How brands can succeed in a privacy-first world

6th Dec 2021

The pandemic has undoubtedly had an everlasting change on consumer behaviour, catalysing the shift to online. Months spent in lockdown, it was the only way we could stay connected with friends, family and colleagues, be entertained and shop. However, as restrictions eased, many of us continued purchasing online. The latest ONS figures from September show a rise in the share of online sales to 28.1% in September, up another 1.1% since August, and a massive 8.4% increase since February. 

The increase in volume would normally be greeted by marketers as a boom, since the added data would help them understand their customers more. But with changes on the horizon to third-party cookies, brands can’t get complacent. 

As an industry, we’ve been talking about data privacy for a long time – how do you optimise the browsing experience for users while respecting their choice about what is and isn’t tracked. We have also seen a number of legislative and technology changes that influence the way brands collect, store and use customer data – it’s an ever-changing landscape and conversation. 

Today, especially in Europe, the customer is now firmly in the driver’s seat on how brands can use their data thanks to GDPR. This will go one step further at the end of 2023 when brands will no longer have access to third-party cookies in Google Chrome, the world’s most popular browser available with around 65% market share. Couple this with Apple letting users stopping apps from tracking across other apps, and it’s clear to see that brands are going to have to work very hard to stay relevant and connected to users in a cookie-less, privacy-first world.

No cookies? No problem!

Data gives brands a wealth of insight into consumer behaviour and preference, helping paint a picture of an individual and enabling communication in the most relevant and personal way possible. We know half of UK marketers believe that the inability to use third-party cookies will prevent them from attracting new customers but if they are smart, there is a chance they can make up this loss with their own first-party data, which is owned by the brand and consent-based, rather than third-party cookies which are owned by advertisers.

As it stands, there is no limit to the amount of first-party data brands can access and utilise. They have it readily available through their own channels and can maximise its value with every customer interaction. However, given consumers are now able to opt out of sharing data, this stream of useful information could well disappear if brands can’t demonstrate the value exchange that comes with an improved, personalised experience. 

Consumers want to feel seen as an individual by brands, and be sent the right message, at the right time on the right platform – so brands must have agile technology in place to collect, analyse and then react in real-time. Being able to adapt what’s shown to a customer as they browse has become even more important with the current supply chain crisis – especially as customers look for up to date information on the availability of relevant products. 

Luckily, there is already technology out there to help brands meet customer expectations in the absence of third-party cookies. For example, Sitecore’s Customer Data Platform allows brands to manage and harness first party data, in order to uncover actionable customer insights.

Transparency = trust

In this new privacy-first world, brands must earn the trust of customers to continue collecting increasingly important first-party data. And while great experiences will go a long way, it is equally important to communicate clearly what data is being collected as well as how and why it will be used. And with cyber-attacks ever present, customers are ever-more aware of the risk of giving up their data and their demands for transparency should be answered.

And it shouldn’t be forgotten that asking for too much customer data can be incredibly detrimental to a customer’s opinion of a company. Brands should question if they really need a customer’s phone number if nothing is being delivered, or a personal information (e.g., mother’s maiden name) to recover an account. Determining the bare minimum amount of data needed to deliver a successful and engaging browsing experience has never been so important.

Giving power to the people

Misuse of data can result in a huge hit to brand reputation, and a loss of trust from customers, even the most loyal, so this increased focus on privacy should be seen as opportunity for brands to level up how they use data. Afterall, providing a great customer experience is no longer an aspirational goal for brands but instead a lifeline to future success.  


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