Three Tips for Marketers to Survive (and Thrive) in the Post-Cookie Era

By Katrina Wong, VP Segment Marketing, Twilio

A rapidly evolving data privacy landscape and a looming recession has many marketers reaching for the acetaminophen. It’s no small task to build data strategies that separate them from competitors while honoring customers’ increasingly pressing privacy concerns.

Recent research shows only 40% of customers trust brands to keep their personal data secure. Yet 62% of them say a brand will lose their loyalty if they have an unpersonalized experience. In other words, despite increasing privacy demands, customers still want personalization.

Meeting these expectations is imperative to ensuring your marketing strategy stands out from the pack, and preserving the balance between these seemingly conflicting demands will enable you to build up that customer trust and gain a competitive business edge ahead of economic uncertainty.

Meanwhile, the stage is also set for a new era of digital marketing: Cookies are on the way out, and first-party data is now critical in delivering strong personalization and building customer trust.

To my mind, this is a watershed moment. This turbulence is headache-inducing, but it also represents an enormous opportunity for marketers to step up as the champions of a privacy- and consumer- centric internet. And now that the tools to harness first-party data exist, marketers are finally free to be truly privacy and consumer-first.

Here are three tips for marketers to navigate this next chapter: Double down on direct customer relationships, build up customer loyalty programs, and use tools that manage customer data insights. 

Double down on customer relationships

Personalization is no longer just the cherry on top — it’s the whole sundae. 62% of customers say brands that can’t deliver personalized experiences will lose their loyalty, up from 45% in 2021. Creating direct customer relationships is a must-have to keep your business healthy, yet only 35% of companies feel they are successfully achieving omnichannel personalization.

Businesses understand these expectations need to be met, and it can be tempting to take shortcuts. But pursuing overnight solutions doesn’t always lead to success. Take cookies for instance: Nearly half (40%) of companies think getting accurate customer data for personalization is a challenge, making them more likely to use third-party data. But third-party data ultimately leads to third-rate customer experiences.

Achieving quality personalization while respecting customer privacy seems like an unsolvable paradox, but in reality, they aren’t mutually exclusive.

Knowing what data to collect and how to collect it is how marketers deliver the best customer experience. It’s also how marketers can build trust with customers: 63% of customers say they’re fine with personalization as long as brands are using their own data and not data purchased from brokers, social networks, or search engines.

Data is the backbone of any personalization strategy, and to the customer, it’s imperative that this data be sourced directly. Like any relationship, your customers require time and investment, which in turn fosters long-term loyalty and growth. Investing in the proper data is investing in your customers.

Manage customer insights

Once you’ve committed to personalized customer relationships, it’s time to take your marketing to the next level with deep customer insights. Unfortunately, less than half (47%) of companies personalize communications based on real-time customer behavior, and many of them rely on data that is siloed across a range of disparate systems.

Unifying your customer data is achieved by developing a central repository to create the comprehensive view marketers need to deliver quality customer experiences. But storage is only part of the story: You also need to unify data from disparate touchpoints, attributing them to specific customer identities and matching up identities regardless of whether the user is logged in or not, which device they are using, or what part of the sales cycle they are in. This is done through a process known as identity resolution, which involves searching for matches among the phone numbers, emails, user IDs, and other data you’ve already captured.

When customer data is unified like this, marketers are better equipped to understand individual customer needs and fully personalize every touchpoint.

Take Shift, an online marketplace for buying and selling cars, which had difficulty engaging with customers long-term as a result of siloed data. Information differed within emails depending on when a customer decided to engage with Shift, leading to significant customer confusion. By using a customer data platform (CDP), Shift centralized its data, enabling the automated personalization of email content toward each individual. Thanks to these personalized communications, customers became more likely to open their emails and re-engage with Shift.

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Build up your customers to build up your business

As we head into a period of economic uncertainty, recession-proofing marketing means focusing less on minimizing customer acquisition costs and more on increasing customer lifetime value. In times like these, nurturing existing customers long-term is a better investment than net-new customer acquisition, and that’s why loyalty programs and strategic customer engagement are so critical. In fact, companies that invested the most in digital customer engagement have seen revenue growth of 70% on average.

That’s because personalization drives loyalty — nearly half (49%) of customers say they will become repeat buyers after a personalized shopping experience with a retail brand, and 38% of customers even say they will repeat even if there are cheaper or more convenient options.

But too often, loyalty programs don’t actually give customers what they want. Take channel preference: Even when brands ask customers about their preferred channel, they don’t always listen (for example, brands sending email updates when a customer specifically opted in for SMS).

It follows that loyalty programs can’t be static, one-size-fits-all deals. They require thoughtful personalization powered by intelligent and actionable customer data, which identifies rewards and benefits that are valuable to each specific customer. The most reliable way of obtaining these insights is through an omnichannel CDP that gleans insights into purchasing behaviors, ensures communications through preferred channels, and identifies the best rewards and benefits.

For example, take Domino’s Mexico — as their customer base shifted increasingly online, it quickly became apparent that their data was siloed, creating an extreme challenge in creating a holistic view of each customer. Through the use of a CDP, Domino’s was able to drastically simplify its data collection process. This allowed Domino’s to gain visibility into which groups of customers purchased pizza at different frequencies and launch a new loyalty program geared toward these behaviors through unique coupons and personalized emails.

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We can overcome the privacy-personalization paradox

While the present is filled with challenges and the future may seem daunting, these are a few strategies marketers can take to uplevel customer experiences, ensure repeat business, and stand out from the crowd.  Delivering both privacy and personalization may seem like a paradox to many, but to those in the know, the current upheavals in expectations and technologies represent opportunity — an opportunity to reward your customer’s trust and to prepare yourself for any challenge.

Marketers have always known the power of first-party data, and with the digital world now in agreement, they can put their best foot forward and take a confident step into the cookieless era.

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