Why a Cookie-Free Experience Journey is an Opportunity to Nurture Customer Relationships

/ 24 March 2022

This article originally appeared on TotalRetail

The end of third-party cookies is nigh! While Google has delayed the “cookiepocalypse” until 2023, this means there’s a little more time for brands to get their future strategies into place. The digital customer journey will look a little different, but the results will be better for consumers and, ultimately, better for brands.

What Can Marketers and Consumers Expect?

This is a once-in-a-lifetime chance to reconsider reducing friction throughout the customer journey from a marketer’s perspective. Enter: earned data. Earned data provides richer data sets to draw more actionable insights and deeper personalization.

Leveraging more relevant and reliable sources improves the effectiveness of marketing efforts. And by harnessing the power of machine learning, marketers will no longer need to gather reams of data on individuals covertly. Instead, earned data is an opportunity to nurture customer relationships and build new relationships on trust.

For consumers, the benefits are twofold. Firstly, they will have more control over their data. Secondly, they receive a more personalized experience based on accurate and updated data as their preferences change.

For marketers, it’s time to bring the human element back into digital marketing. Advertising at scale and seeing customers as clickstream data has taken away the personalized experience. It’s time to get it back.

Related story: Friend Not Foe: How Contextual Advertising Can Be a Consumer’s New Best Friend

Growth of ‘Walled Garden’ Environments

Without third-party cookies, marketers may find it harder to get in front of new audiences. Second-party data doesn’t get discussed nearly as much as first or third, but could become a more significant aspect of the customer journey.

Walled gardens are closed digital ecosystems — think social media apps, search platforms, or large e-commerce platforms. These gardens already have established consumer consent models and the advantage of large first-party databases. As a result, these environments will be less impacted by the decline of the cookie and have the potential to be mined to a much more significant effect.

An early example of this is the Tesco Insight and Media platform. Built using loyalty scheme first-party data, Tesco says it can reach over 20 million United Kingdom households. This data has now been monetized and offered to supplier brands and agencies through a dedicated platform. As a result, Tesco can now provide an excellent opportunity for brands to create better connections with their customers and create personalized journeys, even through a second party.

Machine Learning and Predictive Modeling

One of the key challenges for marketers with the absence of third-party cookies is how to start a relationship with anonymous visitors. Brands need to create compelling customer journeys for unknown consumers. This is where machine learning and predictive modeling can come into their own.

Tracking behavior across owned platforms makes it possible to identify patterns in the customer journey. Mix this with first-party data sets, and brands will predict an anonymous customer’s journey through their owned platforms.

The end of third-party cookies is a more obvious win for consumers. With more control over their data, consumers will have more insight and control over their personal information and what they intend to use it for.

Shifting to an Earned Data Mindset

The demise of third-party cookies heralds a bright future. However, it will no longer be enough to tweak and adapt current thinking; what’s required is a change of mindset. Surviving and thriving in a privacy-first world requires balancing the personalization that consumers expect with the data control they demand.

Earned data means being open and transparent about the data collection process and its use, which helps to establish deeper trust with consumers.

A quick example of this would be the personal styling service Stitch Fix. Customers take a survey that asks for relevant personal and behavioral data before making a series of product recommendations through a (human) stylist. There’s a clear benefit for consumers to share their data, and Stitch Fix makes this an enjoyable part of the customer journey.

Building Emotion-Driven Engagement

To generate brand loyalty and advocacy from customers, brands need to do more than provide a satisfactory experience. There needs to be an emotional connection.

According to Deloitte research, trustworthiness (83 percent), integrity (79 percent), and honesty (77 percent) are the emotional factors that consumers feel most align with their favorite brands. On the other side, research from McKinsey & Company suggests that 87 percent of consumers would refuse to conduct business with a company if they had concerns about its data security practices. These two stats side by side reveal that if brands show themselves to be open and trustworthy, customers will respond positively.

For brands to thrive in a cookie-less future, they must embrace an earned data approach to marketing. This is the time to redefine the data they collect and allow customers the control they deserve. It’s time to work with consumers to create a more personalized human experience, pushing open and transparent privacy conversations.

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