Google’s Begins Phasing Out Third-Party Cookies: But What Does It Mean For SMEs?

In a step towards enhancing user privacy, Google has announced that it is testing a new feature, ‘Tracking Protection,’ in Chrome.

This initiative, part of Google’s broader ‘Privacy Sandbox’ project, aims to limit the ability of websites to track user activity across the internet. Let’s delve into what this means for businesses and the web landscape.


Understanding Third-Party Cookies


For almost 30 years, third-party cookies have been central to the web experience, tracking website activities for various purposes, including targeted advertising and user login support. However, they also raise privacy concerns by allowing extensive tracking of users’ online behaviours.


The Role of Tracking Protection

Starting January 4, Google will begin testing Tracking Protection with 1% of Chrome users worldwide. This feature restricts website access to third-party cookies by default, a big step forwards in Google’s plan to phase out these cookies by the second half of 2024.


Impact On Users


For users selected randomly for Tracking Protection, a notification will appear in Chrome on desktop or Android devices.

Once activated, third-party cookies will be limited, reducing cross-website tracking. If users encounter issues on websites that rely on third-party cookies, Chrome will offer an option to temporarily re-enable them for that specific site.



Implications For Businesses

This shift poses significant challenges and opportunities for businesses, especially those relying on third-party cookies for advertising and customer insights. Adapting to a cookie-less environment will require innovative approaches to gather data and target audiences.

Rethinking Advertising Strategies: Businesses will need to explore new advertising methods that respect user privacy. Contextual advertising, which targets ads based on the content of the website rather than user behaviour, may see a resurgence.

Emphasising First-Party Data: Companies should focus on collecting first-party data, obtained directly from customer interactions. This shift can lead to more transparent and trust-based relationships with customers.

Innovative Tracking Solutions: The demise of third-party cookies will likely spur the development of new tracking technologies. Businesses must stay abreast of these innovations to remain competitive.

Privacy-First Approach: Adopting a privacy-first strategy will not only comply with emerging regulations but also build customer trust and loyalty.


Support for the Transition


Recognising the challenges this transition presents, Google is committed to providing tools and time for developers and businesses to adapt. The gradual rollout of Tracking Protection allows for testing and preparation for a web environment devoid of third-party cookies.


Specific Impact On Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs)


The phasing out of third-party cookies by Google is set to have a distinct impact on small and medium enterprises (SMEs). For these businesses, often with limited resources and digital marketing expertise, adapting to a cookie-less environment could be particularly challenging. SMEs have traditionally relied on third-party cookies for cost-effective targeted advertising and understanding customer preferences. Without these tools, they may struggle to compete with larger companies that have more resources to invest in first-party data strategies.

However, this change also offers SMEs an opportunity to innovate and differentiate themselves. By focusing on building direct relationships with their customers and gathering first-party data through engagements like newsletters, customer feedback, and loyalty programs, SMEs can create a more personalised and trust-based marketing approach. This strategy not only complies with the new privacy standards but also potentially leads to more loyal customer bases.

Moreover, SMEs could benefit from the emergence of new, privacy-centric marketing tools designed to replace third-party cookies. These tools might offer simpler, more affordable solutions tailored to the needs of smaller businesses. As the landscape evolves, it’s crucial for SMEs to stay informed about these developments and actively explore new tools and strategies to remain competitive in a changing digital marketplace.

In essence, while the transition away from third-party cookies presents hurdles for SMEs, it also opens up avenues for building deeper customer relationships and exploring new, innovative marketing approaches in a privacy-focused era.


Carol Howley, CMO at Exclaimer commented: “Google’s thirdparty cookies phase out starting today leaves no room for mismanagement of data. As we approach a zero click world, marketers must now explore alternative strategies to achieve desired results and address the challenges posed by limitations in data tracking.

“To increase conversion, marketers need to look into diversifying tactics to target customers across content, search and paid looking to ways to offer new users the choice to submit personal information. Partnership, influencers and review sites are also worth exploring to compensate for the loss of reach via thirdparty cookies.

“We see customers leveraging campaigns with email signature marketing which facilitates personalised, one-to-one communication while fostering a relationship of trust between the recipient and sender. Focusing on creating a strong human-centric brand and the personalisation of content at scale are no longer luxuries but necessities for standing out.”


A More Private Web Future


Google’s initiative reflects a growing emphasis on user privacy in the digital age. With Tracking Protection and the broader Privacy Sandbox initiative, Google aims to create a more private web experience. This move, while disruptive in the short term, presents an opportunity for businesses to innovate and engage with customers in more meaningful, privacy-conscious ways.