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How Retailers Can Prepare for Cookie-Less eCommerce

Third-party cookies have driven the online economy for the past two decades but soon, they will be phased out. eCommerce brands can now start preparing for the cookie-less future.

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While the loss of third-party cookies will not impact how eCommerce brands conduct business, it will affect how they collect customer data for marketing purposes. So, being prepared is crucial. Still, data reveals that only 8% of marketers are ready for cookie-less eCommerce. 

“The problem with a cookie-less world is that anonymized data that comes from third-party cookies is the information that marketers buy to use to target digital ad campaigns,” explains Shelly Kramer. “Getting the data that comes from third-party cookies another way sounds like it might be an easy thing, but the reality is that it is most definitely not. This is especially onerous for companies who either don’t touch customers directly as a result of interactions and/or companies who don’t have massive registered user numbers or millions of subscribers.” 

While it is still unclear what, if anything, will replace third-party cookies, there are still many ways eCommerce brands can gather valuable customer data. Four of them include: 

In a move that seriously impacted online marketing, Google announced a phase out of third-party cookies from its Chrome web browser by 2023. Apple and Mozilla took similar actions in 2019. Google cited the growing need for user privacy and security as the key reasons for this radical change. 

Users are demanding greater privacy ­– including transparency, choice and control over how their data is used,” Google Director of Chrome Engineering Justin Schuh wrote in a blog post. “It’s clear the web ecosystem needs to evolve to meet these increasing demands. Our goal is to make the web more private and secure for users.”  

An important note to consider is that Google’s original phase out was intended for 2022. “Even though Google has delayed the ‘cookie death’ until 2023, largely because of pushback from brands, this is still a very big issue” says Shelly Kramer, CEO of V3 Broadsuite. “This delay should be something brands seize on as their opportunity to get prepared. In the age where customer data privacy is of paramount concern, brands large and small must operate with this — privacy first — as a primary concern.” 

Third-party cookies have driven the online economy for the past two decades. As they are commonly used in online advertising, experts predict Google’s phase-out will lead to an industry overhaul that will impact all marketers. 

But what exactly are cookies, and how can eCommerce brands prepare for the new cookie-less future? 

What Are Cookies?

Cookies are small text files that store information relevant to a website or web service. Cookies give eCommerce marketers a better understanding of consumer behavior that helps them create advanced advertising campaigns and deliver personalized experiences. The two most common types of data collection cookies are:

Third-party cookies

Third-party cookies are created by domains other than the one a user is visiting at the time. They are mainly used to track website visitors for online advertising purposes.  

These cookies let eCommerce brands collect details about user behavior, including frequently visited websites, purchases, and other online interests. In the cookie-free future, this ability will be seriously compromised. 

First-party cookies

First-party cookies are issued by websites that users view directly. They let browsers remember vital information like items added to shopping carts, usernames and passwords, and language preferences. First-party cookies are poised to become the gold standard for customer data collection. 52% of marketers have said that new privacy regulations increase the importance of collecting and analyzing first-party data.

How Do Cookies Affect eCommerce?

While the loss of third-party cookies will not impact how eCommerce brands conduct business, it will affect how they collect customer data for marketing purposes. So, being prepared is crucial. Still, data reveals that only 8% of marketers are ready for cookie-less eCommerce. 

“The problem with a cookie-less world is that anonymized data that comes from third-party cookies is the information that marketers buy to use to target digital ad campaigns,” explains Shelly Kramer. “Getting the data that comes from third-party cookies another way sounds like it might be an easy thing, but the reality is that it is most definitely not. This is especially onerous for companies who either don’t touch customers directly as a result of interactions and/or companies who don’t have massive registered user numbers or millions of subscribers.” 

While it is still unclear what, if anything, will replace third-party cookies, there are still many ways eCommerce brands can gather valuable customer data. Four of them include: 

Leveraging first-party data

Moving forward, eCommerce brands will need to utilize tools that can effectively leverage already owned data. These include data-rich channels like websites and apps, customer relationship management (CRM) tools, billing systems, and call centers. Capturing first-party data through email marketing and marketing automation will also become increasingly important. 

Taking advantage of zero-party data

Zero-party data is given freely by a customer in exchange for a more personalized experience. Marketers collect this data by connecting directly with consumers and simply asking for it. Insights provided by zero-party data can be used to power personalization efforts and employed across all stages of a retailer’s sales funnel. Some of the ways eCommerce brands can collect zero-party data include: 

Scale up proprietary data analytics to prepare for cookie-less eCommerce

The “privacy by design” cookie-less future may require eCommerce brands to bolster their data collection and management capabilities. Brands can do this by forming specialized teams of data engineers and analysts, training current staff to be more data-savvy, or partnering with third-party data management providers. 

“Brands are going to need to be investing in technology solutions and vendor partnerships that can deliver the expertise they need,” continues Kramer. “Some solutions becoming popular today include contextual analysis tools, machine learning tools, and platforms specifically built for ecommerce and DTC experiences.” 

Re-discover the power of personalized content in cookie-less eCommerce

Highly engaging and interactive content that amplifies a brand’s message and captures a customer’s attention will be more critical than ever in a cookie-less eCommerce future. Targeted content focused on storytelling can lead to increased customer engagement that will yield first-party data; in fact, customers will interact with a brand more than five times before making a purchase. 

Preparing for Cookie-Less eCommerce

“My advice is to do your homework today, identifying potential vendor partners, platforms, and solutions that can be a part of your cookie-less strategy. I think that savvy brands get out in front of the curve rather than waiting for Google’s action on the cookie front. It is inevitable, it will happen, how you plan today can have a very big impact on your ability to compete effectively moving forward.” 

The loss of third-party cookies is not all doom and gloom. If anything, it will place a greater emphasis on hyper-personalization, enhanced customer service and smarter data collection. The rewards for eCommerce brands that adjust to the new cookie-less normal can be elevated customer loyalty, retention and conversion rates. These benefits alone make the cookie-less future a lot less scary. 

Have questions about how to improve your conversion rates? Air360 by Scalefast has answers. Learn more about how Air360 can help unlock conversion rate potential. 

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