By Leah Hottenstein, Creative Content Producer
Cookies are a touchy subject. We don’t know if we should love them, or hate them. One moment the user is off-put by an incredibly specific advertisement, another they are satisfied with a targeted product that they end up enjoying.
So, what are cookies? Kaspersky Lab defines web cookies, also called HTTP cookies, as containing small pieces of data used to track computer IDs when users travel from site to site. Kaspersky also discloses that cookies are stored on web browsers and send code whenever users visit a page, usually containing demographic and behavioral data. Target Internet reports that this can include age, gender, location, and interests.
Cookies don’t contain personal information, and are useful when advertising to a specific customer, Target Internet adds. This data is often used to improve targeting ads specific to each user’s shopping needs. Target Internet also includes that cookies store what is in each person’s shopping cart, autofill functions that are enabled, and user preferences.
Some are skeptical of cookies, due to the tracking of a user’s digital habits. According to Eric Enge, head of Digital Marketing for Perficient, some privacy groups object to advertisement cookies that track travel information across the internet. Perficient estimates that 30% of web users delete cookies on at least a monthly basis, and about 2% of users block cookies altogether. This distrust could lead researchers down a dead end if more users follow the same path.
Digital advertising has become an essential marketing tool, but it would be nowhere without the data cookies provide. Angelina Eng, vice president of measurement and attribution at IAB and IAB Tech Lab, remarks that,“Everyone is impacted, and there’s a lot at stake.”
Over the past decade, improvements in reporting and attribution analytics were due to using information from cookie based identifiers, Eng notes. She reports that cookies are used to determine who their target audience is, by making business decisions determining the size of their customer base, sales, and revenue. Google Analytics and Google Adwords can help the average businessperson access data that could improve their advertising technique and which products to dedicate focus to in the future.
The jobs of analytics professionals could change at any moment. It is predicted by Eng that in two years time “publishers, advertisers, data vendors and technology platforms will need to reevaluate and retool their approaches to data collection, audience targeting, measurement and attribution analysis.”
The goal is to balance personalization and privacy. To give analytical researchers enough information to accurately target consumers while keeping the user's information safe. Greg Sterling from Search Engine Land recommends future applications to attempt to target large, similar groups without letting the data leave the browser. Google is trying to do just this, by attempting to find “a middle way,” that satisfies both parties.
What is next is to come to a general consensus to determine where business affairs are critical enough to sacrifice privacy, as well as decide where users have a voice in the matter. Whatever direction the future entails, there’s a lot at stake when it comes to cookies.