How to Market Your Shopify Business Without Third-Party Cookies

Marketing your Shopify business is about to get a lot harder. But only if you don’t prepare for what’s to come.

Marketing your Shopify business is about to get a lot harder. 

But only if you don’t prepare for what’s to come. 

That precious data your analytics tools (usually provided by Shopify and Google) rely on has been broken for a long time. Now, with Google slowly phasing out third-party cookies, the data that your marketing decisions hinge on is about to look a lot different (if you even have data at all). 

Cookies have been disappearing for a while now—Firefox stopped tracking cookies by default in 2019, and Safari did the same in 2020—but with Google’s gradual deprecation of cookies, small businesses could lose a much bigger piece of the pie as nearly 64% of users are on Google Chrome.

Without cookies, your strategies for keeping and finding new customers are not nearly as effective. Personalising recommendations, efficiently targeting ads, and measuring the success of your marketing campaigns will be a struggle. Rather than casting a line with the most enticing bait, you’ll be casting a wider net and hoping that the right fish come along (and come back). 

Online advertising is certainly changing, but Shopify brands, especially those small businesses, have ways to fight back. We’ve also included a handy checklist to keep in mind for your shop. 

What’s the big deal with cookies? 

Overall, the absence of cookies in digital advertising has one big consequence: the data you would gather across different websites using tools like Google Analytics will lack the context and value that allows you to make decisions based on it. 

Targeting capabilities will become less reliable.

Without the insights of third-party cookies to provide valuable data points like user demographics, interests, and browsing behaviour, businesses will have a less comprehensive understanding of their target audiences. This can lead to

  • Trouble identifying high-value customers and those most likely to convert
  • irrelevant and generic messaging for ad copy due to a lack of user data  
  • Spreading your resources too thin across a wide range of audiences

Retargeting and personalisation will be more difficult. 

Targeting customers will be a struggle, but retargeting and personalisation won’t be any easier. Where businesses would have once been able to identify visitors and show them targeted ads later, they now risk showing them ads that are no longer relevant to users, and new hurdles emerge, such as 

  • Inability to remind “window shoppers” to come back and complete their purchase
  • No visibility into abandoned carts and checkout issues
  • Promoting random products with no connection to past purchases or browsing behaviour

Attribution will be even less accurate.

Many businesses use what’s called last touch attribution, which attributes a sale to the last touchpoint a user interacts with before purchasing. Cookies help identify these touchpoints by tracking user behaviour and helping you determine which channel (social media ad, email click, website visit, etc.) converted them. Without cookies, however, it can become entirely unclear which channels got a sale, and this is not without consequences. 

  • Overvaluing and undervaluing your marketing channels
  • Unnecessary ad spending and decreased return on ad spend (RoAS) 
  • Ineffective campaign optimisation and limited insights for future campaigns 

The Big Impact on Small Businesses

Unfortunately, issues like these will disproportionately affect small businesses. While all of the issues above will undoubtedly impact every business on every level, they stand to have the most impact on small businesses, especially those in e-commerce. 

Competition is already fierce, and it’ll get worse.

Large companies with more money typically have access to sophisticated marketing technology and analytics solutions, and small businesses usually have fewer resources and less time. Without cookies, small e-commerce businesses will almost certainly lose their competitive edge when reaching and engaging customers. 

Smaller budgets require smart spending—which requires accurate data.

The challenges mentioned above can lead to wasteful spending on ads that may not convert. Marketing without the right data would be like sending a message in a bottle out to sea, just hoping that it ends up in the right hands. 

Shopify and Google Analytics currently rely on third-party data, and that’s not changing.

Chances are that if you use Shopify and Google Analytics to make your marketing decisions, then your data is already inaccurate. Google's gradual elimination of third-party cookies is a big deal, but every business that relies on cookies has already been impacted for years, whether they realise it or not.   

How First-Party Data Can Help 

Before you freak out, all is not lost! We have several strategies for staying ahead of the cookie apocalypse, and—believe it or not—AI can be your trusted sidekick. 

Get in on first-party data.

By collecting data directly from customers and storing them on your own server, you can confidently make decisions, knowing that the numbers you see are accurate, reliable, and filled with rich customer insights. 

Build stronger customer relationships.

Power over your own data also allows you to focus on your customer relationships. Collecting customer information involves email signups, loyalty programs, and surveys, which can build brand loyalty and personalised recommendations. 

Focus on server-side tracking.

Client-side tracking, also known as browser-side tracking, relies on information collected about the user from their browser. Server-side tracking allows you to fill the data gaps caused by adblockers and privacy settings. You can read more about that here. 

AI to the Rescue! 

AI is one of the most powerful tools to make your data work for you. What’s more, combining first-party data with AI can unlock the most valuable and precise data you’ve ever used. 

AI can analyse even limited data to identify customer preferences and buying patterns. 

AI machine learning can unlock crucial insights that traditional monitoring and tracking methods could otherwise miss or get wrong altogether. These insights can help with personalization in particular, leading to higher engagement and conversions. 

AI can monitor the performance of ads in real-time.

Rather than waiting for your data to tell you what happened in your shop 24 hours later, AI (specifically Revend) can show you how your ads are performing in real-time. For example, AI can identify issues with checkout before they prevent too many customers from purchasing your product. 

With accurate, up-to-date information, you can also experiment with your ads, allowing you to optimise them more efficiently. 

AI can even predict the future! 

Or, at least, they can provide you with a predictive model to help you make the most of your marketing budget. AI can analyse past purchase history, website behaviour, and customer demographics (from your first-party data) so you can focus on how to get the best RoAS.   

First-party Data and AI Level the Playing Field 

When the demise of cookies threatens to widen the data gap between tech giants and smaller businesses, AI and first-party data give those small operations a fighting chance. By leveraging customer data directly, AI can unlock hidden buying patterns and preferences. With AI analysing limited data effectively, even smaller players can compete on a more level playing field in the cookieless future. 

Your Cookie Apocalypse-proof Shopify Checklist 

✅ Collect first-party data to strengthen your decision-making 

✅ Prioritise personalisation to build customer relationships

✅ Get an AI sidekick, like Revend, to help you monitor and track in real-time

✅ Experiment with your ads to optimise ad performance

Let’s see Revend in action!

Monitor, track, and analyse data faster than ever before so you never lose sleep over your webshop again.