The third-party cookie is crumbling. What does that mean for Retail, Consumer Packaged Good (CPG) brand partners, and your consumer base?

The short answer: It means the first-party revolution is here, and it’s time for you to get on board, or risk being left behind. Here’s the long answer of why that’s the case, and how you can take advantage of the opportunity in the smartest, most strategic, and most sustainable way.

What are third-party cookies—and why are they disappearing?

The internet as we know it relies on one economic engine above all: advertising. From native advertisements to search engine marketing, retargeting and remarketing, social ads, mobile ads, and more, advertising has been the financial foundation of the digital information hub we’ve come to build our lives around.

But it hasn’t all been so black and white. Through efforts to increase the relevance and personalization of these advertisements over time, individual user data has been sent, swapped, and spread across thousands of platforms, by thousands of companies—often without consumers’ awareness of just how much was up for grabs. Over the past few years, everyday internet users and watchdogs alike have been increasingly concerned. The invention that’s made much of this data collection possible? Third-party cookies.

Third-party cookies function as small pieces of information that travel from a browser to the web server, allowing advertisers to track consumers’ movements between different websites, and eventually, paint a picture of their interests—leading to hyper-targeted ads based on their browsing history. Despite the controversy, business has been booming.

Digital advertising revenue is projected to amount to $460 billion by 2024, but due to issues both specific to third-party cookies and greater mainstream privacy concerns, consumer sentiment about the lucrative category is less than ideal. According to a study by Pew Research Center, 72% of people feel that almost all of what they do online is being tracked by advertisers, technology firms, or other companies—and 81% say that the potential risks they face because of data collection outweigh the benefits. Third-party cookies have already been blocked on Safari and Firefox, and Google recently communicated plans to do the same with Chrome.

But what’s at stake if the companies that make up the soon-to-be $460-billion-dollar industry—including retailers like you who own a share of the revenue through your digital real estate across Google ads, brand partners’ websites, consumers’ browsers, and more—don’t adapt to changing consumer expectations and data privacy regulations? According to Google, the future of the free and open web. But more imminently for you, the viability of your own digital advertising presence.

How a platform enabling first-party data collection can help

You need an alternative to the old ways of third-party cookie collection, and fortunately, one is available. It comes in the form of a Swiftly-powered digital retail media network—one that makes all of your data first-party data, while rendering it more accurate, predictable, and precise in the process. With a centralized, self-owned, and self-managed engagement hub to house all of your digital ad content, your data is all collected directly from your audience and consumers. It’s more accessible, transparent, and it’s based on the shopping journey they complete entirely on your platform, from online browsing to in-store shopping to checkout aisle transactions, and back to the beginning again.

A comprehensive digital retail media network that delivers personalized data and tracks real-time customer behavior patterns directly at the source can help shift your advertising model away from third-party cookies—and towards a customer-centric, relationship-driven, first-party-focused solution, from the very moment you go live. Here’s what taking advantage of Swiftly can do for your data:

Increase accuracy. First-party datasets aren’t just more privacy-friendly—they’re more precise, and more connected to improved campaign performance. Connect the dots across the customer journey and build trust with both new and long-time consumers along the way, unifying your data and providing more personalized ad experiences. Where third-party cookies resulted in frequent mismatches, irrelevant targeted advertisements, and device-based insights that didn’t connect desktop to mobile, first-party data does the opposite—delivering more accurate insights, more relevant ads, and a seamless, non-fragmented customer experience from desktop to mobile, iPad to laptop, and browser to browser.

Boost relevance. While third-party cookies are collected through users’ movements from website to website, the contextual advertising enabled by first-party data is more relevant to your customers’ actual searches and content engagement (as opposed to their greater, overarching behavioral profile pieced together by third-party information). First-party data is more up-to-date and precise, enabling more timely ads aligned with your consumers’ interests and preferences in the current moment—regardless of the websites they may have visited in the past. This type of targeting allows you and your brand partners to engage customers with a range of content formats (video, audio, text, images, graphics, and more) that better relate to where they’re at and what they want to see right now—without giving them the unwanted impression that third-party cookies often create: that they’re being followed.

Optimize returns. Today, your brand partners probably channel most of their ad spend to places they always have, without an accurate idea of how much they’ll get in return. Even as times change and different platforms experience varying levels of traffic, their spend continues to go to the same places. Often, a majority of third-party cookies are rejected by browsers or deleted by users before advertisers can capture the information they seek. Your partners—and you by extension—could be throwing away up to half of your budgets on missed opportunities, lost connections, or impressions on people who already provide sales without additional ad exposure. A digital retail media network allows you to accurately measure and optimize every digital ad dollar—down to the individual product identification number—and track it through its journey, connecting it through every customer impression, associated behavior, and ultimate sale. First-party data lets you see the impact of your advertising from start to finish, and built-in artificial intelligence automatically optimizes it the next time around.

Drive real-time insights. Effective first-party data collection is about more than just tracking the past behavior of customers—it’s about seeing where they are in real-time and making moves that influence their next steps. You probably already have historical purchasing data on your customers, but it’s likely pretty fragmented. By seeing what’s currently in your consumers’ carts, what they tend to like, what they may be missing, and more, you can drive real-time decisions and fill more baskets. It’s an integrated, intuitive, and informative customer experience—and it drives incremental revenue when you and your brand partners crave it most.

As the third-party reign comes to an end, first-party data is more coveted—and valuable—than ever. The Amazons and Walmarts of the world may have an advantage, but they don’t have a monopoly. Take control of your customer experience as privacy regulations change, and work with Swiftly to build a future-forward, first-party platform that sets you ahead in a time when being left behind is the only alternative. To get started or learn more, contact Swiftly today.