Cookieless Tracking: Tips for Privacy-First Ecommerce in 2024

Auteur

Christine Hannivan

Date

Temps de lecture

6 mins
Cookieless Tracking: Tips for Privacy-First Ecommerce in 2024

We’re living through one of the biggest digital transformations since the internet's humble beginnings. With Google's Privacy Sandbox initiative and increasing emphasis on user privacy, ecommerce businesses face some big new challenges. As Google Chrome prepares to block third-party cookies for all its users, online businesses will have to find ways to adapt if they want to continue to grow. 

This article will guide you through this new cookieless era for ecommerce, focusing on strategies like cookieless tracking and analytics, leveraging first-party and zero-party data, and ensuring compliance with regulations like GDPR.

Embracing Our New Cookieless Reality

Since the 1990s, HTTP Cookies have been used to store information about a person’s browsing history on websites and across the internet. There are two main types of cookies: first-party cookies, which are used to remember users and their activity on your website, and third-party cookies, which track users all across the web. 

“Cookieless ecommerce” refers to losing data gathered from third-party cookies, which is slowly being implemented across web browsers (you’ll always be able to track your users through first-party cookies, as they’re essential to how your website runs). Here’s what’s been going on lately that has marketers and CEOs worried about the future of third-party data. 

Google's Privacy Sandbox and the End of Third-Party Cookies

Google's announcement of phasing out third-party cookies in Chrome browsers has worried a lot of digital marketers who use the data gathered from these cookies to track their customers online, understand their needs, and advertise to them. The Privacy Sandbox is an initiative by Google to develop a set of open standards for enhancing privacy on the web, including reducing cross-site and cross-app tracking. 

On January 4, 2024, Chrome began turning off third-party cookies for 1% (about 30 million) of its users and says it will ramp this up to 100% by Q3 of 2024. While this signals the beginning of the end of third-party cookies, it opens doors to more privacy-centric methods of tracking and advertising. For ecommerce businesses, this means rethinking how to track user behavior without infringing on privacy.

The Rise of Cookieless Tracking and Analytics

Like it or not, cookieless tracking is the future. It involves gathering data without relying on cookies, focusing instead on methods like browser fingerprinting, server-side tracking, aggregated data, and incorporating machine learning algorithms to predict user behavior. 

Marketers have already faced the challenge of not knowing everything about their entire audiences for a while now. From Apple’s Safari browser turning off third-party cookie tracking in 2020 and blocking email tracking through its Mail app in 2021 to Firefox making its own version of what Chrome is now implementing, Total Cookie Protection (TCP) the default for their browsers back in 2022. 

At Google, they’ve stated that while cookieless tracking will become the norm, they have also launched a range of APIs providing a privacy-focused alternative for use cases like identity, advertising, and fraud detection.

For ecommerce businesses, adapting to cookieless analytics means relying more on data directly collected from their interactions with customers. This can offer a way to understand customer behavior while also respecting their privacy.

Data Types and Compliance

Zero-Party Data: Direct From Consumer

Zero-party data is information that customers intentionally share with a brand. This could include preferences, purchase intentions, and personal context – think, information submitted in user profiles, or gathered from surveys. For ecommerce, zero-party data can be a goldmine as it’s given freely by customers, ensuring compliance with privacy norms.

First-Party Data: Your New, Most Important Data

First-party data is data collected directly from your audience. In a cookieless world, this user data becomes some of the most invaluable information you can gather. It includes data from your own channels like websites, apps, or CRM systems. Ecommerce sites can collect first-party data and leverage it for personalized marketing, understanding customer preferences, and improving user experience.

Google Analytics and GDPR, PIPEDA, U.S. Privacy Law Compliance

Depending on where you’re located and where you sell/ship to, you’ll need to ensure that you’re in compliance with local privacy laws and guidelines. This includes the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act (PIPEDA) in Canada, Law 25 in Quebec, the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) in Europe, and state-specific privacy laws in the United States. 

With GDPR being the most comprehensive and far-reaching of the bunch, ensuring that your tools like Google Analytics are compliant is extremely important, lest you want to face severe penalties. This means obtaining explicit consent for data collection, anonymizing IP addresses, and ensuring data is processed legally. Regularly updating privacy policies and being transparent with customers about data usage will also help in maintaining compliance.

Even if you don’t deal directly with countries covered under GDPR, we suggest acting as you are anyway since privacy laws like this one will only become more comprehensive as time rolls on, and compliance early makes it easier to expand your business overseas in the future. 

Implementing Cookieless Tracking for Ecommerce

Now that we’ve gone over the basics of what a cookieless future will look like, it’s time to talk about your options as an ecommerce business to continue learning about your customers and marketing to them. 

Audit Your Third-Party Cookie Usage and Make Use of New APIs

Before implementing new cookieless campaigns and initiatives, make sure you take stock of where and how you’re using third-party cookies and turn them off or look into alternatives. 

Google created a Privacy Sandbox Analysis Tool (PSAT) DevTools extension to help developers do just that: view how many cookies are in use on your website and what they’re being used for (marketing, analytics, functional, or uncategorized) with features to help them adopt alternative APIs

These APIs enable things like interest-based advertising and content personalization, remarketing and custom audiences, attribution reporting, and anti-fraud and anti-spam tools. By using these APIs, you’ll still be able to implement ad targeting and analytics features on web pages, just without the ability to track individual users and their activities all across the web. 

Leverage your First-Party Data to the Max

Analyze website traffic, customer feedback, and purchase history to understand your audience better. Tools that offer cookieless analytics – for example, website plug-ins that don’t collect personal data or communicate with outside servers – can help interpret this data while staying compliant and keeping your customers' information anonymous. 

With first-party data and cookieless analytics tools, you’ll learn about your website’s most popular pages, how your visitors find your store, where they come from, what browser they use, event data (conversion rate, completions, etc), and more. 

Do you have Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software? If not, consider getting set up with one so that you can keep all of your customer data, history, marketing strategy/campaigns, and email marketing in one place. This will make pulling comprehensive reports much easier, allowing you to target ads better and understand your customer journeys. 

Additionally, CRMs can export any filtered lists you generate in a format that can be imported into your favorite ad platforms, such as Meta, Google, Microsoft, etc. This allows you to create lookalike audiences and retarget visitors who may have interacted with your site or store in the past but haven’t converted without the need for third-party data. 

Finally, if Shopify powers your store, take advantage of Shopify Audiences. This app uses machine learning algorithms to analyze customer behaviour and generate audience lists that you can import into your ad platform of choice. 

Use Zero-Party Data to Enhance Customer Experience

Chrome blocking third-party cookies doesn’t have to mean a less personalized experience for your customers and store visitors. Gather information via user accounts and forms on your website to segment your email lists based on first-party data points like purchase history, location, and engagement level. 

Email is untouched by cookie tracking, so you can still gather detailed information based on the success of these new campaigns. Depending on your company and niche, gathering data through quizzes or surveys on your website could also be an effective way to learn more about your customers and enroll them in future email workflows and marketing campaigns.    

Need more newsletter subscribers? Gather email addresses by enticing people to create accounts on your website with a well-designed and rewarding loyalty program. Include perks for referrals as well to expand out even further.  

Consult with an Ecommerce Agency

At Blue Badger, we understand how important it is for our clients to know if they’re reaching their target audiences and learn more about their web store’s visitors. Moving away from third-party cookies is a long and quite daunting process, especially for busy retailers who probably already have too many things on their plates.

This is why we recommend working with an ecommerce agency to audit your use of third-party cookies and help you implement some of Chrome’s new anonymized APIs as well as any other cookieless analytics tools you’ll need to set up. 

This way, you can offload all the extra work on a competent team and trust that the implementation will be done properly without sacrificing any time you’d otherwise spend growing your business. 

Conclusion

With this quick shift to cookieless tracking and analytics, leveraging the power of first-party and zero-party data, and ensuring compliance with regulations like GDPR. Businesses that adapt to these changes, utilizing the tools and strategies above, will not only survive but thrive. They’ll build stronger, trust-based relationships with their customers, grounded in respect for privacy and personalization that adds real value.

At Blue Badger, our team of experienced developers and marketers is happy to work with you to make the most of this new cookieless future. Get in touch with us today to start making the switch to a more privacy-centric ecommerce experience without having to make any sacrifices.

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