Internet users have long had a negative perception of digital cookies, associating them with an invasion of privacy and unwanted data harvesting. Finally, users’ complaints are having an impact, and a cookieless future is on the horizon.
This shift isn’t just a win for internet users. Publishers should also celebrate. Instead of using digital cookies to track your customers, you now have an opportunity to build more authentic relationships with your readers.
In this article, we’ll take a look at what that future looks like for publishers and provide six alternatives for building a personal online experience without cookies.
What Are Website Cookies?
Cookies are digital records of a user’s online activity. Every time a person visits a website, the website saves a record of that visit, including pages they viewed, forms they filled out, and information they saved.
The website sends those cookies back to your browser, where they are stored. Then, as that user visits other sites, they create new records. The other sites they visit will also view their past cookies to see what other stops they made along the way.
For example, the cookies might tell a website that the user came from a sporting goods site. The new website might respond by sharing ads for sporting equipment in the sidebar to create a personalized experience for the user.
Cookies can also pull up the most relevant information based on location or other known data; auto-fill forms or information based on the last visit; keep items in a user’s shopping cart; and provide relevant website recommendations.
While cookies have a positive application, they also put users at risk of data breaches and privacy invasions. Only 3% of internet users in the U.S. understand privacy laws and how their online content is protected. The rest are likely concerned about cookies and how websites use their data.
Cookies aren’t just used to improve the user’s experience. They also provide valuable information to the website’s publisher, allowing them to track more of their visitors’ activities.
Cookies will tell you where the visitor came from, what they do on your website, where they are located, and more, depending on the type of cookies.
This data allows you to optimize your strategies for your visitors to enhance their experience.
Why Are Cookies a Thing of the Past?
Approximately 93% of Americans say they want to be able to control their data and who can access it. While there are already laws protecting users, 66% of consumers want more laws in place to protect their privacy. Nearly 10% of people think the current laws aren’t effective enough.
Despite the consensus among consumers that tracking and data harvesting are negative, 80% of consumers prefer buying from companies that offer a personalized experience. In addition, 72% will only interact with personal messages.
These contradictory statistics show that consumers enjoy personalized experiences but don’t want to have those experiences at the expense of their privacy. Therefore, their issue isn’t that companies are collecting information to improve the user’s experience. Instead, it’s with how companies go about collecting that data.
As a publisher, when you stop using cookies and move to alternative methods for data collection, you give more control to the customer. As a result, you will build trust and improve the customer experience.
The Benefit of a Cookieless Future
Have you ever had a conversation with a friend about a particular topic, like a beach vacation, only to find your online ads filled with offers for exotic getaways and last-minute tickets shortly after?
The theory that devices are always listening is unnerving. However, if you told a sales rep that you wanted to take a vacation, and the next day that rep sent you an email with exclusive vacation offers, would that experience have the same negative undertone as the previous one?
Most likely, it would not. In fact, it would probably have the exact opposite result. You would likely appreciate the personalized experience and exclusive offers.
You can offer that same feeling to your audience when you ditch cookies and instead rely on alternative methods for collecting data and tracking customer actions. Changing how you go about these tasks will also change how customers view your company.
By moving away from cookies, consumers will no longer view you as a company that mines visitors’ data for unknown purposes. Instead, you are a company that cares about your customers and wants to provide a personalized and exclusive experience without compromising their data privacy.
6 Ways Publishers Should Adjust Their Strategies for a Cookieless Future
These six strategies will help you prepare for a cookieless future that is customer-centric and built on trust and transparency.
1. Collect First-Party Data
There are two primary types of cookies. Third-party cookies are what people most often think of in regard to website cookies. This is the data that browsers store and share on each website. Third-party cookies allow you to see which websites and pages users have visited in order to customize their current experience. While these cookies give you a broader picture of your visitors, they also put users at the greatest risk for data breaches.
First-party data only collects and stores data from a user’s direct interactions with your brand. Through first-party data, you can still save a user’s password, customize your website based on their location, and keep items in their cart without spreading their information across the internet or pulling data from other sites.
Many browsers, like Chrome, are already eliminating third-party cookies to protect users and their privacy.
2. Track People Using Other Information
Cookies aren’t the only means of tracking your visitors. You can also follow people by phone number, email, or other personal identifiers. Using alternative identifiers allows you to create a more personalized experience, as you know exactly who you’re addressing, and you’re not just creating an experience based on the device or browser you detect.
3. Build a Transparent Brand
Cookies alone aren’t the problem. The main controversy is that users want to know what data websites are collecting and how they use that data. One way to build trust with your users in the future is to be more transparent about what is happening behind the scenes of your website.
About 66% of consumers agree that brand transparency is one of the essential qualities of a business.
As users browse your website, be clear about what data you’re collecting from their browsing experience, how you plan to use that data, where you will share it, and how long you plan to save it.
4. Perform Research
Instead of gathering incomplete data through cookies, you can collect more valuable information by asking consumers directly about their behavior. Some ways to collect data directly from consumers include:
- Performing market research
- Sending out surveys
- Posting polls
- Asking questions on social media
- Starting discussions during live events
The data you collect through these methods can be far more valuable than what cookies tell you. Direct customer data has context and is connected to individual people instead of a browser.
5. Analyze Content Data
Your content can tell you information about your readers that is just as revealing as third-party cookies. By analyzing the context of your articles, such as keywords and themes, you can predict who is most likely to read that article and then base your ads on that data.
For example, a news article on the Super Bowl will attract sports fans. Your website can identify this topic using keywords, images, and internal links. Then, it can pull relevant sports-related ads based on the same keywords to create a personalized and seamless experience for visitors.
6. Build Closer Relationships with Your Customers
The most important step to replacing cookies is investing in customer relationships. Rather than trying to make a quick sale, you should be focusing on forming mutual long-term commitments with your customers.
You build a relationship with customers by offering a personalized experience, rewarding loyalty, and investing in relevant and quality content that keeps your audience returning to your site.
Just like with any relationship, it’s a two-way process. You aren’t just investing in a positive user experience – you’re also listening to your customers. By listening to your customers’ comments, forum posts, and social media mentions, you collect valuable data about your visitors and what they want.
That data can then guide your online decisions. For example, you can find common interests or pain points and offer solutions through ads based on customer feedback.
Invest in Your Customers Through Native Advertising
RevContent is a native advertising company that is always looking to the future. We keep our customers at the center of our strategies, which means their privacy is crucial to us. Because of our commitment to our partners, we create advertising solutions that use organic strategies and insights without compromising your visitors’ privacy.
Contact us to learn more about our secure and private native advertising solutions.