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How changes in tracking continues to present opportunity for digital marketers, rather than adversity

Digital marketing - 10th January 2023
Changes in tracking

Changes in tracking. Its coming.

Despite Google’s third-party cookies receiving, yet another, extended grace period before being phased out towards the end of 2024, there’s no doubting the marketing world is currently undergoing a wholesale shift in terms of how digital marketers track prospects and measure success.

Proactivity and preparedness will put brands in a more competitive position when third-party cookies eventually reach their demise. Many other regulatory changes and market trends are prompting brands to alter their approach to tracking and measurement right now.

Digital marketers must educate themselves on the latest changes hitting various devices and platforms as we slowly move towards a perceived ‘cookie-free’ world.

In this blog, we explore:

  • Some of the key changes in tracking
  • How it will affect what brands can and can no longer track
  • Where digital marketers can shift their priorities to thrive in the new world of measurement and tracking

Changes in tracking: Apple and Google roll out smartphone updates, Google Analytics 4 to make 2023 debut

Many new privacy updates hit iOS and Android devices in early September. This includes Google giving users more control over how their data is used, and Apple introducing virtual IDs to verify age across various apps. These, among all the other regulatory and market-driven privacy changes, will invariably impact how digital marketers track online behaviours.

In an attempt to standardise consent across all platforms and devices, Google is also trialling and testing various privacy solutions that will extend across the web. One such solution will be given its debut at the beginning of July 2023, as Universal Analytics (UA) gracefully retires to be replaced by Google Analytics 4 (GA4). After 1st July 2023, UA will stop collecting hits, although users will retain access to previously processed data for at least six months.

The new solution will apply a number of changes to how marketers collect and use data. Designed, as Google puts it, “for the future of measurement”. Reading between the lines, the biggest draw of GA4 is its focus on collecting more data throughout the entire customer lifecycle, chiefly after an acquisition.

This undoubtedly mirrors the shift away from third-party cookies towards other methods (including first-party data) for building an overall digital identity, while still honouring data privacy and expectations.

The rise of digital identity, and ‘other’-party cookies

The global digital identity solutions market is currently undergoing a huge growth spurt, expected to reach over $5.2 million by 2027. As digital marketers, every single data point we collect is with the ultimate goal of creating an accurate digital identity of each individual prospect. An identity we can then leverage to target people with relevant content and experiences that ultimately drive them towards a purchase.

However, the looming cookieless future will make it significantly harder for marketers to target and reach their digital audience. Of course, branding the digital marketing future as ‘cookieless’ is doing first, second, and even zero-party cookies an injustice.

First-party cookies, in particular, represent a viable alternative to their third-party counterparts. Email marketing and push notifications represent two rich sources of first-party data, with customers physically opting into personalised content and experiences, automatically pointing towards increased consumer trust.

Data privacy: Customer expectations are straightforward and achievable

Aside from what we can and can’t track as the measurement world shifts, the biggest message for digital marketing leaders is to listen to your customers. Because, and this may come as a surprise, but their expectations and requirements around data privacy aren’t as outlandish as you may imagine.

Their biggest asks are relatively straightforward and achievable for brands. According to Adobe research, their two primary requests are keeping their data safe, and giving them more transparency and control on how their data is used.

But still, too many brands are getting this wrong. The same research shows 70% of customers are concerned with how companies use their data, while 65% are adamant information collected from digital interactions only benefits the company, not themselves.

Embrace the opportunity to create better CX

As we shuffle inexorably towards a future without third-party cookies, digital marketers must view the coming months and years as an opportunity, rather than an adversity.

True, it will be a challenging period. But, if brands remain educated on the latest updates, and approach any change with a positive mindset, then they’ll be free to focus on doing what they’ve always done best. Creating standout experiences for customers, with data they’ve willingly provided.


For more on analytics, read our blog on making the switch to GA4 and what it means for marketers.

Laura Davies