iOS14 and the “Death of the Cookie”: How Your Digital Ad Strategy Can Thrive in a Post-Cookies Future

03.02.2021 Cox Media

If you’re a business that has relied on digital advertising to reach your target audience, your ad strategy has probably factored in a small-but-important digital file called a cookie.

First of all, what is a cookie?

Cookies are text files created by your web browser to track where users have been on the Internet. While they were originally created to give web users a better experience by remembering their past logins to a website, cookies became a core tool of digital marketers looking to track consumers and gather data about their online activity.

As privacy concerns about the widespread use of cookies has grown in recent years, this simple text file has received pushback from privacy advocates and consumers alike. Then came an even bigger change to the digital marketing landscape: in 2020, Apple announced that its iOS 14 software update would disable the use of cookies as its default setting, ushering in a much faster shift away from cookies than was anticipated by many marketers, advertisers, and even technology experts.

Meanwhile, popular browsers like Safari and Firefox have abandoned the use of cookies, while Google Chrome has plans to do so in the near future. But if the phasing out of cookies has you worried about the future of digital advertising, have no fear: although cookies have been a cornerstone of digital marketing for years, there are other consumer-friendly and privacy-compliant ways to utilize behavioral data and effectively reach consumers most likely to be interested in your product or service online.

Here’s a look at how your digital ad strategy can thrive in a post-cookies future.

1. Unifying Cross-Device Information

While cookies may not be a widespread tool for tracking online users across different websites apps and other online activities, alternative tracking tools will be available to support advertising strategies. The main difference is that, instead of a unified ID to connect a single user across different websites through cookies, each website visit will now create an individual identifier for that user.

Instead of one ID tracking users across 20 different websites, for example, 20 individual tracking IDs will now be created. The challenge, then, is unifying those IDs within a single user profile to compile these behaviors and build a comprehensive profile of online users.

It’s important to note that this unification can be performed without using any personally identifiable data, and while remaining in compliance with all existing privacy laws. The difference is that, instead of relying on cookies to automatically build this user profile, advertising and marketing experts will need to lean on various tracking tools to connect disparate IDs and build profiles that can be reached through a digital strategy.

2. Tracking Users Through IDFA

Cookies are used to track users across their activity within a web browser. But mobile applications take a different approach to tracking. While Apple is getting rid of cookies, it still offers tracking through a solution known as Identifier for Advertisers (IDFA).

IDFA is a powerful sources of tracking data that can help advertisers track and leverage user activity within a mobile app. This service is very similar to traditional cookies in terms of their functionality, but they’re a more user-friendly solution because consumers can decide whether to opt in to sharing this data. Ultimately, IDFA is designed to help advertisers build and optimize mobile campaigns, ensuring that a move away from cookies won’t compromise the ability of businesses to reach consumers through their devices.

3. Gathering Location and Other Data Through Mobile Devices

Thanks to IDFA and the hardware built into mobile devices, accurate location-based targeting can still be achieved through IDFA. Even though consumers have to opt in to sharing their location data, this is easily achieved through apps where location data is key to the user experience, such as navigation apps.

While a shift away from cookies may mean there is less location data available to advertisers, much of this location data is redundant, with multiple apps and data sources sharing the same location data. Through IDFA, there may be less location data, but this smaller set of data is unlikely to impede your ability to reaching consumers by location.

4. Leveraging Other Sources of Data

Cookies are a valuable tool for building online consumer profiles and reaching a selected audience, but they’re far from the only way consumers are identified through a digital ad strategy. In addition to alternatives like IDFA, much of the data points used to reach audiences through online search will remain intact.

In addition, businesses can also combine their own first-party data with third-party data to build more comprehensive ad targeting strategies. Thanks to this online ecosystem already build to support advertising, a post-cookies future doesn’t pose a threat to your company’s advertising capabilities.

Ultimately, consumers still have plenty of incentive to voluntarily share their user data in exchange for valuable online experiences. As long as consumer data is being used to offer value in return, this data will be accessible to businesses committed to building a successful, sustainable advertising strategy.

Still unsure of how a post-cookies future might affect your digital advertising? Click here for a two-minute summary from one of our own Cox Media digital experts.

A digital ad partner can guide you through this process and make sure you’re positioned to manage this transition without missing a beat in your ad strategy. Contact us today—we’re here to help.

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