By Leah Elston-Thompson, senior account executive
When a website sends a small data file to be stored on your computer it is known as a cookie. Not all websites use them, but many do to keep track of an individual’s interactions with their sites. Companies can use them for personalisation, analytics and advertising purposes, for example to help understand conversion paths or to offer targeted ads to an audience that has previously performed a certain action.
Cookies have been used in digital PR and marketing since the 1990s, collecting data about individuals to improve the convenience of online shopping and remember preferences. But user’s concerns about privacy, increasing cross-device and internet browsing and regulations are starting to shake this up.
Cookies and consent
The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) introduced in May brought with it several new requirements for the handling and storing of personal data. Some cookies, such as registering someone’s IP address, which may be useful for insights into location, are considered personal data and therefore covered by the regulation.
Under GDPR, the company now requires a lawful reason, or consent, for personal data to be stored — that’s why you’re being overwhelmed with cookie consent requests. Individuals now have the power to reject a website from storing information about them — and they are.
If an individual rejects a cookie or deletes their cookies, it means they will be registered as a new user. The result for the marketer is that returning visitors will be flagged up as new ones, showing an inaccurate result in Google Analytics. The results will appear as if the site has reached more people than it may have.
As well as this, web browsers are also blocking tracking cookies. A report by Flashtalking found that 64 per cent of tracking cookies were blocked or deleted by web browsers, with higher results on mobile devices. Safari, Firefox and Internet Explorer have all started to limit third-party cookies. Apple is introducing a new default feature called intelligent tracking prevention, that clears all third-party mobile and desktop data.
Is the cookie crumbling?
This, and the growing inefficiency introduced by a cookies’ inability to transfer between mobile apps, means that the cookie is no longer a reliable tool. Cookies can lead to inaccurate visitor metrics, either not counting people correctly or registering returning visitors as new visitors. For online retail businesses, it can make conversion data inaccurate and it can also lead to unreliable advertising campaign reports.
According to a survey by Viant in the US, over 60 per cent of digital marketers believe that in two years’ time they will no longer be relying on cookies for most digital marketing work. Persistent IDs and device graphs have been suggested as new identification tools, but the search is on for a new, reliable tracking tool for marketers and advertisers.
For more information on PR and marketing in the age of GDPR, contact Stone Junction on 01785 225416 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.