Many business models today rely on the collection and sale of customer data. However, as high-profile privacy breaches increase in severity and regularity. Now more consumers feel like they’re losing control over their most precious asset.
Millions of websites contain cookies – small data files that automatically and subtly collect, store and sell user data. This includes personal details, shopping habits and purchasing histories. In fact, cookies are used by 39.7 percent of all websites including popular sites such as YouTube and Netflix. We know it happens, but we have little control to stop it. It’s creating mistrust, but it doesn’t have to be this way.
Policymakers are beginning to crack down, discussing new policies that would see hefty penalties and fines for breaches. We’ve long believed that consumers should never compromise, or lose control over their data and businesses can, and should, build relationships without relying on cookies. Preparing for the possibility of a cookie-less future is a reality for marketers today and it starts with building better relationships with existing customers to extend customer lifetime value. By understanding the behaviour, preferences, and motivations of customers, marketers can design an informed, sustainable marketing strategy fit for a new era of privacy.
So how can marketers build strong ecosystems that attract and support new and existing customers, without using third-party cookies, and potentially without cookies at all?
Incentivise customer advocacy
There are many ways to incentivise existing customers to bring in new buyers without using trackers, including discounts, early access to new products and custom experiences or offerings. However, marketers can’t incentivise a customer they don’t understand and who they’ve had no contact with. This is where third-party data often comes into play, it provides context for these consumers. But, so does outreach and engagement – by talking to them.
For a strong relationship built on trust, marketers can derive segmentation, loyalty, and sentiment data to help them target new business while strengthening the service and engagement of existing customers. Ultimately, businesses that deliver great customer experiences, without leveraging third-party data, will be the ones who create strong relationships with customers and see greater ROI on their marketing campaigns.
Unifying marketing, sales, support and success through technology
All organisations and departments, regardless of their size, should be leveraging technology that is unified and not siloed. This is because many departments within businesses work across different functions. Take marketers, for example, they’re responsible for many different functions ranging from demand generation, lead nurturing, and upselling. Unified tech platforms allow marketers to consolidate data, organise activities, and enable collaboration between multiple stakeholders – which is invaluable to a business. Without alignment between departments, engagement in the customer journey only gives marketers a superficial understanding of their target audience, leading to less fruitful campaigns.
Better customer engagement leads to more precise data, which leads to actionable insights and eventually, successful marketing output. However, none of this is possible without the right technology. Recently, marketers have adopted marketing platforms, not individual applications, that integrate with third-party systems and databases, to gain adoption and market share, especially with third-party data harvesting on its way out.
Diversifying product offerings to stay front-of-mind
There are many products that we buy few and far between. Many of these manufacturers don’t offer products that invite repeat business and customer engagement. Take car sales, for example, the average Australian buys a new car every six years, so regular engagement between the car dealership and customer is limited. Today, dealerships, with the support of marketing, have diversified their offering from a single automobile, purchased on average every six years, to a range of products including extended warranties, car meet-up events, merchandise and more.
Product diversification is the foundation of any successful sales and marketing strategy – regardless of the industry, organisation size, or market share. Marketers will always face challenges, such as being limited to the scope and longevity of the products their marketing. However, making the most of product diversification can increase customer demand and engagement beyond the lifecycle of a single product.
Successfully relocate marketing funds
With dwindling budgets across many functions in organisations today, marketers have to work smarter, not harder. Rather than over-investing in a fragile and costly data-driven targeting strategy, business leaders can allocate funds and encourage their marketers to staff up and adopt new technology systems that serve customers, build relationships, and create brand champions who can shoulder much of the marketing department’s work. In an increasingly cookie-less digital environment, this is the recipe for marketing-driven and long-term business growth.
As we prepare for the possibility of a cookie-less future, organisations today have started moving their sales and marketing strategies away from third-party tracking and are now focusing more on first-party data. This can be achieved by information collected directly from consumers who are interacting with your brand, whether they’re website visitors, existing customers, or viewers of digital advertisements.
As consumers become increasingly aware and conscious of data privacy, marketers need to remain transparent about collecting first-party information and show how it can benefit a customer throughout their journey. If a truly cookie-less future becomes our reality, personalisation will have to come from an open and consented dialog between businesses and their customers, and not consumers and their data.
Vijay Sundaram is the chief strategy officer at Zoho.