Digital Compliance

Cookie Behaviour Study

In accordance with the European General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), individuals in Europe have the right to decide the extent of personal information they share with websites and companies. This enables the preservation of privacy and the prevention of unwanted tracking through the ability to decline cookie tracking on all websites.

Building on the regulatory framework introduced in 2018 with the implementation of GDPR, we conducted an extensive analysis of cookie banner usage on various websites in 2018. Our study involved the evaluation of user data from over 1,200,000 users from various countries.

Last year, we conducted a comparative study to identify the changing trend five year later. We can compare the new analysis with our original behavioral analysis from 2018 and analyze how interactions with cookie banners have changed in over the past five years. It is particularly interesting to ascertain whether there has been a noticeable increase in the acceptance of cookies over the five-year interval since our initial behavioral study.

Data Basis

Data for the behavioral study was sourced from international B2B websites from the service, industry and retail sectors. The analysis includes only aggregated and anonymized user data collected between 1.1.2023 to 30.6.2023.

The Cookie Banner Specification

For the behavioral study, we used a cookie management platform that allows the following functions on the first and second level.

First level: Design of the cookie banner

The cookie banner used is displayed as an overlay at the bottom of the website and offers the following options:

  1. accept all cookies
  2. reject all cookies
  3. cookie settings (to accept or reject individual cookie categories)
  4. close banner (X icon)
Cookie Banner Layer 1

Second level: Cookie settings

The “Cookie settings” button opens the Privacy Preference Center, in which individual cookie categories (strictly necessary cookies, functional cookies, cookies for marketing purposes, performance cookies) can be activated or deactivated.

At the second level, the cookie banner offers the following options:

  1. allow all
  2. confirm my selection
  3. close banner (X icon)

In addition, the three cookie categories “functional cookies”, “cookies for marketing purposes” and “performance cookies” can be individually accepted or rejected.

Cookie Banner 2nd Layer

Evaluation of Cookie Banner usage

First level of the cookie banner

In 2018, a significant proportion of users, accounting for 76%, disregarded the cookie banner entirely. This proportion has decreased notably by 2023, with only 33.6% opting to ignore the cookie banner completely. This reduction can be in part attributed to the implementation by certain websites that force users to interact with the cookie banner, in order to access the website properly. Additionally, this also reflects the heightened awareness and acknowledgment surrounding data protection and cookie usage among users.

Furthermore, an interesting observation is that 25.4% of users across all demographics accept all cookies on the first level of the cookie banner.

First Level Cookiebanner Details

Second level: Cookie settings

Among the 0.4% who opened the cookie settings, the following selection were made:

17% of users opted to accept all cookies, while a comparable number (17.5%) chose to dismiss the second-level cookie banner by clicks the close icon. The majority, constituting 65.5% of users, proceeded to save the selection of cookies individually settings.

Second Level Cookiebanner Details

However, it is important to distinguish that of these 0.4% of users who open the cookie settings, only 28.3% save customized cookie settings. This means that 71.7% of users have opened the cookie settings, but have not saved any individual settings.

Individual Cookie Setting Details

Geographic trends in user behavior

The study has also revealed significant differences in the interaction between users and cookie banners depending on on their geographical location. Tendency wise, users outside of Europe, are more likely to dismiss the cookie banner without engaging with it. This behavior may be attributed to varying data protection regulation and awareness around the world.
For example, in countries such as Belarus or Malaysia, the prevailing consent model largely follows an opt-out approach, wherein cookies are set unless expressly rejected by the user. This contrasts with the opt-in consent model mandated by regulations such as the GDPR in Europe.

Geographic differences in Banner interaction

Cookie settings are not opened

The analysis indicated a universally low level of interest in individual cookie settings. Although Switzerland and Germany demonstrate comparatively higher engagement with the cookie settings, with rates of 1.1% in Germany and 0.8% in Switzerland, these figures are very low.

Cookie Setting usage details

Accepting and rejecting cookies

Our findings indicate a lower acceptance rate of cookies in Europe, with users from Germany and France displaying the highest inclination to reject all cookies. Conversely, the USA exhibits the highest acceptance rate among the regions included in our comparison.

It is important to highlight that our analysis considers cookies as accepted even in cases where the opt-out consent model is employed, and users either ignore or dismiss the cookie banner without explicitly rejecting the cookies.

 

Conclusion

Our behavioral study underscores a significant shift in user behavior following the implementation of the GDPR in 2018. Notably, there has been a notable increase in interaction with cookie banners, accompanied by a growing trend of cookie rejection, particularly evident in European regions.

The following table illustrates the change in user behavior for the four primary interactions:

Conclusion Table

While the total acceptance of cookies has risen to 25.4% compared to 2018, the actual volume of cookies accepted remains limited, resulting in minimal user data available for measuring marketing campaign efficacy. Additionally, a substantial portion of users, accounting for 68.9%, either close or disregard the cookie banner, thereby withholding consent for cookies and consequently resulting in significant data loss for performance evaluation.

As anticipated, these findings underscore the formidable challenge posed by data-based and data-driven marketing strategies. Furthermore, it’s important to note that the impact of third-party cookie blocking by browsers and ad blockers exacerbates the already low figures.

Consequently, there’s a pressing need for a paradigm shift in marketing approaches, with alternatives such as server-side tracking and leveraging first-party data assuming increasing importance.