It’s the end of the road for third-party cookies. The final death knell will ring when Google stops supporting third-party cookies on its Chrome browser in 2022. Given that over 85% of online browsing is carried out on these browsers – and that cookies are the foundational blocks of tracking, targeting and measurement in digital marketing – significant change is to surely come.
The breadth and depth of the implications will be felt across the industry. But how will the impact be felt specifically by E-commerce marketers?
The current state of E-commerce marketing
In the last decade, E-commerce has boomed. Low barriers to entry in operations and marketing has given rise to a never-ending collection of smaller brands looking to capitalise on the abilities of the likes of Facebook and Google to find valuable audiences. Larger brands, eager to broaden their reach and play a larger part in the customer journey, have also refocused efforts to maximise their E-commerce presence.
Highly targeted and personalised advertising has delivered enormous efficiency in customer acquisition cost (CAC). But E-commerce marketers have been given more than a glimpse of what is to come if they cannot figure out how to adapt to the imminent demise of the cookie.
Earlier this year, Apple enhanced privacy rules for advertisers with iOS 14.5. The result has been smaller addressable audiences, increased media costs and greater CAC. Without a solution for web browsing, the time of efficient customer acquisition is over.
So now is when E-commerce marketers need to act. But what should be done?
Cookies are out, first-party data is in
It will clearly be harder for E-commerce marketers to identify people as they navigate their digital buying journeys. But it won’t be impossible. Rather than relying on third-party cookies, marketers should look to develop a first-party data strategy.
Give your audience a significant reason to opt-in to your marketing and start to build on-going ‘relationships’ with them. Work to improve your user experience on your owned and earned assets, test your messaging when asking for consent on your website or app.
For one client, we have been able to increase ‘consent conversion rate’ by 20% through testing different approaches.
You will likely need to build a sophisticated data tech stack. Your brand likely already has a decent CRM function, but this needs to become filled with more than just customer sales data. Incorporate all sources of first party data into it and understand the full breadth of outputs that a CRM tool can offer.
Customer Data Platforms
Using a Customer Data Platform (CDP), you can augment your powerful first party data to create a holistic view of your customer. In the past, 2nd and 3rd party data played a huge role in this. These types of data have been hit very hard by recent privacy changes, and their efficacy is clearly diminished. But there is still value in bringing these datasets into a CDP to complement your valuable 1st party data.
CDPs help businesses get a 360 view of their customers. It brings together all sources of data and uses that information for better targeting, optimisation and reporting of your marketing communications. They are reactive – updating customer profiles continuously as people alter their behaviour and engage in different ways. This allows for comprehensive segmenting of your customers, enabling you to personalise your marketing communications to increase relevance:
- Product recommendations based on previous purchase behaviour and web browsing history
- Customer intelligence for support teams
- Increasing retention by spotting common challenges per segment
- Acquiring new customers based on a holistic understanding of your buyers.
Diversify your sales channels
By looking beyond just your owned sales channels you can grow sales in a way that bypasses the need for cookies entirely – although this often comes at the expense of insight. Steps are being made in marketers’ ability to tie together offline purchases with online marketing activity.
Additionally, most of the main social media channels are building in features that let their audience buy products from brands on their platforms. The benefits here are:
- A simple user experience
- Joined up journey from comms to purchase that makes cross-site tracking irrelevant and improves the ability of the platforms’ algorithms to learn and improve.
But E-commerce businesses are exposed to the risks of losing control of the UX (such as less ability to upsell), as well as losing transparency of behavioural data.
Technical challenges lies ahead
However you look at it, the days of ‘easy E-commerce’ are numbered. Marketers at such businesses need to plan an approach for how to use data and technology so they still create aligned, personalised customer experiences.