There has been mixed reaction by many at the realization that by January 2022, website cookies will effectively be a thing of the past. It shouldn’t come as a surprise considering Apple stopped supporting them some time ago and Google announced in January 2020 that they are following suit. But as we start 2021, many websites are still depending on cookies to gather customer data. For companies that continue on this route, digital leaders are predicting that there could be as much as a 50% drop off in website visitors. Companies who do not fear the cookieless future, have already sought alternate ways to gather customer data and optimize customer experiences, and they’re proving to be more accurate and effective too. 

Why move away from cookies? 

Website cookies have been used by marketers and advertisers as a way of tracking customers as they browse the web. However, with web users calling for greater privacy and many questioning the accuracy of the data collected by third-party cookies, some tech giants decided to ban them all together. It started in September 2017 when Apple released Intelligent Tracking Prevention or ITP 1.0 on Safari. This meant that customer data stored on third-party cookies would be deleted after 24 hours and first-party cookies would remain for only 30 days. In 2018, these settings were further tightened by not allowing any third-party cookies and only allowing first-party cookies to retain data for 30 days. As of this article, the latest release only allows for cookies to retain data for 7 days. Mozilla implemented a similar stance on its browser, Firefox. So when Google announced it was heading down the same route for Chrome—currently the most widely used browser—it signaled that companies would need to find an alternate way to track online consumer behavior.

None of this is a bad thing!

The changes under ITP means that cookies have lost their value. As a result, many companies are also moving away from using third-party JavaScripts on their websites. This is an attempt to reduce the potential for cyberattacks where third-party JavaScripts have opened up exploitation vectors. 

Case in point: In 2018, British Airways was targeted by a malicious cyberattack where thousands of customers had their personal and payment data exposed. This resulted in British Airways being fined a record £183 million for the data breach. It was later discovered that a third-party JavaScript had been inserted into the payment mechanism diverting customers to a false website. The fine was a result of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) that had come into effect. It highlighted that companies need to make greater efforts to protect all forms of customer data and find better ways of storing it.

What are cookieless alternatives?

One option to replace cookies is to utilize local storage for user data instead. The major difference between cookies and local storage is that when data is stored in a subdomain (local storage), it can only be accessed and read in that specific subdomain. It doesn’t allow for cross domain tracking which means that ITP can’t access it and the data can’t be wiped. It also has the added benefit of improving data accuracy.

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Another option is to have or create a unique user ID. This can be any form of unique identifier and doesn’t need to contain any personal customer information. This unique ID is used to track how customers respond to ideas and can also provide data to optimize customer experiences. 

Optimizing Customer Experience in a Cookieless Future

Many marketers are concerned about a cookieless future because without the ability to track customer web activity and gather their browsing data, they believe they will be limited in their ability to target ad campaigns and personalize customer experiences. In reality there are more advanced technologies and solutions that do a far better job at analyzing how customers respond to touch points in the customer journey and optimize for the best customer experience. These technologies are able to do this without third-party JavaScripts and do not negatively impact the performance of web pages—an issue with many third-party JavaScripts. By eliminating third-party JavaScripts, companies also significantly reduce their security risk because their client data is not exposed.

Evolv’s Experience Accelerator provides companies with meaningful insights to understand user behavior and optimize the customer experience to drive key improvements including better conversions and revenue growth. It does not need cookies to do this, just a unique user ID. It leverages artificial intelligence (AI) to sort through thousands of possibilities and identifies the best performing ideas and combinations. The optimizations use live website users and, as a result, generate lift while the optimization is running and gets smarter. New ideas can be added anytime, winning ideas can be built on and optimized further to create even better customer experiences. 

The simple truth is that if companies are looking to gather user data to improve CX and drive growth, they don’t need cookies to do that. There’s no reason to fear the cookieless future. There are much more advanced options, far better at optimizing customer experiences and helping companies achieve growth targets.   

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