Cillian Bracken Conway
15th Sep, 2021

If you’ve visited a website, you’ve probably had to click “accept” or “decline” on a popup asking whether you accept cookies. But what does this mean? With third-party cookies being phased out, it’s important to understand this and start preparing for a cookie-less world.

Companies in the health industry will need to transition their current marketing from a reactive strategy to a proactive one. The health sector is highly regulated online, and it may take the assistance of a digital marketing agency specialising in health to navigate this extra hurdle and optimise your digital marketing efforts. Here’s what you need to know to thrive without cookies in the coming years.

Cookieless World illustration


What are cookies, and why are they used?

Cookies (also known as HTTP cookies) are small text files, which browsers use to identify and remember you. There are two types of cookies: first party and third party. First party cookies are restricted to tracking activity on your domain, while third-party cookies follow you in your internet browsing and social media scrolling. Here are just a few examples of how third-party cookies are typically used in a “reactive” marketing strategy: 

  • Remarketing campaigns. Thanks to third party cookies, businesses can “remarket” their products and services to visitors who have not converted or completed a sale. For instance, a business can set up remarketing ads on different platforms (e.g. Facebook, Google Display Network) to remind a user of items they’ve left in their shopping cart—driving them back to the website to complete their purchase.  
  • Data insights. Cookies can help businesses understand user behaviour through data on Google’s Universal Analytics. As a result, cookies can point you to problems with user experience (UX) on your website. For example: if a high rate of users close your website after tapping on a Facebook ad, this could indicate a problem with your landing page load speed on mobile devices. 

Why are cookies being discontinued?

For years there’s been talk of when browsers would start discontinuing cookies due to consumer privacy demands. Now, with more stringent legislation in certain geographies – such as the GDPR and CCPA – Google has announced its plan to stop supporting third-party tracking cookies from 2023. While other browsers are phasing out cookies sooner, Google Chrome will be the last to do so.

This news will impact most – if not all – businesses in the health industry that leverage the power of online advertising through Google Ads and the Google Display Network. Google’s Chrome browser has a 60% market share globally, and about 56.55% for Ireland.

The good news is that Google has already planned for the fallout of a cookie-less world, with the Privacy Sandbox estimated to be rolled out in 2022. This tool will eliminate improper tracking while still allowing businesses to use ad targeting in the Chrome browser. For health companies, these new constraints will require intelligent strategies to build and maintain customer relationships online, but the upshot is you may be able to generate better results than before.

Consumers are more hands-on with their health research

The health industry has a wealth of untapped digital marketing opportunities as more than ever before, consumers are solving their health problems with the help of Google search. In fact, according to MedicalDirector, 54% of Australians use Google on a weekly basis to look for medical information and symptoms. Nearly 3 in 4 Australians (72%) have also used Google to solve health issues rather than visiting their GP. 

While some of these digital marketing opportunities are created by third-party cookies, new strategies are always emerging to help businesses reach these users online.

Whether it’s shopping for a health plan, paying insurance bills or ordering medicine, consumers typically prefer to access products and services online, compared to traditional in-person or over the phone methods (McKinsey). To remain competitive and ahead of the curve, health organisations need to meet consumers where they are—before their competitors do.

From reactive to proactive

Cookies have previously made ad targeting, and therefore sales conversions, very easy. Now, with the cookie-less world upon us, businesses are unable to follow their prospects around the internet serving them retargeted ads until they complete a transaction. Instead of taking this reactive approach to marketing, businesses now need to think about engaging their target audiences with more than just ads. At Vine Digital, we recommend developing a long-term content calendar—one that speaks to your customer’s interests and increases SEO traffic to your site. Customers don’t want to be advertised to; they want to engage with your business in an organic way. 

You can also no longer rely on just one channel to disseminate your information; gone are the days where one product page on your website was sufficient to engage and convert customers. Digital-savvy health brands are taking a multi-pronged approach – one that integrates written, audio and video content that reaches a wide customer base at multiple touchpoints. 

Finding the right connection with your customers

There’s no denying that without third-party cookies, digital advertising as we know it will change. But there are many other strategies you can leverage to build out your customer base and create genuine, long-term relationships. They want brands to craft a personalised experience for them. As a health business, you should be exploring new avenues to speak to your customers on a personal level throughout the customer lifecycle.

Consider diet companies that create a dedicated platform for their customers, building in regular check-ins and follow-ups to ensure they are sticking to their diet plans. Or think about an organic pet food company with an attractive loyalty and rewards program. They might offer customers discounts on their pet’s birthday, or send reminders of annual vaccines to help their brand stay front of mind. Know, however, that customers are being bombarded with loyalty programs and new platforms all the time. You need to make the experience as seamless and hassle-free as possible. Interactions such as these can create real value for the customer and entice them to become regular shoppers – with the overall goal of turning them into brand ambassadors. It’s not enough for a customer to be loyal and continually purchase from you; in the age of sharing and leaving reviews online, customers have the potential to represent your brand.

Now’s the time to be proactive

Because the healthcare industry is already regulated by how and where it can deploy certain ad campaigns, this phasing out of cookies is yet another hurdle for organisations to overcome. The way we use certain advertising strategies like display and programmatic ads will change in particular, so you will need to revise how your marketing strategy will work in the new norm.

Use the time now to look at your internal digital marketing strategy, or reach out to an agency that specialises in these changes within the healthcare sector. In successfully deploying a cookie-less digital marketing strategy, you’ll not only acquire relevant data like email addresses, demographic information and purchasing habits; you’ll also engage with your audience in a personal and organic way. The result is a win-win: your customers will have access to a health resource they can rely on, and your business will benefit from consistent growth in traffic and conversions.

Vine Digital is a highly experienced digital marketing agency, specialising in the healthcare sector and can help optimise your website, boost your audience, and much more. Contact us today or call (02) 8006 8100.