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The Death of the Cookie Is (Finally) Upon Us

Amidst the chaos of the cookie's demise, there's potential for adaptation and thriving in a cookie-less future, presenting both challenges and opportunities for hospitality businesses.

The constant buzz about the "death of the cookie" has reverberated throughout the digital marketing world for years. But now, the chatter isn't just background noise — it's a reality.

Cookies serve as data snippets that websites can store within a user’s browser, ensuring they can remember said user’s information. And with privacy laws ramping up, experts have spent years warning about the “death of the cookie” as access to that type of user information is being phased out. We’ve seen this happen in real-time with Google's deprecation of 1% of third-party cookies in their Chrome browser.

Yes, this shift poses challenges for hospitality businesses, but the optimist in me sees it as an opportunity. Amidst the chaos, there's potential for adaptation and thriving in a cookie-less future.

Below, I’ll delve into the crumbling world of cookies and its impact on businesses worldwide. And if you’re a little worried about all of this, I'll also equip you with strategies to navigate this new landscape. So, pull up a chair and let me tell you a story about a digital marketing superstar’s (inevitable) fall from grace.

Why Exactly the Cookie Is Crumbling

If you’re familiar with digital marketing even a little bit, the writing has been on the wall — changes are coming, particularly when it comes to data privacy. The shift to Google Analytics 4 (GA4), while initially met with some hesitation (or, okay, a lot of hesitation), has become a necessity, and it's essential to understand the context behind why Google scrapped Universal Analytics (UA) in the first place.

Google's deployment of GA4 wasn't merely a choice but a response to mounting pro-privacy sentiments and impending European Union (EU) regulations that threatened the viability of UA.

The EU's strict laws on data sharing compelled Google to adapt, leading to the development of GA4. This move underscores a broader trend where users are reclaiming control over their privacy (i.e., sharing is not caring anymore).

At the same time, we're on the brink of a significant shift in internet privacy with the impending demise of the cookie. Google's ongoing testing of cookieless Chrome, even with just 1% of users (aka, a mere 30,000,000 users), represents a huge step, considering how many people it will impact.

As Google refines its approach and updates its algorithm (something it loves to do), we can expect this transition to gather momentum, reshaping how we navigate and understand online privacy.

Why This Matters for Your Hospitality Business

The cookie's demise is no longer a distant threat but a reality hospitality businesses can't afford to overlook. Recent research shows that nearly half of companies aren't prepared for this shift, which raises concerns across industries about reaching target audiences without third-party cookies.

For businesses relying on these cookies for targeted advertising (think: hotels with seasonal campaigns or restaurants promoting limited-time deals), the implications are significant, affecting their ability to deliver personalized experiences, track campaign performance, and measure ROI effectively.

This shift puts a big exclamation point on the importance of embracing alternative data strategies and prioritizing first-party data collection to survive and thrive in a cookie-less landscape. Time is of the essence, and if you don’t want to be stuck with the remaining cookie crumbs, it’s time to act now.

How a Cookie-Less Future Impacts Your Digital Diet

In a cookie-less world, businesses will confront some major hurdles in targeting, tracking, and measuring their online advertising efforts. For years, third-party cookies have been a trusty sidekick in helping marketers monitor user behavior and tailor their ads accordingly.

Yet, with the impending sayonara to third-party cookies, hospitality businesses will lose access to this vital data, making it harder for them to effectively target audiences, evaluate campaign success, and determine their return on investment.

Privacy Regulations

Aside from the obstacles above, businesses must also go head to head with the ever-growing number of privacy regulations. Think I’m exaggerating about the amount of privacy legislation sweeping the planet? Check out this list:

Outside the U.S.:

  • GDPR
  • U.K. Data Protection Act
  • Brazil’s LGPD
  • South Korea’s PIPA
  • China’s PIPL
  • Japan’s APPI

Inside the U.S.:

  • California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA)
  • Virginia Consumer Data Protection Act (VCDPA)
  • Connecticut Data Privacy Act (CTDPA)
  • Colorado Privacy Act (CPA)
  • Delaware Personal Data Privacy Act
  • Florida Digital Bill of Rights
  • Indiana Consumer Data Protection Act
  • Iowa: SF262, An Act Relating To Consumer Data Protection
  • Montana: Consumer Data Privacy Act
  • Oregon: Senate Bill 619
  • Tennessee: Information Protection Act
  • Texas: Data Privacy and Security Act
  • Utah: Simplify Utah Privacy Law (UCPA)

These lists are long enough for us to think, “Well…I better do something about this.”

What to Do, What to Do?

Instead of simply getting ready, it’s time to get to work. Here’s what you can do to embrace a cookie-less future:

  • Embrace Server-Side Tracking (SST) as an ethical alternative to cookies. This proactive approach gives you greater control over your data, ensuring its integrity and compliance with those pesky privacy standards.
  • Improve your first-party data (aka, data collected directly from consumers when they engage with your brand). Is your data clean? Is it segmented? This data belongs solely to your organization, offering a valuable asset in understanding and engaging with your audience.
  • Additionally, Google has quietly updated spam rules and will flag domains at a much higher clip starting February 1, 2024. Bottom line? It’s time for hospitality businesses to refine their data management practices.
  • Do nothing. Okay, okay, I’m not actually recommending this. If you do so, you’ll lose 30-60% of your actionable insights. If you think some of your ad dollars are thrown into the abyss today, you may want to revert to billboards and newspaper ads.

So, instead of freaking out about a world devoid of virtual cookies, it’s time we raise a virtual toast to new beginnings. While the demise of the cookie may seem daunting, it's also an exciting opportunity for innovation and growth in the realm of digital marketing.

So, what’s next? It’s time to roll up our sleeves, adapt to the changes, and embrace this cookie-less future with enthusiasm and creativity!

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