How The Mobile Cookie Crumbles

  • by , Op-Ed Contributor, September 28, 2017
Marketers who rely on cookies may not want you to read this, but the fact remains that the U.S. consumer spends two hours and 45 minutes in-app, versus only 34 minutes on the mobile web, per eMarketer. Furthermore, Sensor Tower estimates that by 2020 there will be 5 million apps compared with the nearly 3 million available today. And don’t forget that the biggest IPO of 2017—Snap—was an app.

Declining Mobile Web, Limited Cookies

While apps will continue their rise, the growth of the mobile web is expected to be flat or down—partly because the cookie as we know it will continue to be degraded. Why? Apple and Google don't have any real incentive for keeping them around.

With Apple positioning apps and its store to be the center of the app universe, the cookie’s demise started on its present trajectory when Apple introduced the identifier for advertisers (IDFA). This was followed by Android’s counterpart in 2015, the Android ID.



Apple has no desire to help Google with additional data beyond what can be obtained from linking a consumer’s browser history, YouTube, and Google Maps data together.

Google could follow Apple’s lead by further degrading the Android ID, further eliminating even more competition in the advertising space.

Apple is executing on its plan of limiting cookies. It recently announced that third-party cookies (anyone other than the primary site or publisher, such as ad networks and supply-side platforms) will be severely  limited and in most cases rendered useless on desktop.

Challenges for Marketers

These particular circumstances mean that effectively tracking and targeting via cross-screen will become even more difficult in the days to come. Apple’s strategy of limiting cookies will likely move to its Safari mobile browser—which is sure to have a chilling effect on mobile web-based companies.

Another very challenging area for the mobile web? Programmatic. The multiple layers of data, inventory and targeting make it hard for the cookie to survive, decreasing win rates, and effective targeting. Conversely, the IDFA and Android ID are very likely to be consistent and persist at all points of the programmatic process, thereby making in-app more appealing.

The Path Forward

There are a few things marketers can do to take advantage of the growth in app traffic.

First, they need to ensure their mobile sites are not only able to dynamically optimize an experience between mobile web and in-app, but also track both effectively.

In many cases, most sites rely solely on basic forms of IDFA conversion tracking, which provides limited app visibility. A solution to this could be the use of Google’s new cross-screen analytics capabilities, which do a much better job of including in-app conversions. In addition, marketers need to leverage data they already have from their own apps more effectively, to better understand who their customers are and improve targeting.

Apps also provide a better view into life-change events than the mobile web can. The mobile web tracks consumers' actions in the present, while predictive app analysis provides a glimpse into where consumers have been and where they are going from a mindset perspective.

For example, marketers may know consumers are in market for a car when they auto apps. What predictive app analysis can show is the potential motive for loading the apps, such as a recent marriage or birth, relocation, or even heading to college.

Last, brands need to understand the type of inventory that best suits their target audience.

The debate between in-app and mobile web will continue to be a big topic of discussion for many years to come, with computing power, connectivity speeds, and AI further contributing to the the momentum of in-app marketplaces.

Next story loading loading..