How Will Cookie Bans Impact Affiliate Marketing?


chain and lock over a keyboard

Will the End of Cookies Affect Affiliate Marketing?


With Chrome joining Safari and Firefox in third-party cookie bans, how will affiliate marketing operate in the post-cookie world? Better than you might think.

The movement against third-party cookies is bigger than just Google, Apple, and Mozilla discontinuing their support. It’s part of a broader pushback against individual data gathering that could eventually impact the way affiliate marketers use cookies, too.

For the most part, affiliate marketers do not use third-party cookies, so the immediate threat is low. However, as privacy movements gain steam, so do efforts to prevent cookie customer tracking entirely. This would be a problem for many affiliate marketers because so much affiliate tracking and attribution today is done with first-party cookies.

If cookies went away tomorrow, how would your affiliate marketing fare?


Why Would Cookies Go Away?


Privacy laws are one big threat to the entire cookie ecosystem. The EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) makes websites and digital marketers responsible for a lot of digital privacy rules for EU citizens, but the rules are enforced whether the website owner is in the EU or not.

In December 2020, French privacy watchdog Commission Nationale Informatique & Libertés (CNIL) fined Google €100 million and Amazon €35 million for leaving unnecessary cookies and marketing cookies on users’ browsers without “valid consent.” Amazon’s fine is the largest one yet, but German, Italian, and British privacy regulators all handed other companies fines more than €20 million each. GDPR fines scale based on global sales turnover, but a single fine can be up to 4% of that total, which is a crippling hit for any business.

Thus far, most of the responsibility for cookie information and consent has been handled by long cookie disclosure popup windows. But it’s easy to imagine a future where cookie tracking is not allowed at all or consent standards become so high as to make it impossible.

Another factor is the browser companies, which seem to be using privacy promises as an easy way to score PR points and gain a competitive advantage. Google has pushed back the third-party cookie ban until 2023, but its statements make clear that the company is aiming for a privacy-first web ― where advertisers would be forced to use its Federated Learning Cohorts (FLoC) rather than individual targeting. Apple, meanwhile, is fronting iOS 15 with a host of privacy features designed to stop tracking and targeting. Mozilla has blocked third-party tracking by default since 2019.

With the environment becoming increasingly hostile towards individual cookie-based tracking, it might be time to look for other solutions.


magnifying glass with the word ban inside

Is This a Problem for Affiliate Marketing? Not Really.


Tracking is one of the most important tasks in affiliate marketing. If we can’t attribute sales to the right affiliates, it ruins relationships and ends programs. Fortunately, we have some great tracking options to ensure affiliate marketing continues well into the future.

In the short term, the cookie ban is not a problem for affiliate marketing at all. Affiliate cookies are almost all first-party, and we have a choice between client-side (browser) and server-side affiliate tracking, which doesn’t use cookies at all.

In the long term, it would not be hard for the entire ecosystem to move over to server-side tracking. Many affiliate networks and tracking platforms already offer this technology, which uses transaction IDs to record the click, affiliate, merchant, and device details and store them on the network or merchant server.


Streamline Your Affiliate Marketing Today for a More Efficient Future


Whether cookies go away or not, affiliate marketing is here to stay. FMTC streamlines every aspect of your affiliate marketing management, so it’s easier to run your program regardless of the tracking you use.

Contact us today to see what easier, simpler, more streamlined affiliate marketing would look like for you.