The customer’s path to purchase has evolved faster than ever in recent years, as a direct result of the pandemic. Consumers are increasingly browsing, researching and buying products online and blending this activity with their in-store actions.
As pointed out by Joseph Taylor, Epsilon’s Senior Vice President of Strategic Operations, in the latest Let’s Talk Loyalty podcast, brands are increasingly relying on digital identifiers, such as cookies, to join up the dots between online customer touchpoints. This involves attempting to identify and track customers who use multiple browsers and devices during their buying journey.
The challenge in a nutshell
Cookies have always been flawed because they identify devices rather than individual consumers. Very soon, however, even this second-best solution will no longer be available, because major browsers such as Google Chrome and tech giants such as Apple are phasing out digital identifiers from their platforms.
Marketers that are still reliant on cookies need to change their approach fast, or risk losing sight of customer behaviour online. It is critical that brands:
- Address their own identity data infrastructure weaknesses
- Ensure their first-party data is well organised and unified across company divisions
- Ensure first-party data can be relied upon to help deliver market-leading customer insight and personalisation in a post-cookie world.
How can loyalty programmes help?
If you are starting from scratch, the process of plugging the cookie data gap can pose a massive and potentially expensive challenge for any company. However, many organisations may already have an existing store of high-quality GDPR-compliant customer data, generated by their loyalty programme.
“Smart organisations will recognise that loyalty programs are a source of rich customer insight.” Joseph Taylor, Epsilon’s Senior Vice President of Strategic Operations
The traditional approach to loyalty programmes is to leverage them to boost retention and incentivise return custom. However, they can also be used to accumulate significant amounts of high-quality customer data, which can be used to fulfil a range of purposes including customer acquisition.
Being creative with customer loyalty programme data in this way can deliver a compelling return on investment. It can also help build a business case for capital investment in a loyalty programme if a brand does not have one already. Loyalty programme data can be used to:
- Build customers’ online identity profiles
- Determine what profitable customers look like
- Help brands target similar high-value individuals.
The bottom line
At a time when retail budgets are under increasing pressure, customer journeys are becoming ever-more complex and digital identifiers are being made obsolete, brands need to rethink their approach to accumulating the data required to achieve rich customer insights.
For too long loyalty programmes have been viewed as an end-point solution, designed specifically to boost customer retention. Marketing teams should now consider such programmes with fresh eyes – as a rich source of first-party data in a post-cookie world, which can power their performance and marketing campaigns and help them to activate not only existing customers but high-value prospects as well.