What Does a Cookieless Future Look Like? | Bluesoup

What Does a Cookieless Future Look Like?

When a user visits a website, they leave behind traces of their digital profile, which are known as cookies. Websites use this information to paint a better picture of the people who visit their site, which can help offer them a more tailored experience when they return in future.

But recently, increased privacy concerns relating to cookies have brought around big changes. Big guns such as Apple and Google have made fundamental changes to set us up for a ‘cookieless future’ which is due to happen in 2024, after being delayed to allow marketers to make adjustments to their marketing efforts.

Customers are still keen on a personalised shopping experience, but they want their privacy respected, meaning the data used for personalisation needs to be clean - so how will that work?

Changes Ahead

Google started the trend back in 2020 when they announced that they were phasing out third-party cookies within the Chrome browser, and Apple followed suit by announcing changes to Identifiers for Advertisers (IDFAs) which made them less valuable than before.

To get a better understanding of why third-party cookies are being phased out, it is important to understand the difference between third-party and first-party cookies. Both are technically the same in the fact they are data collected by the website and sent to the browser, containing information on an individual user’s interactions, and browsing history.

But the big difference is how they are collected and what they are used for.

First-party cookies are created by the same website the user is visiting and collect data such as payment method preferences, username and password, preferred language, items in a basket, and so on.

Third-party cookies are created by a different domain other than the one the user is visiting and are generally used for advertising purposes. Their purpose is to do things such as:

  • Deliver personalised and optimised adverts to various websites (known as ad serving)
  • Deliver retargeting adverts, based on past behaviour
  • Track a user’s navigation between different websites

The Importance of Cookies

Cookies have somewhat of a bad rep, but they’re not the issue – the issue is with how they are used. We’ve broken down the different classifications to give a better understanding of them and to spell out the

Strictly Necessary

These are essential to the functionality of a website. Without them, a website’s services and features cannot be accessed by a user. They are not used for advertising purposes. Examples of their uses include:

  • Ensure users remain secure onsite
  • Remember previously entered information on a website
  • Identify when a user is logged in

These can be disabled through the browser, but it will affect how the website functions.

Functional Cookies

Functional cookies allow a more personalised experience based on settings that a user has previously specified on the site. This can include:

  • Your preferred language
  • Your location
  • Your username

These cookies allow the website to provide personalised features like local news stories and weather.

Performance Cookies

Performance cookies (also known as measurement cookies) are used to collect data about website traffic and the profiles of the visitors. A common example of this would be data gathered by Google Analytics. It is also worth noting that these cookies do not gather information on a user’s identity, just how they interact with the site.

Performance cookies are important for those who want to:

  • Identify weak points on pages to help optimise the user’s experience
  • Gain a better understanding of their audience demographics
  • Analyse the performance of digital marketing campaigns

Targeting Cookies

These are the cookies that are used for advertising purposes and are based on a user’s behaviour, placed onto a website by another domain (with the permission of the website owner). They are used for:

  • Serving adverts that are tailored to a user’s interests
  • Segmenting an audience for more precise advertising campaigns

These cookies can also be disabled, but it won’t stop adverts from appearing on websites – it just means the adverts will not be tailored to the user’s profile.

It is the latter of these cookies that is getting a bad rep, due to an increased awareness surrounding data protection and privacy. Think with Google report that searches for ‘online privacy’ grew by 50% globally in 2020 compared to the previous year, highlighting that internet users are taking more of an interest in what happens with their data when they’re online.

In general, cookies are harmless and enhance a user’s website experience. The issue is that third-party cookies may not be able to guarantee the protection and safety of a user’s data. One risk to privacy is the possibility that companies will sell the information they collect without users ever knowing, which is when the use of this data becomes unlawful, even if the data is only being used for advertising purposes.

With 72% of people stating they believe that everything they do on the internet is tracked and 81% saying the potential risks of using their data outweigh the benefits, Google Chrome and other browsers have committed to eliminating third-party cookies and building an internet with privacy at the forefront.

Google knew the shift to a cookieless future would have a huge impact on the advertising industry, so they created the Privacy Sandbox, which aimed to bring together internet-wide measures which would help create guidelines that digital advertising could abide by, to ensure a user’s privacy is kept intact.

Included in these guidelines is the FLoC (Federated Learning of Cohorts), which aims to gather users into ‘cohorts’ based on common browsing habits, and then target them with relevant adverts based on their interests.

This way, the algorithm can combine large groups of users who share interests into groups and then target them with adverts, removing the need for individualised data.

Google also recommends strengthening first-party data, so how can that be achieved?


With the ever-increasing concerns surrounding the collection of personal data and its use, brands need to be transparent from the get-go. Long story short, brands need to be clear with how they are collecting personal data and how they plan to use it. This isn’t a legal obligation, but it will go a long way to building trust and relationships with their customers.

Collecting Data Directly

Instead of collecting data through third-party means, brands can investigate other data collection that deals directly with consumers – social media polls, satisfaction surveys and market research are just a few ways of getting a deeper understanding of your audience.

Onsite Privacy Policy

Having an up-to-date privacy policy is a must, being easily accessible on the website and laid out clearly and concisely. Within this, it should outline just what data is being captured on the website and how it is going to be used.

While providing this is essential to outline what you are going to do with the data, people should clearly be able to opt out of their data being gathered – this should be front and centre and should be quick and easy for the user to do.

Wrap Up

It’s a lot to get your head around, we know! Advertisers should be keeping a close eye on how things develop with data collection and making contingency plans for 2023. But it’s far from doom and gloom. Too many companies have been profiting from harvesting data, so the force change to buy real ads from real people can only be a positive thing. Rather than broadly targeted ‘throw enough mud and some will stick’ ads, tailored advertising will likely become much more sophisticated and relevant to a user’s actual search preferences.

If you’ve got any concerns about the cookieless future, feel free to get in touch for a chat!