A first-party cookie collect user engagement data that a consumer directly has with a brand’s owned channels, like a direct-to-consumer website, chatbot, loyalty program, membership, or owned mobile app. The website owner can see this first-party data, which may include a user’s language, location, user name, items saved in a shopping cart, pages viewed, and more.
When a user returns to the same website, it can access data stored in its first-party cookie if the cache has not been cleared. As a result, the site can provide personalized recommendations based on what it knows about users. In addition, forms may have fields pre-filled with past data collected about users.
First-party cookies and the broader category of first-party data are gaining prominence because of the direct relationship brands can have with prospects and customers. Due to evolving data privacy regulations and customer preferences, brands are investing more in data that’s willingly provided by users, rather than purchasing or acquiring second-party or third-party data.
How First-Party Cookies Work
First-party cookies allow users to login to e-commerce sites and purchase items faster. Data like address, saved items, name, language, preferences, purchase history and other profile information are already stored on the e-commerce site. This feature removes friction from the customer journey and creates a more personalized customer experience.
Customers must opt-in to first-party cookie tracking, and certain data privacy regulations, like the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) require companies to disclose how customer data will be collected and used. If a customer chooses not to “accept cookies,” their information won’t be saved and they’ll have to manually sign in every time they visit an e-commerce site. Users may choose to block first-party cookies if they don’t want the host website to store any of their data.
Once user data is stored in first-party cookies, websites can analyze this data and understand their audience better. As sites gather users’ interests and intent, they can suggest products and content their users want to see. The buying journey for customers will become more personalized and sites will see a bigger return on investment (ROI).
First-Party Cookies vs. Third-Party Cookies
Third-party cookies behave like first-party cookies, but are owed by third-party sources, like advertising technology vendors, other websites, or social media platforms. Third-party cookies track consumer data across multiple pages that are not owned directly by an organization. While first-party cookies are set by the website a user is visiting, third-party cookies can be set by a third-party server (i.e., different from the website a user is visiting) or by an advertising technology vendor.
Many users will block third-party cookies because they’re used by third-party companies for advertising purposes. Third-party sites can access a user’s information, which can feel like a breach of privacy.
A significant change affecting marketers is the end of third-party cookies. Google’s and Apple’s moves to phase out third party cookies from their respective browsers means companies will not be able to track activity across the web using cookies. Apple also gives consumers the option to block third-party tracking cookies on apps and its Safari browser.
Learn more about the uses and impact of first-party cookies and first-party data.