The Crumbling Cookie: Navigating a Privacy-First iGaming Landscape in a Post-Cookie World

Digital Fuel  • 

For decades, third-party cookies have been the linchpin of targeted advertising, allowing iGaming brands to track user behaviour across the web and deliver hyper-personalised ad experiences.

However, a seismic shift is upon us. By the second half of 2024, Google Chrome, the dominant browser with over a 64% market share [StatCounter, GlobalStats], will have phased out third-party cookies entirely. This presents a significant challenge for the iGaming industry, which is heavily reliant on targeted advertising for user acquisition and retention.

A Timeline

The phase-out of third-party cookies has been a slow burn, with several key milestones:

  • 2013: Safari and Firefox take a stand, blocking third-party cookies by default, signalling a growing privacy movement.

  • 2018: GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation) comes into effect in the EU, emphasising user consent and data privacy, forcing companies to be more transparent about data collection and usage.

  • 2020: Google announces plans to phase out third-party cookies in Chrome within two years, sending shockwaves through the digital advertising world.

  • January 2024: Chrome begins testing third-party cookie restrictions for a small user base (1%), allowing developers and advertisers to prepare for the inevitable.

  • Q3 2024 (estimated): Chrome disables third-party cookies for all users (subject to addressing any remaining competition concerns).

Impact on iGaming: A Perfect Storm

The demise of third-party cookies creates a perfect storm for the iGaming industry:

  • Reduced Targeting Accuracy: Without cookies to track user journeys across the web, personalised ad experiences will become more challenging. Imagine showing ads for slots to someone researching blackjack strategies – a recipe for wasted ad spend and frustrated users.

  • Data Attribution Difficulties: Measuring the effectiveness of marketing campaigns across different channels will become more complex. Previously, marketers could rely on cookies to track conversions and attribute them to specific ad placements. In a cookieless world, this attribution becomes murky, making it difficult to optimise campaigns for maximum ROI.

  • First-Party Data Dependency: The importance of first-party data, collected directly from users with consent, will skyrocket. This includes data from website visits, app usage, loyalty programs, and surveys. Brands that have prioritised building strong first-party data strategies will be at a significant advantage.

Let's delve deeper into specific industry fears surrounding the cookieless future:

  • Loss of User Acquisition Efficiency: With limited targeting capabilities, acquiring new users becomes a numbers game. Imagine a scenario where you can't target high-value demographics or exclude users who have already signed up – this can significantly inflate customer acquisition costs (CAC).

  • Attribution Nightmares: Marketers rely on accurate attribution data to understand which marketing channels drive the most conversions. Without cookies, accurately attributing conversions across different touchpoints (website ads, social media campaigns, email marketing) becomes a major challenge.

  • Erosion of Brand Loyalty: In the absence of personalised experiences, brands risk losing the ability to nurture customer relationships and encourage repeat engagement.

Case Studies: Charting a New Course

While the future seems daunting, several iGaming brands are already taking proactive steps to navigate the cookieless future:

  • Unibet: This European giant has invested heavily in building a robust first-party data strategy. They leverage email marketing, loyalty programs, and on-site user behaviour data to segment their audience and personalise offers. For example, Unibet can identify users who enjoy playing a specific type of slot game and target them with promotions for similar games.

  • FanDuel: The US sports betting leader focuses on contextual targeting, placing ads on relevant websites and mobile apps frequented by their target audience. They also utilise first-party data to personalise in-app experiences. Imagine a FanDuel user who has consistently placed bets on Major League Baseball – they might see a special offer for a boosted MLB parlay bet within the FanDuel app.

  • DraftKings: This daily fantasy sports giant leverages partnerships with sports leagues and media outlets to gain access to valuable first-party data for targeted marketing campaigns. DraftKings can leverage data from official league websites and sports broadcasters to target their ideal demographics with highly relevant ads.

Analysis: A Silver Lining

While the cookieless future presents challenges, it also offers opportunities:

  • Focus on Building Trust: Transparency and user privacy will be paramount. By prioritising user consent and clearly communicating data usage, brands can build stronger relationships with their audience.

  • The Rise of Contextual Targeting: Delivering relevant ads based on the context of a website or app can be highly effective. Imagine placing an ad for a live dealer blackjack game on a website dedicated to casino strategies – a much more targeted approach than relying solely on cookies.

  • First-Party Data Goldmine: Brands that build a rich pool of first-party data will have a significant advantage. This data can be used to personalise user experiences, deliver targeted promotions, and build stronger customer loyalty.

A Quote from the Trenches: Jamie Smith

"The cookieless future is not a reason to panic, but a call to action," says Jamie Smith, Head of PPC at Digital Fuel Performance. "By embracing a privacy-centric approach, focusing on first-party data, and exploring alternative targeting methods, iGaming brands can not only weather this storm but emerge stronger."

The Future Holds Promise: How Digital Fuel Performance Can Be Your Guide

The cookieless future may seem uncertain, but it doesn't have to be. At Digital Fuel Performance, we are experts in navigating the ever-changing digital marketing landscape. Here's how we can help your iGaming brand thrive in the post-cookie era:

  • First-Party Data Powerhouse: We can help you develop a comprehensive first-party data strategy, from crafting compelling opt-in incentives to leveraging user data responsibly and ethically.

  • Cookieless Attribution Savvy: We stay at the forefront of cookieless attribution models, helping you accurately measure campaign performance and optimise your marketing spend for maximum ROI.

  • Contextual Targeting Champions: We excel at identifying relevant targeting opportunities across the web and mobile app ecosystem, ensuring your ads reach the right audience at the right time.

  • Privacy-First Marketing Evangelists: We believe in building trust with your audience. We'll help you craft marketing campaigns that are transparent, compliant, and put user privacy first.

Future Facing

The cookieless future is upon us, but it doesn't have to be a daunting prospect. By working together, we can transform this challenge into an opportunity for growth and innovation. Contact Digital Fuel Performance today, and let's ensure your iGaming brand continues to thrive in the ever-evolving world of digital marketing.

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