Depreciation of Cookies & the Importance of Conversion API

Updated: Mar 26, 2024 | |

Depreciation of Cookies - Retain Media

A brief history: Where we are on the cookie-less journey

Technology has developed exponentially over the last few decades. Smart Phones. Social Media. The ill-fated Google Glasses. Technology has evolved at such a rate that it is only in the last few years that the average consumer has understood how their privacy has been impacted. Enter Cambridge Analytica in 2018 and internet users the world over became privy to how their personal data and internet behaviours were being used.

While most advertisers and organisations have acted in good faith to their consumers, the behaviour of the few has resulted in sweeping changes. The most notable and wide-reaching prior to cookie deprecation was the introduction of the General Data Protection Regulation in 2018 across the EU which required all websites to disclose how their data would be used and give the consumer control.

In January 2020, Google announced the Privacy Sandbox Initiative which outlined the company’s goal of depreciating third-party cookies from its browser and devices. It set an ambitious goal to phase out third-party cookies, with the undertaking so large that even the behemoth that is Google had to push out its timeline to early 2024

In January 2024, Google began depreciating third-party cookies through its browser Chrome for 1% of its users, officially marking the beginning of the end for cookies. This will ramp up throughout 2024, with the aim for 100% of Chrome browsers to be cookie-less by Q3 2024.

A Quick 101: What is the difference between first and third-party cookies?

You’ve heard of cookies but there are also different types of cookies. It might sound confusing but the difference is simple.

First-party cookies are essentially the cookies generated on your site. These are typically considered more reliable than third-party cookies from a raw data point of view in that it tells you how people behave on-site. The benefit that third-party cookies provided was that advertisers were able to pass back additional data points to platforms such as Meta and Google that defined who that user was. You can see why this is invaluable to advertisers when they want to identify their high-value customers.

Oversimplified, first-party cookies show how users interact with your website, while third-party cookies give these users attributes i.e. interests, behaviours, patterns, habits or perhaps even life stages, such as being newly married.

Will this impact the Meta Pixel?

Meta Pixel - Retain Media

In a word: yes. Let me explain: Meta’s pixel will continue to function, passing data from your website to the platform. However, the data that will be passed back to Meta won’t be as robust, which could impact reporting, measurement and targeting.

Why is this? When you install the Meta pixel onto your site, the default pixel setting is set to pass back first-party and third-party cookies. The deprecation of third-party cookies will mean only first-party cookies are being passed back to Meta, so we still see how they engage with the site, but not who they are.

This is where Conversion API comes in.

What is Conversion API (CAPI)?

Let’s be clear on one thing: Conversion API won’t be replacing third-party cookies. What CAPI will do allow advertisers to better manage and use their own first-party data from their site, limiting the impact of the loss of third-party cookie. 

Conversion API is a direct and more reliable way for your website to feed back marketing data to Meta. It works by establishing a connection server-to-server between your website and Meta which is privacy and GDPR compliant. 

Advertisers with CAPI implemented should see stronger results from their marketing campaigns as the data that is shared between the platforms is more reliable and robust, allowing for stronger automation, optimisation and personalisation.

How to set up CAPI on Meta

Conversion API - Retain Media

There are three ways you can implement CAPI through Meta. It is not a one-size-fits-all approach, so think about which solution works best for your business based on the resources available to you.


1. Commerce Platform Partner Integrations: This solution is the easiest to implement but is only suitable if you already use a partner platform compatible with Meta. This solution is most relevant to e-comm advertisers who use the likes of Shopify, WooCommerce, Wix or BigCommerce to name a few. 

2. Direct Integration using Code: This is the most resource-heavy and time-consuming method of CAPI setup. Direct integration using code is exactly what the name suggests. This will require IT and developer support to build the integration but the key benefit for the direct integration is it is more customizable than the other solutions

3. The Conversion API Gateway: This solution was developed for advertisers who aren’t purely e-commerce, but don’t have the dev resources to build a direct integration. It is code-free, self-setup enabled so a marketer should be able to implement easily enough. There are two ways you can set up the API Gateway: first, and can be set up via a partner integration like Google Tags Manager or Adobe. Alternatively, if you don’t use a gateway partner, you can set this up via Amazon Web Service although this will incur the cloud storage fees.

Should I prioritise installing CAPI?

If you are currently advertising or planning to advertise on Meta, then yes. As mentioned earlier, while the Meta pixel isn’t dying, its functionality and effectiveness will be reduced in the cookie-less world. For advertisers who want to continue making their marketing budgets work their hardest, then CAPI is needed to navigate these changes.

Should I prioritise installing CAPI?

To keep up to date with the latest developments in digital marketing, make sure you check out our Insights.

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