Chocolate chips, macadamia, ginger, thinking of cookies can make us all drool with anticipation! But when it comes to IT, computer, smartphone, the world wide web etc… well that’s another story! Still they are so extremely important on so many accounts and instead of shying away from it, we should all learn how to manage and use them.

But what are cookies exactly? 

Haven’t we all seen this notification pop-up telling you “this website uses cookies”? We all know it and have a vague understanding of what those cookies are doing exactly, but who really understands it?  To make it simple, cookies are there to make both your navigation smoother and seamless by tracking your preferences and behaviour AND empower marketeers to send you the right offers at the right time. If you are still fuzzy on this, have a look at this video which we find incredibly helpful.

There are actually 2 types of cookies – the FIRST party cookies which are hosted on your site and track & save user activity on your site and THIRD party cookies which help to track the activity of your users on websites outside of your own provided that they are in your network of advertising sites.

Is it a win/win or win/lose game?

Basically, when you’re on a site, cookies help the site to save your preferences and activity. It isn’t always a bad thing, for instance when you’re on a shopping site, cookies help the site to remember articles that you saved previously, or when you have to login, cookies ensure you don’t have to type your password every time. In these scenarios, the use of cookies is essentially a win for consumers as it enhances their browsing experience. The more a site knows you, who you are, and what you like, the more it can respond to your demands and provide you with what you really need…

On the marketeers side, cookies are a godsend and generally an essential part of any digital marketing strategy as by tracking the activity of the users, they allow the marketeers to understand consumers better – such as the use of retargeting ads, storing of the cart status which makes it easier to send reminders and make the overall shopping experience smoother, even allowing the tracking of conversions. By obtaining information on the user and their situation in the purchasing journey, it allows the marketeers to fine tune their interaction with their prospects… so essentially a win/win on both accounts.

Are cookies a threat to privacy?

With all the actual issues due to the lack of security and abuse from sites such as Facebook for example, people have been seeing cookies as a potential threat to their privacy. Trends are showing that following Cambridge Analytica and GDPR, a lot of users and technology providers have been rejecting and/or cleaning up cookies on a regular basis, especially third party cookies and laws have been put in place to allow consumers to reject the use of cookies.

The assumption being that by knowing and analysing behaviours, marketeers are in a better position to influence consumers to do their bidding. And if we are being honest, this is not entirely false, but it is a theory that has come to existence because consumers have gained the feeling that everything was done behind their backs, building up a sense of mistrust.

If you do think about it, when you go to a physical mom-and-pop stores to buy your daily essentials like shampoo, being a regular customer the store owner will probably inform you something like “hey your usual go-to brand just released a new scent, do you want to try that?” Wouldn’t that have felt super helpful and treated like a VIP?

However, of course we understand that in any situation, there are some sites who do abuse the knowledge gathered through cookie technology, with examples such as airlines or e-commerce sites featuring discriminatory prices to returning customers as highlighted in the above video. So, we can understand where this mistrust comes from. But what does this teach us? Well, simply that as in everything else in life, cookies should be used ethically and transparently – with a win/win relationship at the center of this process, and not to abuse the trust of consumers.

And how do we do that?

First, be reasonable, do not overdose on cookies. For all your first party cookies, ask yourself some simple questions such as why do you need them, where is it the most appropriate, how will you use this information and how will it benefit your customers too?

Second, be absolutely transparent with your customer – have that pop-up up on your website to clearly ask your user to authorise the use of cookies – or to say that by browsing on this website they authorise the use of cookies. Make sure they know that they are there and what they are for. GET CONSENT! Isn’t this the key to a healthy relationship?

And we’ll talk about third party cookies… but maybe another day 🙂

– Article written in collaboration with Nadia Naji, our beautiful intern. –

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