Third-party cookies

Affiliate marketing in a world without third-party cookies

If you are an experienced affiliate marketer or manager, you are probably familiar with cookies and what they entail. It is, in the simplest of terms, a small block of data produced by a web server that appears on a computer user’s device as they attempt to enter an unfamiliar website and enables it to keep track of their online activity. In recent months, however, the reality of affiliate marketing in a world without third-party cookies has edged closer towards fruition. This has been bolstered by both Google and Apple both recently announcing that they will phase out cookies before the end of 2022. If you are interested in a world where third-party cookies are obsolete, continue reading to find out everything you could ever want or need to know ahead of these changes taking place.

A natural response to a wider trend

It may have come as a surprise to some, but the demise of third-party cookies has, in actual fact, been materialising for a number of years. In 2019, for example, courts ruled that internet users must actively consent to cookies before they can continue browsing. If refused permission, the website will be unable to track the user or collect relevant data on their browsing habits. This announcement triggered thousands of headlines around the globe and has since become known as the infamous GDPR ruling. In 2020, Google also announced it would be phasing out cookies. This was in response to a growing number of online consumers demanding greater privacy and transparency when it comes to data usage and management. In 2021, the search engine giant also failed to announce a suitable replacement.

A shift to a first-party approach

In the coming years, affiliate marketing will enter a new era as third-party cookies become an endangered species. In response to this wider trend, affiliate managers will be forced to shift their focus to first-party cookies in an attempt to produce, manage, and update customer profiles manually as opposed to automatically. If the sheer thought of losing access to your customer’s online shopping behaviour and habits fills you with dread, however, there is no need to worry. Information relating to how they spend time on your website will continue to be readily available. This includes which actions customers take during their visit, how often customers visit, and general data analytics that can allow you to develop an effective digital marketing strategy. In addition, voucher codes and loyalty websites are also poised to take on a brand-new role in the affiliate marketing world. They are beneficial for a number of affiliate marketing actions but namely for building first-party data and customer profiling.

A new era of affiliate marketing

In order to welcome a new era of affiliate marketing, experts are pondering which strategies they will adopt if they are to succeed with a first-party-data-first approach. Marketing Director at ICS‑digital LLP, Martin Calvert, outlined his future plans: “If this shift encourages companies to be more confident about ethically gathering their own data and nurturing potential customers then that’s an outcome that could result in better results for brands, and more meaningful communications for prospects. Marketing automation and lead nurturing through email marketing/content isn’t a new concept but I hope that with less scope to lean on paid targeting, there is the chance that brands will become more thoughtful and strategic in their communications. More than this, there will be more of an incentive to get creative about ethically obtaining first-party data – from innovative incentives, PR campaigns, utilisation of brand ambassadors, and the like, there will be more emphasis on building trust with potential customers and making the decision to share data an easier one – and that should result in more engaged audiences.”

A great time to welcome new strategies

If you are curious as to how to react to affiliate marketing in a world without third-party cookies, it may benefit you to know that it is a great time to welcome new strategies. In the months since the gradual phase-out of cookies was announced, loyalty programs, in particular, have proven successful when it comes to acquiring and leveraging first-party data. In the affiliate marketing world, loyalty programs should remain one of your primary sources for first-party data with the ability to deliver a personalised experience through custom offers, discounts, promotions, deals, redeemable points, and greater engagement for your brand in the process. If your goal is to expand your reach, on the other hand, social media channels and free-play games can be powerful acquisition and retention tools in the affiliate marketing world to encourage consumers to engage with your brand and reward them for sharing their data with you.

In the affiliate marketing world, cookies are almost obsolete. This has gradually materialised in response to a wider trend over a number of years and has forced affiliate managers to shift to a first-party data approach as they contend with a new era of affiliate marketing and welcome new strategies.

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