party cookies, which pass data from your website to external parties like ad platforms, will soon disappear. This change is reminiscent of what happened with iOS 14, where Apple’s “App Tracking Transparency” introduced restrictions on tracking user behavior across third-party apps. The use of cookies, whether first-party or third-party, has been the most common way to identify and track users. With their disappearance from Chrome, marketers will have to find alternative methods for tracking.

From a marketing perspective, the death of third-party cookies will have significant implications. Attribution, tracking performance, targeting, and data collection will all undergo major changes. Attribution models that rely on click-to-action or last-click attribution will be impacted, forcing advertisers to adopt more holistic measurement strategies that consider the entire user journey. Tracking performance at the ad and keyword level will require updates to current tracking set-ups to maintain visibility. Targeting efforts utilizing pixels for retargeting and accuracy of in-platform audiences are likely to shift. The ability to identify valuable users and create relevant ads will become more challenging. Lastly, the importance of collecting and owning first-party data will increase, as it provides marketers with more control over understanding and engaging with users.

Given the magnitude of these changes, it’s clear that marketers should have started planning for this transition a year ago. However, if you find yourself behind the curve, there are four real steps you can take to start preparing. The first step is to focus on CRM cleanliness. By assessing your data cleanliness and reports, you can trust the insights provided by your first-party data. The second step is to tune up your data collection efforts. First-party data will become even more important as third-party sources erode, so make sure you are maximizing your collection efforts across various campaigns and channels. The third step is to implement platform solutions that allow ad algorithms to track valuable actions both online and offline. Familiarize yourself with tools like Google’s Enhanced Conversions, Meta, and LinkedIn’s conversions APIs. The fourth and final step is to explore server-side hosting solutions. Storing analytics and data on servers you control provides a hedge against cookie erosion. Initiatives such as server-side GTM and researching customer data platforms like Segment and Tealium can help you take partial ownership of your data and analytics.

While the death of third-party cookies may seem daunting, it’s important to remember that it presents an opportunity for the industry to reevaluate tracking, measurement, and attribution methodologies. This shift is unlikely to be as transformative as future changes, making it a valuable learning experience for marketers. It’s also important to note that everyone is in the same boat, figuring out these changes together.

In conclusion, the death of third-party cookies is a significant development in the world of digital marketing. Marketers must understand the technical and marketing implications of this change and take proactive steps to prepare for the transition. By focusing on CRM cleanliness, tuning up data collection efforts, implementing platform solutions, and exploring server-side hosting options, marketers can navigate this change successfully and emerge as better marketers for it.

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