An internet cookie (or just cookie for short) is a small text file placed by a website on a user’s computer when they visit. This text file stores information about web activity such as page views, login credentials, and purchases. Cookies also log any additional information a user voluntarily gives the website like email, age, phone number, postal address, etc. This information allows websites to deliver personalized content to their visitors, remember shopping cart items, set language preferences, and a wide range of other functions that generally enhance the overall user experience.

The main types of cookies used by marketers are first and third-party cookies.

First-party cookies

First-party cookies are placed on a user’s computer by the website itself for the purpose of providing an enhanced user experience and for analytics behind the scenes. These cookies are generally considered “helpful” since their main purpose is to provide the user with a better overall browsing experience.

Third-party cookies

Third-party cookies are functionally similar to first-party cookies in that they are used to store information about website visitors. However, these cookies are not placed on user’s computers by the website owners themselves. Instead, these cookies are dropped by a third-party (hence the name). Advertisers use third-party cookies to track a user’s browsing history from one site to the next with the end goal of finding out what their interests are and, in turn, using this information to serve targeted ads.

Until relatively recently, third-party cookies have been the premier option for digital advertisers looking to serve targeted ads to high-value audiences. Unfortunately, their reign has come to an end. In this article, we will discuss some of the issues facing third-party cookies, as well as some options B2B marketers can turn to moving forward.

Side note: Since first-party cookies are generally considered helpful and are set by the website owner themselves, they are not currently under threat of being removed any time soon.

Issues with third-party cookies

Individual privacy concerns: With such a high premium placed on privacy in our culture, it’s no surprise that in recent years we’ve seen a trend toward increasing privacy and reducing the ability for marketers to use cookies for website visitor tracking, ad retargeting, content personalization, etc. Compounded by the highly publicized mishandling of user data in Facebook’s Cambridge Analytica scandal, it’s no surprise that we’re now seeing the real-world impact of these privacy concerns.

Government restrictions on third-party cookies: In response to the growing privacy concerns surrounding third party cookies, a slew of new legislation such as The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) has recently been passed. Regulations like GDPR require websites that collect personal data to disclose how and why they are using the data to visitors – giving users unprecedented control over the use of their data and allowing them to opt-out of all non-essential cookies (i.e. the ones marketers use). This has resulted in many people opting out of third-party cookie use, which, in turn, has caused a dramatic decrease in the amount of information available through these cookies in general. While there is not currently a privacy law that applies globally, legislation like GDPR shows a growing trend in limiting marketer’s ability to track and retarget website visitors using third-party cookies.

In addition, the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA), which went into effect in January 2020, gives Californians specifically greater control over how their personal data is collected, handled, and sold by organizations.

General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) are just the first of many proposed laws that aim to limit or eliminate digital advertisers’ ability to track individual consumers.

Internet browsers blocking third-party cookies: Because cookies operate through the browser itself, the browser providers have always maintained total control over which cookies they allow and which ones they don’t. As we’re seeing now, the decisions browser providers are making about cookies can have industry-wide ramifications that have the potential to completely change the marketing landscape at a moment’s notice.

In the pursuit of attaining greater privacy compliance, many popular internet browsers, including Safari and Firefox, have already released updates blocking third-party cookies by default within their platforms, yet the cookie industry has continued on relatively unscathed, at least until now. 

When Google launched its new version of its Chrome browser in February 2020, they also announced that it would be shipped with third-party tracking cookies disabled by default. This means that unless users manually turn on third-party cookies (highly unlikely), digital advertisers will have no way to drop cookies on users’ browsers – essentially leaving them in the dark when it comes to visitor tracking. 

On the heels of this update, Google also announced that all versions of their browser will stop supporting third-party cookies altogether. This decision will be the final nail in the cookie coffin.

The loss of third party cookies may be a problem for some marketers, but fortunately, there are some third-party cookie alternatives out there:  

Big ad ecosystems (the only option for B2C companies): By partnering with the large ad ecosystems (like Google, Facebook®, etc.), marketers can still serve ads to audiences that have voluntarily given their personal data to these platforms enabling them to serve ads to target buyers. 

However, much like the mafia, once you’re in, it’s tough to get out. These platforms have had a hard time building consumer trust and could end up turning into an ad ecosystem monopoly as third-party cookie technologies continue to face assault from all sides. This is more of a stop-gap solution in the path toward building a strong digital marketing future.

First-party intent data: First-party data is information collected by you about your audience directly without going through any third-party platforms or aggregators. This includes any form fills and behavioral data you’ve collected from your website, CRM data, and more.

First-party intent data provides valuable insight into which accounts are visiting the website and what content they are engaging with. Marketers use this information to discover potential new target accounts as well as when to reach out to those prospective in-market buyers. 

Leveraging first-party intent allows B2B marketers to take a proactive approach to this cookie apocalypse and keep their sales and marketing strategies going in this changing digital landscape.

IP address intelligence (B2B only): IP address intelligence is the process of translating a company’s IP address into a set of traits about that company, called firmographics. These traits can include things such as company name, employee count, revenue, industry, geolocation, and more. Firmographics are the crucial pieces of information B2B marketers rely on to drive account-based marketing and deliver enhanced user experience on their websites. 

What makes IP address intelligence unique is that because it is focused solely on businesses and not personal data or individuals, it is the ideal choice in the MarTech landscape that is becoming more and more hostile towards third-party cookies.

Looking ahead

The world of digital marketing is constantly evolving, and companies need to adopt new technologies that will support their sales and marketing efforts now and in the future. To learn more about how IP address intelligence works and how it can power your account-based sales and marketing throughout the changing digital landscape, contact us to speak with one of our specialists today!

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