Insight, Thoughts

What the Sunsetting of Cookies Actually Means for Luxury Brands

Reading time: 4 min

The announcement of third-party cookies being eradicated from the digital sphere is one that has been hanging over many marketing experts’ heads for some time now. And as the wait is drawn out longer and longer, the more daunting it’s becoming for many. While initial reactions to the news have understandably led to many questions, the biggest question of all in our circle is this – What does the sunsetting of cookies actually mean for luxury brands? 

The good news is, there is good news. This change may be daunting, but as digital marketers, one thing we know exactly how to do is turn a difficult situation into a marketing opportunity. We’re quick thinkers, innovators, and one of the best groups of adapters in the digital world. In today’s world, the idea that change is the only constant couldn’t ring more true. So when it comes to shifting towards an ecosystem without third-party cookies, we know how to get around it and market luxury brands more effectively than ever. 

In this article, we’ll explore what cookies actually are, why they’re disappearing off the face of the earth, and what we can do to ensure that luxury brands continue to get the engagement, traction and outcomes that are best for business, and for the customer.

What Are Cookies?

If you’ve ever found yourself searching for a particular luxury brand and minutes later found it on your socials newsfeed, that’s because of cookies. Essentially, cookies are like digital crumbs that you leave behind every single time you browse the internet. They’re small text files that collect and store your data so that it can be shared with third-party websites, like Facebook or Instagram for example. The point of them is to track user movement and come up with ways to market to them better based on their search history and their online behaviour as a whole.

Not All Cookies Are Third Party Cookies

It’s easy to get confused and crucial to remember – first-party cookies are essential for marketing luxury brands. And thankfully, they’re not going anywhere. First-party cookies are so important because they provide tools to enhance the user’s experience. They exist on one single site at one time, and are solely for the purpose of making the internet easier for consumers to use. Take a luxury e-commerce brand for example, people are far more likely to invest in your products or services if you can create a smooth user experience for them. First-party cookies come into play here, for example, when a user is given the opportunity to store their login details for a faster entry to the site, or their payment details for a speedier shopping experience. While third-party cookies might be disappearing, first-party cookies are still going to be a vital tool for marketing luxury brands to existing and new audiences. 

Why Are Third-Party Cookies Becoming Extinct?

It has been a hot topic among many internet users over the past few years that you can be on one luxury brand’s website and, all of a sudden, you see that same product or service, or at least something related to it, popping up everywhere you look online. Contrary to popular belief, this doesn’t mean that somebody high up in the tech sphere is physically listening in to you. It just means that third-party cookies are doing what they are intended to do. 

However, with this has come an enormous rise in concern around how we protect our data and how much we value our privacy. People don’t generally like the idea of their data from their online movements being sold and shared with people without their consent. And after enough noise, the big tech giants have been forced to listen. Now, the focus is being placed on these companies to introduce far more security measures when it comes to using and sharing other people’s data, and to display a strong element of transparency in terms of letting people know what is happening to it. 

Rules and regulations around how data is collected and shared first started to become a part of the conversation around 2016, and the shift has only continued to grow in significance ever since. The announcement that third-party cookies would be removed from major search engines like Google was made during 2020, but the date for which this would come into effect has seen the goalpost move a few times. Most recently, Google confirmed that third-party cookies would be phased out of Chrome by 2024. In addition to this, Apple launched its Safari Intelligent Tracking Prevention, which will allow its users to block data tracking and enhance the security of their browsing experience.

Marketing Luxury Brands Without Cookies

By this point, you might be thinking to yourself – how am I going to ensure that my marketing of a luxury brand is going to be stronger than ever if I can no longer capitalise on third-party cookies? Well, like anything that ceases to exist, we simply have to come up with alternatives. If we look at all of this in a more positive light in terms of what it means for luxury brand advertising, we would be smart to see it as an opportunity to work even harder to connect with our customers on a more personal level – to provide them with the kind of content that they want to see and a buying experience that is second to none. 

Rather than relying on metrics derived from third-party cookies, we need to ask ourselves the real questions – Does our brand mission align with the content we’re putting out there? Are our systems set up to provide consumers with the best user experience possible? What do our customers really want? And one of the most important ones, are we truly connecting with our audience and speaking to them directly?

Making the most of the cookies that are still available to us is also key. First-party cookies are one thing because they have the elements of increased accuracy, reliability and privacy. But then there are also zero-party cookies, which we most definitely should be taking full advantage of in the absence of third-party cookies. Zero-party cookies, in a nutshell, is data that is entirely voluntarily shared by users with businesses. 

So say when somebody enters your website, you have pop-ups where they can select their interests, brand favourites, or sign up to the luxury brand’s newsletter for the latest trends. This is zero-party cookies in action. Whether it’s a survey, poll or quiz, there are so many ways to interact with your audience with their full consent in order to understand their wants and needs, and how you can best meet them. Using techniques and initiatives like offering incentives such as discounts or giveaways, can be a great way to counteract the effects of third-party cookies becoming a thing of the past. There really is no limit to how creative you can get with your marketing.  

Conclusion: Where to From Third-Party Cookies?

While we know the increase in browsing privacy measures and the pending extinction of third-party cookies has caused quite the sense of panic among luxury brand marketers, we can assure you, it’s not all bad. As you now know, there are a multitude of ways to work alongside this shift in how we market luxury brands. What it comes down to is how innovative you’re willing to be. While the world of digital marketing continues to change and present more challenges, one thing is for sure – the demand for luxury brands isn’t going anywhere, so make the most of it.