I had an eye-opening experience during a product presentation regarding third party cookies. We’ve all been hearing about the iOS changes and the death of the cookie, so much I became desensitized to the true impact. It wasn’t until the 5th slide of a presentation from BlackCrow.ai that it dawned on me:

  1. Most of our users are mobile
  2. Most mobile users use Safari
  3. Safari trashes cookies after 7 days
  4. We do not have cookies for most of our users after 7 days!

Without cookies after 7 days, we don’t know if someone who previously interacted with an ad is returning to complete their purchase on day 8 or 45. We don’t know if that user abandoned their cart, we don’t know the first product they interacted with, we don’t know their purchase path! We don’t know… We don’t… 😱 (breathe)

Denial is the first stage right? So I looked at our analytics, even created a simple calculation to demonstrate:

There is no denying it, the Cookie Apocalypse is here.

Three Of The Biggest Challenges

1. Google Analytics & Tag Manager

Google relies on cookies. If all cookies for mobile Safari users are dumped after 7 days, then Analytics & Tags will only have 7 days of history to compare to. There are ways around it but the setup we all just had to go through to prepare for GA4 only has a shelf life of 7 days. Staying on the old one won’t help, (and data will stop tracking in July). No matter how we slice it; the standard implementation will say anyone returning to the site after 7 days on a mobile device will be treated as a new visitor.

2. Facebook Pixel and Google Pixel Learning Algorithms

If mobile browsers “forget” activity after 7 days, then the algorithms will start to learn that all activity happens within 7 days. If a conversion happens after 7 days, the algorithms could think that is a new user that converted after one click to the site from the last ad, not 3 or 4 clicks across several ads and searches and perhaps an abandoned cart email. While Google and Meta are working on improving their algorithms to address this, without more than 7 days of traceable data, how much machine learning will just become machine guessing?

3. Email Flows

Everyone loves their browser abandon, cart abandon and win back email flows right? Of course! They’re almost like printing money. Except, what if you don’t remember the email address of the user who created that cart or looked at that page? A long time customer could start building a cart on the 8th day after they last logged in, if they don’t log in again, you won’t know anything about them. You can’t personalize the site based on their preferences, mention extra features on a product they visited or, even worse, you can’t remind them of any items in their cart.

Thankfully, there are options for server side cookie implementations (this is First Party Data and is not affected by Safari or any other browser). You can use these solutions to feed complete data back to your Email, Google and Meta accounts so the algorithms have long term memory again and will make more informed and effective adjustments to your campaigns.

My favourite option is PolarAnalytics.co if you’re on Shopify. It is a complete analytics platform that combines all the data you would normally get from Google Analytics together with your real sales data. It was designed as a more powerful analytics platform to study LTV, AOV, site conversion, cohorts, tags, product performance, email performance, ad spends across platforms, and automate those reports, producing powerful insights all while making it way easier to create meaningful dashboards and reducing the time necessary. It can also feed realtime conversion data back into your advertising platforms so the algorithms learn the true history beyond 7 days! Did I mention I was a fan?

Another option is offered by BlackCrow.ai, the people who opened my eyes in the first place. If you are using the Klaviyo system, they have an option that will provide first party tracking so your mobile visitors will receive all your flows. They do not currently support other email platforms yet, feel free to contact them for more details!

The Cookie Apocalypse is not a tomorrow problem, it’s today. In all likelihood, more than 50% of your site traffic is mobile using the Safari browser. so that means everything is guessing beyond 7 days. And as with any apocalypse, it’s just going to go from bad to worse.

Photo by Daniel Lincoln on Unsplash