Are you ready for a cookieless world? As the trends of data privacy intensify it gets harder for marketers to utilise third-party data to power their marketing campaigns.

As a company whose core values include transparency, at Digital Willow we wanted to distil the key facts and keep you best informed of the issues, as they develop.


A quick look at recent changes:Chart

In 2021 there were significant changes to the way third-party cookies are processed and this, in turn, has had impacts on the way we track and report on all advertising campaigns.

The biggest change came from Apple when they released iOS14 (and subsequently Mac OS11, MacOS12 and iOS15). Apple devices now arrive with the default setting as ‘opt out’ of sharing cookie data. You may have noticed this yourself as a user. Apple’s position is that we need to ask for permission before tracking user behaviour. 

This has impacts on our campaigns, as it has created gaps in data as more and more people are not sharing their information. Apple is a big player as you can see by some of these usage stats below:

Mobile Devices:

iOS holds a 26.28% worldwide share of the mobile operating system market (53.6% in the UK) Source: Statcounter, Feb 2022

Safari/Browser Desktop:

A further 19.3% of the world use a Safari as a browser on their desktop. Source: Statcounter, Feb 2022

Furthermore, browser Firefox was also quick to join the privacy movement, blocking all social media tracking and cross-site cookies, starting from 2019. Microsoft have also since followed suit. And the big news is that, according to the BBC, Google intends to roll out something similar by 2023.


So how does this affect the digital data we capture?

1. Gradually as more people upgraded their Apple devices in 2021, the amount of cookie data available for advertisers significantly dropped. Whilst we can still see click data and website analytics, the interlinked journey between channels (i.e., LinkedIn through to website and back again) is invisible to advertisers where users have opted out.

2. This also made it harder for us to show targeted advertisements within Apple based apps i.e., Ads running on the Financial Times app whilst using an iOS14 device.

3. Whilst actual stats are hard to come by, we refer to this Flashtalking study that says; “Greater than 64% of cookies are estimated to be deleted, 10-20% of conversions are understated and thus, CPA is often 25% higher than reality” (Flashtalking study, 2021)


Sounds a bit bleak for digital marketers, what happens next?

As you would expect, Google, Meta, and many other data-driven companies are trying to find ways forward in this cookieless world. Innovation in this area is exploding and new companies are popping up all the time to try to solve analytics issues in a compliant manner.

To give you a taste of just some of the initiatives already available:

GA4 (Google Analytics 4) – is already built for a cookieless world. GA4 is promoted as privacy-centric and has been designed to work with or without cookies. By leveraging machine learning and statistical modelling, GA4 can fill in data gaps as the world becomes less and less dependent on cookies.

Server-side tracking – when a pixel or tag sends data into your web server (or a different type of server), then your web server passes that data to the destination system/server. See further reading.

Flashtalking cookieless tracking (Ftrack)
Device Fingerprinting – tracks users by certain characteristics of the device they’re using, and how it interacts with sites across the web.

What does this mean for your reporting?

During this phase of change, we will need to be more reliant on other metrics to bring the gap in conversion data. For example, these key performance indicators:

CTR (Click-through rate), Clicks, key landing page visits, estimated conversions (modelled on the percentage likely to be missing) and previous benchmarks.

And finally…

Have no fear! We will continue to adapt and keep in close communication about the changes. Fortunately, the market is developing quickly, and more technical solutions are becoming available all the time.


To find out more and to see how we can help you and your business fill in the form to the right and we will be in touch.