The Cookie Is Crumbling: How Going Cookieless Could Impact Your eCommerce Store

Big change is looming in the privacy landscape. With Google announcing it would ditch the use of third-party cookies in Chrome by the end of 2023 and Apple having already made changes to their online tracking, you could rightly be wondering what the impact could be on eCommerce.

eCommerce brands have long relied on third-party data to effectively target potential shoppers. As an online merchant, you’ll now need to lean on first-party data to create valuable and personalised experiences that make customers choose you over the competition. But instead of being alarmed by these changes, this could be an opportunity to rethink how you drive engagement and acquisition.

Infographic: How Going Cookieless Could Impact Your eCommerce Store

In this blog…

We discuss:

  • What a cookie is, and the types of cookies users encounter
  • What the update could mean for your eCommerce business
  • Why building loyalty will take precedence
  • Five strategies to help you prepare for a cookieless world

The cookie lowdown

A small text file created by a website that’s stored on your computer, cookies pack a lot of power. When you browse the internet, a ‘crumb’ is left by each website you visit which allows your online journey to be tracked. Cookies are used by websites to recognise the user and keep track of preferences such as:

  • Your checkout
  • Items left in a basket
  • Site theme
  • Login details

There are two types of cookies and it’s important to note that only third-party cookies are being eliminated:

  • First-party: These are set by the website when visited by the user and provide valuable insight on a user. Businesses have access to the data collected using first-party cookies.
  • Third-party: These are set by websites that aren’t visited by the user first-hand. For example, if you add third-party features such as social plugins, ads and chatbots to your eCommerce store.

What does this mean for your business?

There’s no getting around it, the loss of third-party cookies will impact eCommerce. Brands need the right data to be able to deliver personalised and relevant shopper experiences which have traditionally been based around cookies.

Although today’s customers desire online experiences that meet their personal preferences, they also want more privacy online and have become more attuned to how their data is being used.

“72 percent of people feel that almost all of what they do online is being tracked by advertisers, technology firms or other companies, and 81 percent say that the potential risks they face because of data collection outweigh the benefits.”Google, citing Pew Research

Not everyone is happy about the upcoming change. Merchants, marketers and advertising agencies have all shared their concerns. However, as an eCommerce business, you must adapt to meet customers’ changing expectations for data privacy while continuing to deliver engaging shopping experiences. 

But how exactly will these changes affect eCommerce and what are brands doing to prepare? Research conducted by our technology partner, Yotpo, found that:

  • 50 percent of brands are not sure how to prepare for advertising in a cookieless world
  • 38 percent of brands are planning to dedicate more budget to digital marketing efforts and functionality

Are businesses burying their heads in the sand or do they simply see that the 2023 deadline is no reason to worry just yet? Always ones to stay ahead, we’re putting ourselves and our clients in a stronger position before the update by encouraging them to get used to using first-party data for their targeting now. Here’s how you can prepare…

5 strategies to prepare for a cookieless world

1) Get your first-party data in ship shape

Even when Google pulls the plug on third-party cookies, you can still deliver high impact targeting and personalised experiences. You just need to rely on and make the most of the information you get directly from your customers.

The customer data you collect first-hand is going to become even more valuable. Now is the time to get strategies in place that will drive meaningful communications and builds strong relationships with your customers. To do this, your first party data needs to be clean, accessible and ready to use.

2) Grow your first-party database

There’s no point waiting until the update hits to set to work growing that all-important database. This is the time to invest in data generation exercises and collate as much first-hand customer insight before third-party cookies are removed.

However, customers usually don’t want to give without getting something in return – especially when it comes to opting in and sharing their personal information. The aim is to offer something that makes your audience want to enter their details and sign up. Examples could include:

  • Competitions: Run regular competitions where users sign up or follow a social page before being placed into a prize draw. Different audiences can be targeted based on prizes that are up for grabs to produce a wider range of first-party data.
  • Exclusive product releases: Get customers to opt-in by offering exclusive access to early product releases. A great time to do this is before launching a new season.  
  • An engaging newsletter: Sometimes a regular newsletter featuring engaging content such as industry insight, exclusive interviews or tips on how to make the most of your products is enough to get customers to provide their data.
  • Members-only discounts: We all love a discount, and this is one of the easiest ways to get your customers to share their details. Onsite pop-ups are an effective way of doing this as a user enters your site, encouraging them to sign up and continue their shopping journey.

3) Don’t forget about your existing customers

Customer acquisition is getting harder, and it’s only set to get more difficult once this update hits. The tough competition to engage new shoppers is all the more reason to shift your focus to retaining your existing customers. But how can you do this?

The answer: create strong relationships with your customers by offering experiences that build an emotional connection. A retention strategy is a sure-fire way to boost loyalty and, with it, revenue while giving you the chance to deliver a better user experience. Think about it, the more a customer buys from you, the more data you have on that customer. That insight can then be used to personalise their customer experience, leading to greater engagement and more conversion opportunities.

To get a retention strategy underway, we recommend leaning on direct communication channels like email and SMS to deliver targeted messaging. The benefits of this approach are twofold:

  • Speak directly to your customers: These channels give a direct method of communicating membership benefits such as events, discounts and product information as well as cross-selling and upselling opportunities. Even better, when they land in the individual’s inbox, the message feels a little bit more personal.
  • Lower cost to entry: SMS in particular has a lower barrier to entry compared to other channels and boasts an extremely high open rate too.
  • Get to know your shoppers better: Direct communication enables you to build stronger relationships by getting to know your customers more. This includes what products they like and the messaging that resonates with them best. Being able to apply this knowledge to your interactions makes a customer feel valued and more connected to the brand which is a strong driver of loyalty, retention and advocacy.

Even better, your acquisition and retention strategy can fit hand in hand. The more customers you acquire, the more customers you have to convert into loyal brand advocates. The more satisfied your repeat customers are, the more likely they are to make referrals to friends and family while sharing their positivity through ratings and reviews.

4) Loyalty programmes will prosper

If you haven’t guessed already, building a loyal customer base is an important part of your strategy when it comes to leveraging first-party data. As such, loyalty programmes are set to prove even more valuable.

Solutions such as Yotpo allow you to capture first-party customer data in exchange for an engaging shopping experience – and all with privacy and consent in mind. If you don’t have a loyalty programme in place, now’s the time to start putting one together and get people opting in! Here are just a few ideas of what your loyalty programme could include:

  • Exclusive discounts
  • First look at new products
  • Member-only experiences
  • Private shopping events
  • Family and friend referrals

5) Offline still exists

After years of restrictions and rolling lockdowns, you wouldn’t be blamed for neglecting the offline world. But with the majority of guidelines now scrapped and in-person events slowly becoming the norm again, it’s important to consider where your customers are.

Events and in-person experiences have long stood as an engaging way to connect directly with your audience. Think about the kind of events that would suit your eCommerce business and how you can leverage these experiences to deliver a unique interaction that’s just too good to say no to.

Welcoming a cookieless world  

While change can be daunting, it can also create better results. Reducing the reliance on third-party cookies will put your customers in control of their data while allowing you to build stronger strategies based on first-hand insight.

Customers are willing to share information in exchange for personalised experiences. Whatever you can offer them to opt in, make it worth their while and be upfront about how their data will be used. You’ve been given the opportunity to invest in quality engagements with your audience. Refocus your efforts on delivering these experiences to build a loyal and engaged customer base.

A first-party data strategy is about to become imperative to your online efforts. To find out more about the update, how it could affect your eCommerce business and the solutions we can put in place to help you grow your customer loyalty and retention, get in touch with team Pinpoint.