The third-party cookie is crumbling – now what?

Third-party cookies disappear. Unless marketers prepare for it, this move will disrupt the entire travel industry. While Apple stopped supporting cookies in its Safari browser in 2017; Google will no longer support third-party cookies from 2023.

Given that 64% of internet users worldwide use Chrome, Google’s move away from third-party cookies will have a deeper impact on the targeting of travel ads. Today, 62% (according to a report by Phocuswright) of companies make it their top priority to have responsive strategies ready for a cookie-free world.

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

The cookie crumbles, allowing hotels to go beyond outdated techniques to create a personalized experience that entices travelers to book.

What is a cookie ?

Cookies have been around for a long time – around 30 years – and are a staple of digital advertising. Used by a number of internet browsers, cookies target and track customers on an individual basis. This includes website visitor tracking, data collection, ad serving, retargeting, and cross-site tracking. Most importantly, they help drive direct bookings to your website. Unlike first-party cookies, which follow customers to your website, third-party cookies follow 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 has made the decision to no longer support third-party cookies. Hotel marketers should take steps before they are fully removed to avoid campaign performance and retargeting issues. Yes, cookies have been the norm for years. Yes, all of this may 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, marketers have to rely on first-party cookies more than ever — 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 connection with each visit to the site.

First-party data comes directly from your audience, so you can be sure it’s relevant to your hotel. You can use this information to learn more about your travelers’ interests, preferences, and booking behaviors. For example, hotels are filling rooms with leisure travelers to make up for lost time, while business travel has yet to recover to pre-pandemic levels. Armed with this data, you can predict future behaviors and use this information to make informed decisions on advertising strategies.

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

The shift to people-centric marketing

While preparing for a cookie-free world requires marketers to rethink data strategies, it also requires a new mindset. Rather than marketing on the cookie, travel brands can take advantage of the opportunity to use people-based marketing across devices. For example, if a traveler books a flight to Paris on a computer, later that day they might receive an announcement on a mobile device for a hotel, dining experience, or activity in the city. Not only does this make advertisements more effective, but it creates a better overall experience for the consumer.

Deploying successful people-focused marketing campaigns in a cookie-free world makes partnerships more important than ever. Partners can fill data gaps to blend historical booking data with your first party data and hashed email IDs to create successful retargeting campaigns. By adding partner data, hotel marketers can ensure that a traveler to Paris doesn’t receive an ad for a hotel room they’ve already booked.

A world without cookies is coming, and hotel marketers must prepare now or risk falling behind. With new data strategies and a shift in mindset, marketers can capitalize on the opportunity to build better relationships with travelers and increase brand loyalty.