E-commerce has always been a data-driven industry. With the right information (and tools), you can attract new customers, retain existing ones, and optimize your sales funnel to grow as an omnichannel retail success story.
At the same time, the breadth of both market and consumer data is constantly evolving – and so is its availability. Privacy concerns, legal changes, and marketplace terms of service create an ever-shifting definition of what information your marketing team can access about your customers.
Things are about to get more complicated once again, but with the right marketing moves today, you can get in front of one of the most drastic evolutions in consumer privacy in years.
The Death of the Third-Party Tracking Cookie is an E-Marketing Inflection Point
Cookies are small data files that are created on users’ devices when they visit certain (read: almost all) websites. They come in two flavors that both behave in similar ways. The key difference is in their reach:
- First-party cookies are tied to the specific webpage or domain that creates them. They store information relevant to the user’s experience and behavior while visiting the site and can include information like location, user logins, and on-site activity history.
- Third-party cookies are created by a specific domain, but track user information and behavior on sites beyond that original domain. These cookies can create a much wider and more complete picture of a user – hence why they are such a useful marketing tool and why online megaliths like Google and Facebook have long relied on them as marketing gold mines.
With the passage of anti-tracking legislation in both Europe and California, the effectiveness and viability of cookie-based third-party tracking tools is nearing its end. Customers outside those locales are increasingly becoming cookie-free as well. In the past year, popular internet browsers like Firefox and Safari have given users the ability to block tracking cookies outright. Google Chrome is set to follow suit by 2023.
For e-commerce sellers, this foreshadows changes coming in how you need to approach your marketing efforts. As they stand, top-of-funnel marketing services like Google Ads and Facebook Ads are able to surface hyper-relevant marketing to consumers through extensive cookie-based analytics. While it is safe to assume that both companies will find new ways to generate profitable server-side, third-party advertising alternatives (like digital fingerprinting and Google’s FLoC initiative), this inflection point may be an ideal time to assess how your omnichannel e-commerce brand can take control by generating and welding your own first-party customer data.
Use Your Own First-Party Data to Personalize Customers’ Online Retail Experiences
Part of the challenge of online sales is connecting with customers without making them feel like just another digital data point. The line between a tailored shopping experience and a creepy invasion of privacy is both delicate and dangerous.
In most cases, when shopping on third-party marketplaces, customers know that they are being tracked and steered by their order histories, searches, and on-site (or in-app) behaviors. In some cases, even off-site searches may be generating data to surface new merchandise recommendations.
Many users simply chalk this up to part of the cost of doing business – a minor invasion of privacy in exchange for large selection, low prices, and fast shipping. It’s a mega-corporation doing what mega-corporations do.
First-party e-commerce web pages don’t often get that same free pass. Users are looking for convenience, but they also need to establish a feeling of trust before offering up their personal information to a new website. That said, data is king. You can’t offer customers a boutique experience that competes with or exceeds the industry leaders’ without some idea of your shoppers’ intentions.
The key may be something as simple as basic etiquette: don’t take, ask. Rather than solely relying on gathering information in the background, give users the option to opt-in to sharing relevant data to help improve their own shopping experience.
Some of the most effective ways to get customers to volunteer useful information you can leverage to help move them through the sales funnel include:
- Email marketing – Offer customers an opportunity to receive updates about your products as well as relevant curated content. Enticing signups with one-off discounts or the promise of exclusive sales and product information can sometimes be enough to convince customers to offer some relevant identifying info in exchange. Keep the channel open (and promote sharing) by ensuring your content is consistently fresh and relevant. For it to work, email marketing must be seen as a value-add, not just another piece of spam-filtered junk mail.
- Social media – You can learn a lot from your customers based solely on what they volunteer to the world on social media. Creating and maintaining a viable and appealing social media presence can be a great way to promote brand awareness while also making connections with your current and potential customer bases. The data that you can acquire from follows and engagements can be extremely useful in cultivating effective first-party sales leads and strategies.
- Coupon codes – Whether it’s through social media or targeted email campaigns, getting the right offers to the right customers can work wonders for boosting your sales conversion rate and cutting down on abandoned carts.
- Subscription services – Taking a page out of the industry leaders’ playbooks, consider creating a subscription-based loyalty program to promote customer loyalty and relationship building. This can be a totally free opt-in or include paid benefit tiers that offer additional enticements like discounts and/or shipping-cost reductions. This type of first-party marketing has been a particularly valuable strategy as more customers have demonstrated an increased willingness to expand their shopping destinations online. What’s more, it is working. A Digital Commerce 360 report showed that “35.9% of retailers ranked in the 2021 Digital Commerce 360 Top 500 offered a free loyalty program in 2020, up from 26.0% the year before.”
Sellercloud’s robust collection of features, integrations, and tools can provide a reliable back-end to support all of these activities and more, allowing you to capitalize on personalized omnichannel e-commerce experiences and maximize your first-party sales growth potential.
Of course, gathering data is useless unless it can be organized and put to good use. Zapier automations.
Taken further, Sellercloud’s compatibility with PowerBI allows you to leverage that same first-party data for deep analytics and data-based decision making on both the micro and macro levels.
For more on how Sellercloud can help keep your e-commerce brand running smoothly and looking toward the future, contact us directly for a free demo.