It’s official: Google recently announced that Chrome will phase out support for third-party cookies, aka 3P cookies, over the next year.
Beginning in Q1 2024, 1% of Chrome users will have third-party cookies blocked, increasing to a complete 3P cookie phase-out in Chrome by Q3 2024.
This change aims to improve user privacy but has major implications for digital advertising and affiliate marketing from a tracking and attribution standpoint.
When Apple announced they were blocking all 3P cookies in 2017 for the iOS Safari web browser as part of their “Intelligent Tracking Prevention” (ITP) effort, affiliate networks launched “cookieless” tracking methods in order to help retailers become ITP-compliant.
But even today, many advertisers are still tracking affiliate transactions through third-party cookies, as they just haven’t updated to cookieless tracking yet. But with this latest announcement, even more users will be affected, since Chrome is the dominant browser worldwide with over 62% market share.
What This Means for Affiliate Publishers and Online Retailers
Affiliate publishers rightly expect proper attribution and credit when their audience clicks on affiliate links and completes purchases on merchant sites. But with the impending phase-out of 3P cookies in Chrome, online retail sites still utilizing third-party cookie tracking will fail to accurately attribute sales to the referring affiliate publisher. Publishers will not work to promote sites who won’t give them credit for sales!
How Is Wildfire Affected?
Wildfire’s place in the affiliate marketing ecosystem is as a publisher. As such, we extend advertiser offers (e.g. cashback rewards) to our clients and their users via rewards programs (via Chrome extensions, offer walls, etc.), and earn the commission for any sales generated from activated offers (clicks) we refer. Then, we split that commission with clients and users as cashback shopping rewards.
(example of an Acorns Chrome browser extension powered by Wildfire, offering a cashback reward on purchases at Lovepop)
Up to this point, Wildfire has worked with retailers and affiliate networks that utilize cookieless tracking, as well as 3P cookies and omitted 3P-cookie programs from Safari products (Safari extensions for desktop and mobile).
But, given the deprecation of 3P cookies in Chrome coming in 2024, we have made the decision to discontinue support for affiliate tracking methods that still rely on third-party cookies.
This proactive stance provides consistency and sustainability for our white-label rewards platform clients while supporting improved privacy standards for their users. More importantly, we can ensure end users earn the cashback shopping rewards they are expecting.
Without the correct cookieless tracking methods in place, affiliate networks, upon whose data we rely, are simply unable to accurately attribute orders and commissions, resulting in dissatisfied end users.
Retail Sites Must Adopt Compliant Cookieless Tracking Solutions
It’s clear: after many delays, the winds of change are finally here for third-party cookie tracking. For online merchants, these changes require immediate prioritization!
Retail sites still relying on third-party cookie-based tracking for operations like affiliate marketing and retargeting face a risky trajectory. As such, e-commerce retailers must investigate their affiliate networks’ cookieless tracking solutions as soon as possible, and work to launch them by Q2 2024 at the latest.
Without adopting alternative tracking techniques before Chrome’s cookie deprecation, advertisers face losing performance data and, even more importantly, publisher relationships.