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Most Marketers Believe Tracking Cookies Will No Longer Be Needed

Apple's Safari and the GDPR are making that method less sexy

The death of the tracking cookie may be upon us.

According to a September 2017 survey of US brand-side digital marketing executives by Viant, more than 60% of respondents believe they will no longer need to rely on cookies for the majority of their digital marketing within the next two years. Although cookies have been the staple way to track activity on websites for more than two decades, that monopoly on user tracking is slowly eroding as browsers and regulators in Europe crack down on digital privacy.

Last summer, Apple’s Safari browser made tracking users more difficult by deleting third-party cookies after one day. The EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), which goes into effect in May, states that people’s personal data can only be used if individuals give companies permission. Since several ad tracking firms have long relied on user data without getting user permission, the GDPR could lead to significant drawback on the usage of third-party cookies because companies that fail to comply with the law will face a stiff penalty.

“Between Safari cookie retention policies and GDPR, the pool of usable cookies will shrink dramatically,” said Eric Berry, CEO of native ad platform TripleLift.

While marketers’ reliance on cookies is on the decline, it will still stick around for a while, according to Berry. Safari is responsible for less than 20% of internet traffic on desktop/laptop and mobile, according to Net Marketshare, and the GDPR applies only to EU users. This means people in the US who use Google Chrome aren’t affected by the recent moves that are pressuring marketers to use cookies less often.

Marketers also are likely to be cautious about making big overhauls to how they track and reach users. The Viant survey found that more than 30% of respondents named audience reach as one of the biggest obstacles to achieving a successful digital ad campaign.