The demise of third-party cookies

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What does the demise of third-party cookies mean for marketers?

Privacy continues to be a hot topic for email senders, especially marketers. As the demand for relevant and personalized email increases in 2022, the barriers to collecting the actionable data necessary to meet that demand will increase as well. The loss of third-party cookies next year is the beginning of a paradigm shift that will continue to drive marketers to rethink data collection.

This phase-out of third-party cookies has been one of the more predictable trends in digital marketing in recent years. Despite Apple (Safari) and Mozilla (Firefox) having already blocked third-party cookies, Google’s announcement marked a major milestone for marketers. With its dominant market share, Google’s decision will fundamentally change online advertising, with brands, agencies and martech vendors now scrambling to figure out how to adapt.

However, where one door closes, another door opens. By decreasing their dependence on third-party cookies, marketers will begin to make their first-party data and channels such as email work harder for them. It may be another year before we wave goodbye to third-party cookies for good, but in the meantime, there is a real opportunity for marketers to up their game and get ahead of the curve.

What are third-party cookies?

Third-party tracking involves data that’s not owned by the website you’re on – and it’s used after you leave. Let’s say you’re on Currys and look at a camera, and then you go to John Lewis and see that same camera in an ad in your sidebar. That’s a third-party cookie tracking your internet habits. Firefox and Safari no longer support third-party tracking, and Google has announced they’ll follow suit with plans to sunset third-party cookies in 2023.

The impact of third-party cookies sunsetting can be remarkable. Eliminating vast pools of third-party data means a limited number of platforms where advertising data can join together; making tech giants even more powerful. This is an opportunity for anyone driving an audience to their website to look at creating better profiles that drive longer term loyalty and engagement.

What does the demise of third-party cookies mean for marketers?

With huge changes on the horizon, marketers are having to adapt the way they collaborate with customers which means making big changes to the way they have been working for years.

Email marketers have long understood the importance of the long-term strategy of building profiles and putting data to work more effectively. The humble, simple email is actually not that simple. In fact, it is one of the most worthy weapons in our daily battle against competitors.

While it remains user-friendly, and definitely one of the most cost effective methods of communication, it bears significant commercial value that translates into positive results towards strategic business KPIs – such as customer satisfaction, customer loyalty, and repeat business.

The demise of third-party cookies highlights the importance of zero- and first-party data to marketers. Now is the time for marketers to hone in on these aspects and ensure they have a strategy in place that capitalizes on these previously overlooked methods of data collection. In the ever-changing privacy landscape, getting access to third-party and second-party data will become increasingly complex – first-party and zero-party data will become the gold standard.

Email marketers are in a position to lead the charge on motivating their organization to see the benefits of making an incremental investment in email and the martech ecosystem.

Why is email the secret weapon for success in a post-cookie world?

Email drives a hefty return on investment and can also lead to long-term revenue, but only if it receives the attention and investment it deserves. Email has evolved in value and importance, and it can affect your relationship with your customers. No matter how thoroughly designed and well executed your loyalty programs are; if your customers don’t feel valued and appreciated if they feel being ignored or not properly informed, they will look for alternatives. They will look at your competition.

Naturally, email has the ability to be the glue between consumers and brands. Everything from promotions, to educational content, to retargeting can all be done using your most precious first-party data asset: email. It is for this reason that marketers should renew their focus on email and other channels that are powered by zero- and first-party data. Brands need to know their audiences as well as possible, but far better to work with consumers to create better profiles that drive longer-term loyalty and engagement.

What is important, is that marketers are willing to adapt how they use data in order to continue to provide customers with a highly personalized experience that respects their right to privacy. These changes require brands to remain customer focused at all times, and to always be thinking about how to make processes and experience better and more personalized.

The demise of third-party cookies puts a tailwind behind channels that leverage first-party data – email being the most pervasive channel using the data. Now is the time to evangelize that retention is the new acquisition. We should all be gearing up for more investment in email and SMS because owned data is about to be more valuable than ever.

SparkPost is the industry’s most trusted email sending and optimization platform. SparkPost helps senders reliably reach the inbox with powerful solutions to help them plan, execute and optimize their email programs. The SparkPost platform is powered by the industry’s largest data network, a team of email experts to help brands elevate every aspect of their email program, and a security and compliance posture to support even the most regulated industries. SparkPost is the world’s largest sender, delivering nearly 40% of all commercial email – over 6 trillion sends annually – and also boasts the world’s largest data footprint to help enterprise-level brands make data-driven decisions to improve their email performance. The world’s most sophisticated senders, including The New York Times, Zillow, Adobe and trust SparkPost to elevate their email. Learn more at or connect via Twitter, LinkedIn or the SparkPost blog. SparkPost is a MessageBird company.

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April Mullen is a proven marketing leader currently focusing on brand and content marketing at SparkPost, a MessageBird company. With 15 years’ experience on the agency, martech and brand sides of marketing, she understands the complexities and challenges that marketers face.

April is a passionate advocate for helping and mentoring others. She’s always willing to help lend advice for a conference pitch or to discuss career decisions. Because of her love for helping others, April co-founded Women of Email, an organization with over 6,000 members on six continents that is aimed at driving positive change within the industry and professional growth for women in digital marketing. She has been published in industry publications and frequently speaks at conferences and webinars. Mullen was named to DMNews’ 40 Under 40 list in 2018 and DMNews’ 2019 Marketing Hall of Femme Women to Watch list.

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