Fundamental Media Insights


Research insights

How big is the impact of the end of cookies on marketing attribution?

Research by Alphix Solutions and Fundamental Media reveals the scale of the problem and why marketers should act now 

Key points: 

  • From 2023, third-party cookies will no longer be supported by browsers, which will also affect first-party cookies 
  • The impact of this on a website’s analytics is material. Worse, however, is that this behaviour can also cause the site to function incorrectly 
  • For marketers today, if your solutions or your suppliers are managing campaigns with cookie-based technologies, performance and reporting will be severely compromised 

As privacy regulation has forced change upon how companies and technologies process user data, attribution has become increasingly challenging, presenting a real problem to any performance-driven marketeers. 

Impact analysis research by Fundamental Media and Alphix Solutions has identified the scale of this problem. While our research focused on the asset management sector, the figures can be applied equally to any sector although the B2B space will fare marginally worse than the B2C arena, owing to the added privacy of networks used by financial professionals.

Before going into the impact analysis, it’s vital to understand the cause of this problem. 

Website analytics is the source of attribution data from which many activities are measured, regardless of the sector. Analytics platforms such as Google Analytics and Adobe Analytics offer audience behaviour insight by tracking the user journey of visitors to a website. These insights include time on site, pages viewed, user journeys, new or returning guests, and many others.  

To deliver these insights, the analytics platform needs to track the user’s interaction with the website. To achieve this, the platform drops a unique identifier on the site visitor’s computer. This identifier is known as a cookie. 

Specifically, this is a first-party cookie as the data generated from the cookie is for the use only of the single website that dropped the cookie (as opposed to a third-party cookie where the data gathered is utilised by a party other than the single website that dropped the cookie). 

From 2023, third-party cookies will no longer be supported by browsers. They will cease to function. This is widely known, as is the fact that most browsers (with a few exceptions such as Google’s Chrome) have already ceased to support third-party cookies. 

What is less widely recognised is that the privacy driven behaviour of blocking third-party cookies extends to first-party cookies as well. 

For a first-party cookie to be successfully deployed on a site visitor’s device, the cookie needs to progress through a series of obstacles.  

Firstly, under privacy regulation, the visitor needs to give consent for the cookie to be dropped. This requires that the user accept the site’s cookie policy via the CMP (cookie management platform) that most websites now deploy. 

Where a user simply ignores the CMP pop up or refuses cookies, only strictly necessary cookies can be deployed. 

While initial research indicated that only 30% of users ‘refuse’ cookies, the reality is slightly more complex and the percentage is likely to be far higher owing to the manner in which ad and script blockers are affecting site behaviour. 

It’s estimated that over 35% of internet users use some form of ad or script blocker. Interestingly, many of these blockers are stopping the CMP from loading. Hence, the blocker prevents the user from having the opportunity to accept cookies. 

The impact of this on the site’s analytics is material. Worse, however, is that this behaviour can also cause the site to function incorrectly. 

Research conducted by Alphix Solutions and Fundamental Media (focusing on asset managers’ websites) highlighted that the impact of this behaviour caused 16% of the researched sites to function incorrectly. Whether stopping the content to load, preventing scrolling or causing the site to be unresponsive, the impact was catastrophic to the user journey. 

In circumstances where the ad/script blocker did not stop the CMP from loading and the user does accept all cookies, the majority of ad/script blockers still blocked non-necessary cookies from being deployed. 

In summary, all technologies that require cookies to function, regardless of whether they are first or third-party cookies, are being affected. These technologies extend beyond analytics platforms. Data management platforms, programmatic advertising, audience profiling and attribution modelling solutions tend to rely heavily on cookies.  

For marketers today, if your solutions or your suppliers are managing campaigns with cookie-based technologies, performance and reporting will be severely compromised. This includes:  

  • Incorrect analytics (underreporting by up to 90%) 
  • Conversion data (view through) is completely inaccurate
  • Cookie-based retargeting no longer provides scale or relevance 
  • Audience behaviour and attribution will be completely skewed 

If you’re interested in the impact of this on your own site, the most common symptom that will be easy for you to identify is the mismatch between reported clicks on an advertisement campaign and the matched entries to the campaign's landing pages. 

Using the Alphix Solutions platform, the Fundamental Media analytics team has identified deltas in analytics readings between 35% and 95%. This delta between the reported site activity and reality is huge.  

Utilising cookies in any part of a marketing funnel is not just inaccurate; it will actively misrepresent the reality of where your marketing activities are driving performance and where your budget is being wasted. 

Among other things, our research found that: 

  • 3% of fund manager sites audited did not have a cookie management platform (CMP) functioning 
  • A further 21% of fund managers’ CMPs did not provide the full functionality required under GDPR 
  • 17% of fund manager sites were attempting to fire third-party cookies after the user declined all cookies 

Please email us to request a copy of the full report.

 

Insights Research insights How big is the impact of the end of cookies on marketing attribution?