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[VIDEO] Five steps brands can take to win in a platform world

Learn more about key ingredients that are needed to remain competitive in an increasingly platformed world, by watching Maria Giacobbe's keynote at eTail Connect Autumn 2022.

Why data is key to brands regaining control of the customer relationship? 

Brands increasingly find themselves in a world dominated by ecommerce platforms. It’s a world where tech platforms command the attention of consumers and therefore also command the attention of brands’ marketing budgets. Despite this dominance – or perhaps because of it –platforms share minimal customer insights and marketing performance data. And if brands aren’t spending big bucks they probably receive very little in terms of service either. To say brands receive a raw deal in this platform-dominated world is an understatement, so there’s a real need to restore the relationship between brand and consumer.  

Why is this important right now? 

The pandemic accelerated the shift to ecommerce, but walled gardens owned and run by tech platforms are increasingly undermining the position of brands. Maria Giacobbe, Senior VP, Business Development Director at Epsilon, summed up this challenge recently at the eTail Connect conference in London. She said: “These huge consumer tech platforms are making it harder to get a look in as they continue to insert themselves between the brand and the consumer, while increasing the restrictions around that relationship. Brands are often left with the feeling that they have no other option than to rely on them.”  

Here are five ecommerce platform strategies brands can adopt in a bid to regain control of the customer relationship: 


  1. Data-at-scale is key to generating long-term customer value: The big ecommerce platforms’ success is the result of blending data and technology. Huge amounts of customer data is collected by these organisations and ‘weaponised’ using artificial intelligence and machine learning to create personalised experiences that generate the kind of relevance and engagement that keeps customers coming back for more. Ownership of this customer data also ensures ownership of the customer relationship. If brands want to replicate the success enjoyed by ecomm platforms they must double-down by collecting data at scale.

  2. Connecting customer identity: According to Giacobbe: “The ability to identify and understand the consumer at every single touchpoint – purchasing in store, on your app, engaging with an email or coming to a website – and then using that data to personalise the next experience, is key.” The goal of all brands should be to create scalable, accurate, and persistent identity across all paid and owned channels in a way that's going to drive change in customer behaviour and drive cohesion between the brand’s marketing channels.

  3. Leverage data on three strategic levels: Cookie-generated third-party data may on the ways out, but brands still have powerful options open to them. 
      • Zero-party data: This refers to data given voluntarily by customers, which informs a brand about their preferences and how they feel when they interact with a brand.  
      • First-party data: Loyalty programmes are by far the most effective form of first-party data collection, according to Giacobbe. Loyalty data comes with a clear value exchange with the customer, which drives up engagement and lifetime value. It also has clear consumer marketing consent. 

“First-party data should be the root of every brand’s connected identity strategy, the lifeline and connection point between brand and customer,” says Giacobbe.

      • Second-party data: Data from other brands can be a great way to compete with the scale achieved by tech platforms. Data clean rooms – multiple entities sharing anonymised first-party data – give brands and publishers access to a privacy-safe environment so they can share first-party data without reliance on third-party cookies.

4. Connect technologies to identify customers:  Customer data platforms (CDPs) are reasonably proficient at recognising customers within authenticated CRM channels, but they’re not so good at stitching it into the digital space in an authenticated digital environment. Ecommerce websites are a good example of this. How many visitors do brands recognise? Don’t forget, for every unrecognised visitor, precious intent data is lost, which could otherwise be used to enrich that customer experience. When it comes to customers who did not convert, how many can the brand recognise and reach out to three, four months later through their paid channels in a way that will change customer behaviour and encourage them to convert to a purchase for the first time? By connecting technologies together this is all possible. 

5. Brands must regain ownership of the customer relationship: Smart brands have the confidence to pull back from ecommerce walled gardens in favour of test-and-learn strategies. This involves testing new partnerships – not just new technology – in order to understand customers better, optimise interactions and predict behaviour. A test-and-learn approach also enables brands to measure in a more transparent way because it is possible to access much richer analytics, cleaner predictive and attribution modelling as well as measuring the incremental impact marketing is having on sales, rather than simply believing a third-parties’ data.  

The bottom line

Brands don’t need to become consumer tech platforms to compete in this environment. They can leverage these five strategic imperatives to give themselves more control over their marketing strategies, more options, more flexibility, more data and insight and more transparency into marketing performance.