From Obstacle to Opportunity: How Marketers Can Thrive in a Post-Cookie Future

From Obstacle to Opportunity: How Marketers Can Thrive in a Post-Cookie Future

From Obstacle to Opportunity: How Marketers Can Thrive in a Post-Cookie Future

Third-party cookies are headed toward extinction. Find out how Bird is helping marketers adapt and survive by delivering a better customer experience.


Third-party cookies are dying a slow, inevitable death. At the start of 2024, Google’s Chrome web browser began restricting third-party cookie access for 1% of its global users.

A complete phase out of third-party cookies is expected by early 2025—a slight delay from the initial Q3 2024 target date but a welcome reprieve for those readying for this impending shift.

For marketers who track and target consumers with third-party cookies, this will bring about a massive change to how they manage campaigns. Cookies have been around since the nineties, and they’ve been a cornerstone of digital marketing ever since. But with change comes opportunity. For all of its benefits, third-party cookies have also led marketers to trade quality for convenience. 

Algorithmic audience targeting has taken the place of true customer engagement. This skin-deep approach to personalized marketing may deliver faster, easier results, but it often comes at the expense of deeper, longer-lasting customer relationships.

The end of third-party cookies may be uncomfortable, but it’s also an opportunity to stop focusing on conversions and instead prioritize a better customer experience—one that focuses on building and maintaining relationships through the use of first-party data. 

Fortunately, that’s what Bird does best. In this guide, we break down Chrome’s cookies phase-out plan and the impact this change will have on omnichannel marketing. We also offer some actionable steps you can take to graduate from cookie-dependency to customer-centric marketing.

Where we’re at: Tracking Google’s timeline for phasing out third-party cookies

Google’s first phase of ending support for cookies is in motion. Currently, the impact to businesses is minor as Google monitors the results of deprecating third-party cookies among only 1% of Chrome users.

This period is designed to give businesses more time to adapt their advertising and marketing strategies before cookie support disappears. Although the current impact on your digital strategies may be minimal, businesses that haven't prepared for this change could face debilitating consequences early next year.

The decline of third-party cookies has been years in the making

Google may be delivering the death blow to third-party cookies in early 2025, but its fate is the culmination of years of consumer privacy concerns, data regulations, and browser upgrades aimed at improving safety for online users.

“People are way more aware of the data privacy implications of how tech companies handle data,” says Kay Vink, Head of Product Marketing at Bird. “People are not comfortable with it anymore. We see that reflected in this new policy.”

The first big change to the role of third-party cookies came in 2018 when Europe’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) went into effect. Among many other data protection requirements, this sweeping consumer privacy regulation required every website reaching European consumers to collect explicit consent before placing cookies on those devices.

This rule replaced the default standard of implied consent, in which a consumer’s visit to a website was presumed as consent to place a cookie on their device. While roughly half of all U.S. consumers continued to blindly accept all cookies when prompted by a website, the regulatory change undercut the efficacy of tracking consumers through third-party cookies.

Subsequent regulations, such as the California Consumer Privacy Act, placed additional restrictions on how third-party cookies could be used. Then, in 2019, Safari and Firefox both revised their browser settings to block cookies by default (they also plan to fully end support for third-party cookies in the near future).

The risk of not adhering to Google’s new cookies requirements

Unlike GDPR or other regulations, businesses won’t be subject to government fines if they continue to use third-party cookies after Chrome ends its support.

But make no mistake, reliance on third-party cookies will still carry severe consequences for your marketing strategy. Here’s a summary of the fallout you might face:

  • You will diminish your audience targeting capabilities. You may be able to use third-party cookies to target marketing campaigns, but your potential audience will be much smaller and relegated to browsers where third-party cookies are still supported. Since your website won’t be able to place cookies on the devices of most visitors, you’ll also struggle to grow this targetable audience over time.

  • Campaigns relying on third-party cookie tracking will rapidly decline in value. Degraded audience targeting will inevitably impact your campaign results, resulting in lower ROI compared to past campaign results.

  • Marketing attribution will become less accurate. Cookies are an essential piece of data for client-side, multi-touch attribution models, but a dramatic reduction in cookie availability will make attribution all but impossible—and unnecessary, since a switch to cookieless, server-side tracking is not only effective but more secure than a client-side approach. 

The old way of marketing: Conversions are everything

In many ways, the digital marketing industry can trace its roots back to the creation of the third-party cookie. The global digital advertising market is projected to surpass more than $740 billion by the end of 2024, with much of that spending focused on channels that target consumers through third-party cookies.

This tactic was very effective at targeting ads to the right audience. You could argue that the precision of these ads also became one of its downfalls. As targeted delivery solutions incorporated a wider range of data points and refined their ability to identify relevant audiences, consumers began to take notice—and not always in a good way. 

Retargeting campaigns were used to chase consumers across the internet with the same display ad. Targeted ads were reaching consumers in strange contexts: Think Barbie ads popping up on a sports website, or dental implants ads appearing on a home and garden website.

The strategy made sense. By targeting ads to individual consumers, businesses could achieve more cost-efficient marketing and drive higher rates of conversions. But as concerns over consumer privacy grew, this targeted approach became a prime example of how personally identifiable information (PII) was being collected and used without user consent.

Even before these privacy concerns, though, the use of third-party cookies came with certain limitations and drawbacks. For example:

  • Personalization was limited. Cookie-based ad delivery offered a greater degree of personalization than unpersonalized ads featured on a website. But compared to social media, email, SMS, and other digital channels offering direct consumer engagement, third-party cookies can’t support the kind of personalization today’s consumers now expect. 

  • Relevance was inconsistent. Algorithms can do a great job of targeting likely prospects based on their demographic and behavioral information, but this approach isn’t foolproof. Inevitably, businesses were wasting resources on consumers they had no chance of converting.

  • Third-party data is inherently less reliable. Compared to first-party data, third-party cookies offer the least dependable data when learning about your customers. The more you rely on third-party information to understand your audience, the more likely you are to run marketing campaigns that fail to hit their target.

The new way of marketing: Relationships come first

Third-party cookies are out. What’s in? Getting to know your customers first-hand.

When marketers break free from their dependency on cookies, they create an opportunity to interact with customers and fully understand their needs and desires—instead of making assumptions based on third-party behavioral data.

“It’s all about asking, ‘How do we create marketing that’s actually useful to people?” says Kay. “Because you’re focused on pleasing the customer, rather than pleasing the app platform, you give the customer a lot more control. And then you can look at doing this across every channel.”

Data can, and should, still play a central role in cultivating these relationships. Instead of lower-quality third-party data, though, focus on first-party data that you already own, and that you can use to dig up unique insights specific to your customers. Potential sources of this information include:

By powering your marketing strategy with first-party data, you’re also able to concentrate your marketing efforts on an audience that is explicitly opted-in and/or engaged with your brand. This approach is far more efficient and productive than third-party tracking, which often forces businesses to chase prospects who haven’t given a clear sign that they’re interested in your products and services.

There was a time and a place for that scattershot approach. But marketers have better tools and resources at their disposal today.

4 Reasons why building relationships beats chasing conversions 

Conversions remain an important marketing outcome. But a singular focus on short-term performance can come at a long-term cost, especially when it comes to brand loyalty and customer retention.

By shifting your focus from conversion rates to relationship-building and the larger customer experience, your marketing efforts will realize the following benefits:

  1. You don’t have to worry about whether the potential customer is interested. You won’t convert every prospect, but each lead you nurture will have the opportunity to develop into a customer.

  2. You have full control over the data behind your marketing strategy. Third-party data carries all kinds of questions about reliability, but first- and zero-party data is fully owned by your business. Zero-party data comes straight from your customers, and first-party data is collected from your own channels—meaning you can trust what the data tells you, and you aren’t at risk of losing access to this information.

  3. Zero- and first-party data is more secure. By quitting third-party cookies and relying on this data, you greatly reduce the risk of mismanaging consumer data and violating any applicable data regulations. 

  4. Your proprietary data is a competitive edge against other businesses. Any business can access and use the third-party data used for cookie-based targeting. But when you leverage your company’s privately owned data, you have access to information and insights that aren't accessible to your rivals. The more you invest in developing relationships and building up a brain trust of customer knowledge, the more powerful this marketing asset will become.

How to level up your omnichannel marketing while Google phases out third-party cookies

Google’s decision to end support of third-party cookies is just one of several big changes taking place across Google’s properties. Earlier this year, Gmail announced new requirements for businesses sending bulk emails across its email service. In March, Google announced an update to its search algorithm that penalizes sites publishing “low-quality, unoriginal” content—which many experts view as a targeted response to the rise of AI content.

All of these changes have one thing in common: They’re aimed at delivering a better experience to Google users. That means better content in email inboxes, more relevant results for search queries, and improved consumer privacy when browsing online.

Omnichannel marketers should take these changes as a call to action.

“You need to create stuff that's actually useful to people,” says Kay. “Create content that's not spammy and is, instead, nice to receive.

“Only the people who deliver true value to the customer will survive this transition because if you don't adapt, you're going to get kicked from all directions.”

In this short window of time where only 1% of Chrome users—equivalent to about 30 million consumers—have been phased out of third-party cookies, omnichannel marketers should be taking steps to position themselves for success in a cookieless future. 

Here are some essential steps we recommend:

  1. Lay a foundation for better communication with your customers. This likely involves several smaller steps, each one aimed at getting to know your customers and improving your ability to collect better information:

  • Use existing zero- and first-party data to develop an understanding of your customer’s needs and wants free from influence by third-party sources.

  • Identify zero- and first-party channels currently being underutilized or ignored. Has your WhatsApp messaging strategy gone ignored? Are you sending email but not properly tracking results?

  • Consider how information from other departments can supplement your data-driven marketing insights. Sales and customer success team members, for example, may offer perspectives not accounted for in your existing marketing data.

  • Evaluate existing strategies and consider how these new insights could inform your marketing content. Search and display ads, email, SMS, and WhatsApp campaigns are just a few of the digital channels where these new insights might guide a different approach to marketing messaging and delivery.

  1. Experiment with Google’s new targeting tools designed for a cookieless future. Cookie-based tracking is going away, but new interest-based advertising tools are ready to fill the void. One such solution, Topics API by Google, is already available to the public and can enable targeted ad delivery without tracking specific users across the web.

  2. Research innovative, cookieless customer engagement solutions that ensure consumer privacy. The Trade Desk, for example, has developed a privacy-conscious targeting and measurement solution called Unified ID 2.0 in which “data is hashed and tokens are encrypted to prevent re-identification, with a rotating salt adding extra preservation.” This enables cross-channel, cross-device ad reach without the use of cookies.

Plan your cookies exit strategy while there’s still time

If your current marketing strategy depends on third-party cookies, there’s no reason to quit cold turkey. You still have a few months before Google Chrome starts phasing out its support for cookies—and transitioning away from cookie-dependent audience targeting can’t be achieved overnight.

But if you don’t use this time to plan for a post-cookies future, you’ll have a much harder time catching up to your competition. The right tools and partners can help you build an infrastructure to collect and use zero- and first-party data to power your audience engagement and your strategic decision-making.

Bird’s omnichannel messaging and engagement platform offers a suite of products and capabilities to help your business seamlessly transition away from cookie-based tracking. Our SMS, email, and WhatsApp solutions offer direct lines of communication where your company can deliver 1-to-1 personalization at scale.

With robust optimization tools and automated compliance controls, Bird’s platform will help you control your messaging costs while enabling better customer engagement that not only converts new customers but keeps them happy and loyal.

See for yourself how Bird can power a better customer experience. Request a demo today.

Your new standard in Marketing, Payments & Sales. It's Bird

The right message -> to the right person -> at the right time.

By clicking "See Bird" you agree to Bird's Privacy Notice.

Your new standard in Marketing, Payments & Sales. It's Bird

The right message -> to the right person -> at the right time.

By clicking "See Bird" you agree to Bird's Privacy Notice.