Data: Retail’s Most Important Inventory

Personalisation in a future without cookies

People are spending more time than ever consuming content and shopping online, and most companies rely on the accessible ease of third-party cookies to understand and engage those customers. In fact, an Adobe survey revealed that 60% of personalisation use cases depend on them. But with growing concerns about privacy and how customer data is used, third-party cookies are being phased out on a larger scale across web browsers. By the end of 2023 Google will phase them out from Chrome, which accounts for more than two-thirds of the web browser market.

Despite this, Adobe found three out of five brands still aren’t ready for a cookieless future. Yet brands’ long-term success depends on adapting to this massive shift in the digital experience landscape, affecting customer acquisition and retention. To succeed in a world without third-party cookies, brands need to have strong first- and second-party data capabilities. With the right technology in place, retailers can create a unified profile of every customer and deliver personalised shopping experiences at scale.

First-party data—information you own that is collected directly from customers—gives retailers an opportunity to measure ad effectiveness and other business KPIs. The question is if brands can capture, manage, and protect this rich source with the right technology, especially in the face of privacy guidelines like CCPA (CA) and GDPR (Europe). Second-party data, which comes from strategic partners or advertisers, will also be a more important source of personalisation as privacy-first workflows become the norm. The ability to use second-party data expands your reach and interactions with audiences. As a retailer, that might look like partnering with other retailers with overlapping audiences or with technology vendors that can deepen customer engagements by capturing digital customer insights.

Data is key for personalisation, and personalisation is crucial for delivering better customer experiences. According to Adobe and Econsultancy, 78% of retail respondents say that personalising in-store experiences based on online behaviors will be either “important” (40%) or “critically important” (38%) for meeting customer expectations. To do so requires a fully rounded view of the customer that can only be achieved when interactions and behaviors are connected across different channels and environments.

The reality of a cookieless future is that success hinges on how well you can gather and leverage your customer data. The better you know your customer, the higher the degree of personalisation, and the more delightful the customer journey. Building out strong first-party data capabilities ensures you have the right foundation to get there.

Build your first-party data foundation

So what does this look like? Today, first-party relationships are informed by a wealth of touchpoints. Even on a single shopping checkout page, you can collect raw data indicating different traits like gender, interests, housing type, location, and more.

Retailers collect data from both online and offline channels, including website activity, in-store sales, call centre volume, return volume, order cancellations, and more. Many retailers take advantage of something every customer already has—a mobile phone. Building a first-party data foundation is an investment, but owning the data is well worth the effort. This step is key to differentiating your brand with customers and giving them what they want, when they want it, resulting in lasting loyalty.

Forge real relationships. In real time

Every click on your website, social media properties, or apps is part of the customer’s journey. With so many sources of information, it’s both a wealth of insights and a struggle to make sense of it all. It’s an overwhelming task to translate hundreds of data points into a cohesive view, whether those data points are external, internal, known, or pseudonymous (including no directly identifiable information).

By unifying all customer data into a single view, you can connect that data to the actual person via a real-time customer profile. And when customer experiences are at stake, you need to act quickly. A cloud-based customer data platform (CDP) makes personalisation at scale possible with the power of artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML). AI and ML present data insights in a standardised format so they’re easy to analyse, understand at a glance, and activate. This saves both marketing and IT professionals valuable time and resources that would otherwise be spent integrating disparate systems and data sources. Additionally, AI and ML enable personalisation in real-time using micro segments as opposed to prebuilt segments identified from a previous day’s batch process, allowing a brand to bring context into the experience conversation.

The bar for exceptional customer experiences is only getting higher, and the necessity for retailers to know their customers has never been greater. Those who recognise the importance of first and second-party data, and have a plan in place to maximise it, will reap the rewards of personalisation at scale. Set yourself up for success by ensuring you have the best strategy and technology in place to create exceptional experiences that keep your customers coming back.

View the full report to learn how a strong first- and second-party data foundation will help you stay competitive in a cookieless world: Data: Retail’s Most Important Inventory