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December 20, 2021

The cookiepocalypse is coming. What do I do?


So you’ve heard that Digital advertising is about to change forever…

And it’s all thanks to the cookiepocalypse.

But what does that even mean for your biz?

First of all, let’s clear up what cookies actually are. Lucikly, the chocolate chip variety is not going anywhere, but the digital ones are.

So what are cookies? Cookies are little snippets of information stored about you as you browse online. This is how online stores are able to save the items in our cart for us, or show us an ad with a special offer for those shoes we’ve been eyeing off.

Let’s explore what is happening with this whole cookiepocalypse, and what we can start doing now to survive (and thrive) over the next few years.

The Background: Apple and Google are making big privacy changes

Ever notice how most of the time you spend online involves an Apple or Google product? Whether it’s closing the rings on your Apple Watch, racing to the nearest mall with the help of Google Maps, or watching your favourite music videos on YouTube…

Apple and Google control a lot of the digital spaces we use, so when they have a lot of control over or data and how it is used. Because these organisations are so pervasive, this means when they make big changes like these, it make a big impact and really has the power to reshape how we do things (as marketers – and biz owners – that includes you) and as users.

So what’s the sitch?

  • Apple has included more privacy updates in their latest IOS 15 update. Prior to this, the websites and apps you use every day had (more or less) free reign to track your activity while you use them. Think: you check out a pair of shoes online and then get hit with an ad reminding you to buy them. Facebook is able to do this by tracking you through the Facebook pixel. But now? Apple users are being prompted to allow or disallow this kind of tracking on every app or site they use. As of May 2021, only about 4% of users chose to allow tracking. LOL.
  • Google has also decided that by the end of 2023, they will completely phase out third party cookies (think your Google Analytics tracking or Facebook Pixel). Instead, they will be testing Federated Learning of Cohorts (FLoC) – real catchy guys – which tests consumers in groups instead of individually.

So why is this happening?

Digital marketing has risen to popularity very fast over the past few decades, and it’s taken some time for regulations, society and the law to really catch up. We’ve had it easy over recent years with very little restrictions over what we can do and how we can harness data. And while this makes our job easy, and gives businesses a lot of opportunity to make bulk dollars, the whole wild west situation we currently have going on is not necessarily the best deal for everyone who uses the internet.

Tech companies are under pressure to better protect their users’ data, and Google and Apple are just some of the first to make moves in this direction.

How will this affect our businesses?

Long story short: we’ll continue to have less juicy data driving things like Facebook Ads, so more long-term strategy and creative campaigns will be needed to really drive results.

It will also be harder to measure the effectiveness of our ads directly, because we currently rely on cookies for a lot of our reporting and tracking.

How to survive (and thrive) in the cookiepocalypse

Check your mindset

If there’s one thing we want you to take away from this blog post it’s this:

These privacy changes will make digital marketing harder, but this simply creates an opportunity for businesses that are willing to shift, and filters out competitors who don’t.

That’s right – when these things happen it really sorts the cream from the crop. Some businesses won’t stay across the changes, or will find their lazy marketing tactics of the past just don’t work anymore and leave the market.

But you won’t do this, because you’re reading this article, and that means you’re a smart cookie (pun intended).

If you stay in-front of these changes and make the right moves, you have the opportunity to blast way past your competitors. These kind of shake-ups are a good thing.

Plus, your business has survived a pandemic, so like, this is going to be a cake-walk for you.

Start building up your own data

Rather than having to rely on tapping into Facebook or Google’s data and audiences to reach your customers, take back control and build out your own data to use.

This can’t be taken away from you (unless a customer requests) and it empowers your customers by allowing them to choose what they want to share with you.

Zero and first-party data is data that is collected voluntarily from consumers, like email addresses or phone numbers.

If you’re already gathering information like this then congratulations, you’ve already started gathering invaluable first-party data of your own!

Here are some more ideas to gather first-party data:

  • Have a quiz to help customers discover their best-suited product or service. It’s a great customer service tool for them, and you get to learn about their preferences.
  • Use email newsletter sign-ups, waitlists for launches or lead magnets to build out your email list.
  • Consider getting started with SMS marketing – if it makes sense for your business and adds value to your customers. A good example is if your offer always sells out quickly, or changes locations frequently, then customers might love to opt-in for SMS updates so they don’t miss out.

Flip your marketing funnel

We’ve been kinda spoilt in recent years. Acquiring new customers online was relatively easy and cheap, but this may start to change now. Traditionally, we would focus on driving brand awareness with a tonne of new potential customers, and then warming them up until a small portion pop out as a customer.

This traditional funnel approach has served us well, but it does have one major flaw; it can lead our marketing efforts to be very focused on new customers, and neglect to maximise sales from our existing ones. So the idea behind flipping the funnel, is to focus on your existing customer base first. I.e. the people on your database that you’re already able to keep in touch with easily – and often for free.

By flipping the funnel, you can focus on generating as many sales as possible from existing customers as the priority, and grow out from here. Now we’re not suggesting you flip your whole strategy on its head overnight, but start small and put a little more of your energy into rewarding your existing customers to drive repeat purchase, positive Word of Mouth and stellar reviews.

Rethink how you measure your marketing

Platforms like Facebook or Google Ads have made it easy for us to see exactly how much we’re making in sales for every dollar we spend on ads (Return on Ad Spend). As more users block tracking these numbers have become much less reliable, and we can’t purely rely on them to measure success anymore.

While ROAS is great, it’s never good to get tunnel vision and obsess over this number anyway, as we know there is SO much more that goes into your marketing success, and many of it can’t even be measured at all.

Just the other day, Katy was chatting to her man about her upcoming eye appointment booked at OPSM. About 30 seconds later we started a YouTube video on the TV which had a pre-roll ad for Bailey Nelson. Creepy? Kinda. Helpful? Extremely! (Btw I had also been looking at spectacles on my phone via Google, so I’m not implying anyone was ‘listening’ lol).

Because this ad was SO relevant, and I’d had positive recommendations from trusted peers about this brand in the past, I instantly went online and changed my appointment to be with Bailey Nelson instead.

So that ad WORKED and yet it might not have received any credit for the conversion, because this happened on another device.

So how can we get a more holistic view of our marketing results and ROI?

One alternative to purely focusing on ROAS (which reflects only one platform at a time) is to look at your MER – Marketing Efficiency Ratio.

MER = Total Revenue / Total Advertising Spend

A.k.a this number will give you a simple overview of how ALL your digital advertising is performing across the board. Looking at this number holistically is a good way to account for those channels that contribute a lot of trust, brand awareness and traffic but don’t always get the credit for sales.

Invest in your brand

Marketing worked before cookies and it will work after cookies.

Remember the core elements of marketing that have stood the test of time. These have always been important and we’ll continue to rely on them in the future. Besides having a killer offer, the other vital key is building a strong brand that means something to people and has a loyal fan base behind it.

Rather than relying on digital advertising as a tool to simply drive sales, now is the time to play the long game. Re-engage your existing customers, and educate new customers about your brand story and point of difference.

Great resources for further reading

XOXO Georgia & Katy

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