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Marketing Café: Why Cookie-Based Advertising Isn’t The Best Idea For Your Business Anymore

8 min read
Marketing Café: Why Cookie-Based Advertising Isn’t The Best Idea For Your Business Anymore

Not so long ago, cookie files were very useful when it came to tracking user behavior and content retargeting. Unfortunately, they aren’t a top-shelf technology anymore. That's the way the cookie crumbles.

Times have changed, and fast-growing technology has left cookies far behind. In that case, what should marketers do? What are the alternatives? 
Let me be your guide and let's set out on a journey through this marketing cafe, so that in the pursuit of cookies you will not miss the real icing on the cake, which is to win many loyal customers. 

What is Cookie-Based Marketing? 

Forget about delicious-looking sweet pastries sprinkled with powdered sugar. Cookies are small pieces of code that are implemented in web browsers to track online traffic, display targeted ads, and collect valuable user profiles.
Whenever a new user visits your site, the server drops a cookie to the browser. It's a simple tracker to watch your audience across the entire network. Cookies allow you to monitor and collect data about visitor activity, browsing behavior, interests and demographics. 
The collection of cookies takes place all the time when a person is surfing across different domains. Cookie files are stored on the hard disk, and servers access them after re-emerging on previously visited websites. 
It's a bit like going to your favorite café, when the salesperson recognizes you and remembers that you always take three buns with cheese to go and every Thursday you come to eat a piece of chocolate cake, sitting at your favorite window table. 

The most common applications of this technology include:

Broken cookie with arrows with functions listed

Find Your Flavor: Types of Advertising Cookies

In order not to get lost in a multitude of possibilities, here are the four basic types of cookies that every marketer should know:

First-party cookie - specialty of the house

This is the most basic type of cookie. Their source is the primary domain visited by the user and only the operator of the website has access to them.

First-party data is the result of a direct relationship between the company and its customers. This includes:

•    data defining customer behavior in the company's internet domains
•    data from customer profiles established as part of company websites
•    data from CMS and CRM systems as well as transaction systems, loyalty programs, etc.
The use of first-party cookies has many advantages for site visitors. 
Thanks to them, the ease of using the website is significantly increased. Users don’t have to change the language in which the website should be displayed on each visit.
Login details are entered automatically and cookies suggest information that has already been entered into the form, like personal data provided for the execution of orders.
Cookies also allow users to view recently visited subpages, as well as suggesting previously entered search terms, so a person can more easily return to a specific page of results.
What are the advantages of first-party cookies for the owners of a given website? This is undoubtedly a great tool for collecting data of a specific type. Based on their analysis, you can draw conclusions about the behavior of users and properly optimize the website. In addition, first-party cookies are more trusted compared to third-party cookies, the description of which can be found below.

Third-party cookies - baking with colorful sprinkles

Third-party data is information that is collected and used by—guess?—third parties that are not directly related to the company, such as social networks. Such entities spread their cookie files on other websites to get as much information about users as possible, even when they don’t have a particular page enabled in the browser.
They include demographic data (sex, age, earnings, or education), psychographic data (defining affiliation to social class, interests), as well as behavioral data (related to online searches and browsed websites). The website owner has no control over third-party cookies.

The ways third-party cookies are used include:

•    ad targeting - advertisers are very keen to target relevant ads that will respond to user expectations and interest them. This allows them to maximize conversions
•    social buttons - placing links to social media in the form of buttons is very popular. The main objective of this activity is to increase the audience for content on the site: if users like what they see on the website, they can easily and quickly share this content with their friend network using the social button
•    third party services - special services such as chatbots are often used by website owners. Live Chat places a cookie file in your browser to improve customer service. It's mainly about remembering users and their previous conversations. However, if users delete cookies, the chat history and related information will also be lost

Session cookie - easy to bake, but with a short shelf life 

This type of cookie is characterized by the fact that they are stored temporarily and deleted automatically after a certain time or after leaving the website or web browser. 

The most common example of this functionality is the shopping cart feature of any e-commerce website. When a person visits one page of the catalog and picks some items, the session cookie remembers this selection. If the user decides to confirm the order and go to the payment page, the basket will contain all the marked products. This happens thanks to session cookies.

An exemplary product page with sports shoes, in the corner a shopping bag icon and a tab with the "See shopping basket" info

Persistent cookie - always fresh

Persistent cookies remain on the device for a specified period of time or until the user deletes them. What is their basic function? They help in storing information on whether the user is on the site for the first time or has visited a website before. 

Cookies Are Getting Stale

The origins of cookies date back to the 90’s, when the use of the Internet was limited to desktops. At that time it was quite an innovation, but as the popularity of tablets and other mobile devices increased, cookies ceased to fulfill their functions.

The use of cookies in the world of mobile is very inefficient. This is due to one simple reason—in the case of mobile devices, user behavior is very fragmented. Users access the network not only through a mobile browser, but also use a range of applications that also have the ability to display ads.
Most of the time spent using mobile devices is in apps (2 hours 57 minutes per day). For comparison, only 26 minutes are spent in the browser!

Moreover, each cookie, even persistent ones, expires after a certain period of time. This so-called digital period of storage, which depends on what the cookie is used for (what type it is) and how the user's browser is configured. In addition, users can delete cookies from their devices at any time.
For this reason, marketers who would like to use cookies to target content may have problems obtaining the exact customer journey pattern.
Cookies may not provide accurate browsing history and user coverage, because the same people may be counted each time a cookie expires (or is deleted). Moreover, if more than one person is using the device, the measurement is also affected.
Remember, cookies are not people. These are just browser device identifiers, which means you can never be sure if they are fully correspond to the person's purchase history or shopping experience.

In a Marketing Café: Focus More On The Person, Not On Cookies

The use of device-oriented technology is not reliable, while in the era of hyper-personalization it’s pointless. Therefore, marketers have to transform their data collection strategies and adapt them to the requirements of the present times.
New technologies give identity to the user, not the device. However, if you don’t focus on cookies, what should you use to effectively target content to recipients?
People-based marketing is an approach that personalizes ads targeted at a specific person, regardless of the transition between devices, applications and browsers.
To find out if someone visited your social media, used your application, or entered your website using mobile browsers, you need to give that person a specific ID. The easiest way to do this is to use the user's email address.
You may have already read about how important a resource email addresses are and how well they supports personalization.
The email address is unique enough to connect its owner with profiles and personal accounts through which their behavior can be monitored. You have probably often encountered situations when you had to provide your email address to access an ebook, a coupon or a discount for subsequent purchases.

Application form for downloading the e-book

The same applies to creating an account in a mobile application that you use when visiting a store. Thanks to this, the company can monitor your behavior and preferences not only in the online space, but also offline.

This state of affairs requires a major change in advertising and remarketing, where cookies simply do not fulfill their function anymore.

The last cookie

The use of a cookie-based advertising strategy results in the loss of a huge part of the target group. The specificity of cookie files is not adapted to the present times, where most users use mobile devices. This causes inefficiencies in remarketing campaigns.
In return, start preparing for a people-based marketing activities. Try to collect information about the user both online and offline. Forget about the appearance of personalization.
In this way, your marketing successes will be a bit sweeter because you achieve a better engagement with people who are really interested in what you want to offer them.