How to Prepare for Cookieless eCommerce

The disappearance of cookies in eCommerce is a topic that is increasingly present in every online store’s roadmap, as well as the issue of dealing with a future with no cookies.

The main browsers like Google Chrome, Safari or Firefox are undergoing a process through which they’ll be able to eliminate the use of third-party cookies. They intend to start blocking them in a relatively short period of time, and in some cases, initial steps have already been taken.

The desire to eliminate the use of cookies is linked to the fact that users are becoming more and more aware of privacy issues, have more knowledge about the online ecosystem and have more concerns about data processing.

Currently, cookies provide a large conglomerate of data to online stores related to web analytics, advertising pixels or even eCommerce personalization itself.

For this reason, the concern of eCommerce site owners and all digital professionals is also evident. Is there a future for eCommerce without cookies?

👉 What are cookies?

Cookies are information files that are stored in browsers. These files are sent from a web server and are used to track data related to a user’s browsing activity.

Cookies provide a large amount of data to online stores, related to web analytics, advertising pixels or even eCommerce personalization itself.

Their purpose varies a lot, ranging from saving a user’s password, to storing products from an abandoned cart or reporting behavioral data.

Currently, there are privacy laws, such as the GDPR in the European Union or the CCPA in the United States, which require the acceptance of tracking cookies and require the website to inform the user about the specific data obtained from their browsing.

👉What types of cookies are there?

Depending on the type of data they store, they can be first-party or third-party:

First-party Cookies

These cookies are hosted on the same site they are sent from, i.e., these cookies do not share the information they obtain with any third-party platform. They are also sometimes referred to as “first party data”.

Third-party Cookies

Third-party cookies send information to platforms outside of the eCommerce site; these types of cookies are the most controversial in terms of privacy. An example of these kinds of cookies that affect online stores are advertising technology solutions.

Depending on the type of data they store, they can be first-party or third-party:

➡️ Session Cookies

These types of cookies are stored in a browser only while the user is in a session, after which they are deleted.

➡️Persistent Cookies

Persistent cookies are stored in the browser so that the next time the user visits the website, they will remember this information, and they also have an expiration date, but for a long period of time.

👉 Why are cookies important in an eCommerce site?

eCommerce sites use cookies to study user behavior and understand consumer needs, and this way be able to target marketing actions.

The information sent through cookies allows a site to improve user experience during the purchase process, providing valuable information, because this information can be used to meet the eCommerce site’s objectives.

In online advertising campaigns, cookies are a key factor, since they allow to optimize campaigns through segmentation, understand how they are working or learn more about the attribution of these campaigns.

👉And why is there a need for cookieless eCommerce?

Users’ trust in online privacy has been eroded in recent years, with the average user becoming increasingly aware that their browsing data is being tracked and demanding transparent data collection.

According to a study conducted by the Pew Research Center, 72% of people are aware that their browsing is being tracked, and 81% believe that the risks of data collection outweigh any benefits they may gain.

Technology companies are no strangers to this trend, in fact, this study is used by Google itself as an argument for the removal of third-party cookies in its Chrome browser. Other browsers like Safari, Firefox or Brave are also currently in the process of removing third-party cookies.

We may observe the same trend in mobile apps, and as an example, we have the launch of IOS 14, which meant a drastic change in the privacy of Apple devices.

👉How can this affect my eCommerce site?

Initially, an eCommerce site’s own first-party cookies will not be affected, so there is no problem with the site’s own authentication cookies or personalization cookies. The problem arises with third-party cookies, in relation to digital analytics tools or advertising platforms.

Cookies make it possible to identify the user and classify visitors to a website based on their characteristics, which facilitates the segmentation of users in various marketing campaigns.

Without the data from third-party cookies, we can’t classify users and so, there would be no possibility of targeting, which nips advertising optimization capability in the bud.

In the analysis of advertising actions, eCommerce sites will be affected, as relevant metrics like impressions, clicks or conversions in third-party tools will not be measurable as before.

The most relevant at this point is attribution because without third-party cookies, it will be much more difficult to control all the touchpoints of the customer journey in online store conversions.

👉 How will data collection evolve in the future?

The consequence of this increased privacy for marketers will be less personalized advertising and greater difficulty in optimizing budgets.

Leading technology companies are looking for solutions to this problem, moving towards tools that don’t rely on third-party cookies and protect anonymous user data.

These are tools that manage data by interests, so that none of the user’s personal data can be identified, nor is this data sent to external servers. An example for this type of technology is Google’s Floc, now called “Topics”.

The emergence of these new technologies may give us a clue as to how these tools will adapt to cookieless eCommerce in the future.

👉 What should digital professionals do in this situation?

As we have seen throughout the post, third-party cookies have no future and digital professionals should focus on new data collection systems.

In other words, they should be attentive to the technological and privacy changes that will occur in the near future, as the trend is to eliminate cookies and focus on “first party data”.

Future alternatives for data collection are proprietary databases and new advertising technology solutions. With proprietary databases, we can perform various actions such as e-mail automation, web notifications or SMS texts.

eCommerce sites must focus on their own data and provide reassurance to users, who are increasingly concerned about privacy, with effective solutions. And this, coupled with new advertising systems, will mean the future of eCommerce without third-party cookies.