The Third-Party Cookie Is Crumbling - Now What?

Third-party cookies are going away, which will disrupt the travel industry.

Kurt Weinsheimer
May 20, 2022

----Updated on August 4, 2022----

Third-party cookies are going away. Unless marketers prepare, this move will disrupt the entire travel industry. While Apple stopped supporting cookies in its Safari browser back in 2017; Google will no longer support third-party cookies starting in 2024.

Given the fact that 64% of global web users use Chrome, Google’s shift away from third-party cookies will have a more profound impact on travel ad targeting. Now, 62% (according to a Phocuswright report) of companies are making it a top priority to have adapted ad strategies ready for a cookieless world.

For hotels, the elimination of third-party cookies may seem scary, but it’s actually an incredible opportunity to build more authentic relationships with guests using less intrusive methods. If hotels can rework ad strategies accordingly, they can not only capture direct bookings - they can also build brand loyalty.

The cookie is crumbling, enabling hotels to move beyond antiquated techniques to create a personalized experience that inspires travelers to book.

What is a cookie?

Cookies have been around for a long time - around 30 years - and are a staple in digital advertising. Used by a number of internet browsers, cookies target and track customers on a one-to-one basis. This includes tracking website visitors, collecting data, ad serving, retargeting and cross-site tracking. Most importantly, they help you drive direct bookings to your website. Unlike first-party cookies, which track customers on your website, third-party cookies track customers across websites and work well in anonymous environments.

While marketers have long relied on third-party cookies, consumers have other plans. Due to privacy requests, control and consumer preferences, Google made the decision to stop supporting third-party cookies. Hotel marketers must take action before they are phased out completely to prevent any campaign and retargeting performance issues. Yes, cookies have been standard for years. Yes, it may all sound like bad news. But no, you don’t really need third-party cookies after all.

Finding first-party success

When third-party cookies go away, marketers must rely more than ever on first-party cookies - and that’s a good thing. Unlike third-party cookies, first-party cookies are the ones you use on your site. They collect data without forcing a login in each site visit.

First-party data comes straight from your audience, so you can be sure it’s relevant to your hotel. You can use this information to learn about your guest’s interests, preferences and booking behaviors. For example, hotels are filling rooms with leisure travelers making up for lost time, while business travel has not yet rebounded to pre-pandemic levels. Armed with this data, you can predict future behaviors and use that information to make informed decisions about advertising strategies.

First-party data works well when used in conjunction with hashed emails. Hashed emails convert a traveler’s email address to a unique jumble of characters to identify and target travelers online while maintaining privacy. The third data source you can use is historical booking data, which allows you to add offline booking data into the mix to build more in-depth customer profiles. Together, these three data sources paint a robust picture of travelers, and allow marketers to target them accordingly.

The shift to people-based marketing

While preparing for a cookieless world requires marketers to rethink data strategies, it also requires a new mindset. Rather than marketing to the cookie, travel brands can use the opportunity to use people-based marketing across devices. For example, if a traveller books a flight to Paris on a desktop, later that day she may be served an ad on a mobile device for a hotel, dining experience or activity within the city. Not only does it make ads more effective, it creates an overall better experience for the consumer.

Deploying successful people-based marketing campaigns in a cookieless world makes partnerships more important than ever. Partners can fill in data gaps to mix in historical booking data with your first-party data and hashed email identifiers to create successful retargeting campaigns. By adding in partner data, hotel marketers can ensure that a Paris-bound traveler isn’t being served an ad for a hotel room that she’s already booked.

A cookieless world is coming, and hotel marketers need to prepare now or risk falling behind. With new data strategies and a mindset shift, marketers can capitalize on the opportunity to build better relationships with travelers and increase brand loyalty.

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