Personalization in a Future without Cookies

People are spending more time than ever consuming content and shopping online. Consumers want their interactions with retailers to be personalized, yet most companies still rely on third-party cookies to help them understand their customers.

At the same time, consumers are becoming more privacy-aware and attentive to the data they share, and third-party cookies are expected to be phased out on a larger scale across web browsers now that Google plans to depreciate them from their Chrome browser by the end of 2023.

To quickly adapt to changing customer expectations and to prepare themselves to succeed in a world without third-party cookies, retailers need to invest in first- and second-party data strategies and capabilities so they can continue to deliver personalized experiences.

Build Your First-Party and Second Party Data Foundation

While the death of third-party cookies continues to be a moving target, data deprecation—including Apple’s AppTracking Transparency policy—is already dramatically changing the landscape. Companies must create strong first-party data strategies now in order to build trust with consumers, improve their experiences and ensure bottom-line results.

Building out strong first-party data capabilities that are transparent, based on consent and secure can help unlock a wealth of opportunities from a variety of touchpoints between retailers and customers that may have been previously untapped. For example, The Home Depot brings together data from both online and offline channels, including website activity, in-store sales, call center volume, return volume, order cancellations, and more. Bringing together and activating this disparate data in real-time, The Home Depot can reach customers on something every customer already has—a mobile phone. Customers input their shopping lists into The Home Depot app, and once they reach the store, the app directs them to the right aisle and bin number to find the exact product they need. While there, customers can read reviews, follow how-to videos, and get product details for a seamless, engaged experience.

Companies can make customer profiles even more precise and deliver new value to customers by exchanging second-party data with other brands through data collaborations. These partnerships aren’t about selling or swapping data, but rather sharing data—in an environment with stringent controls for privacy and consent—between brands whose customers benefit from their synergies. For example, partnering with other retailers with overlapping audiences or with technology vendors that can deepen customer engagements by capturing digital customer insights.

Forge Real Relationships by Creating Real-Time Customer Profiles

Every click on a retailer's 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, retailers can connect that data to the actual person via a real-time customer profile. And when customer experiences are at stake, retailers need to act quickly. A cloud-based customer data platform (CDP) makes personalization at scale possible with the power of artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML). AI and ML present data insights in a standardized format so they’re easy to analyze, 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 personalization in real-time using micro segments as opposed to prebuilt segments identified from a previous day’s batch process, allowing a retailer to bring context into the experience conversation.

As the bar for exceptional customer experiences continues to rise, the necessity for retailers to know their customers has never been greater. Those who recognize the importance of first and second-party data, and have a plan in place to maximize it, will be able to create exceptional experiences that keep customers coming back.