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After the Third-Party Cookie Crumbles: Future Success Starts With Customer Loyalty

Salesforce Marketing Cloud and Loyalty Management specialists Maryrose Walsh and Brendan Gomes reveal how zero-party data is now more important than ever.

Marketers around the globe are facing a monumental paradigm shift that will change the way brands engage with customers. The death of the third-party cookie and other data privacy-related evolutions are already in motion, with Google and Apple leading the charge. These evolutions are a reflection of an increasingly privacy-conscious public — where 86% of customers want more transparency over how their personal information is used.  

For marketers with their fingers on the pulse, these changes are forcing the wheel of innovation. The engagement gap created by the third-party cookie phase out is one that businesses are scrambling to close before it widens beyond belief. 

“Without the third-party cookies that are collecting little bits of information when people are browsing,” Maryrose Walsh, Salesforce Loyalty Management specialist, says, “We lose a clear picture of interests and intentions. So, we can’t offer as personalised advertising or marketing campaigns to the user because we basically don’t know what they are doing.” 

Brendan Gomes, Salesforce Marketing Cloud specialist, continues the thought: “Which is why zero-party (and first-party) data is becoming so important. Without it, you’re not going to understand who customers are or what they do — you’re going to be dead in the water”.

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Getting your head around zero-party (and first-party) data

As big tech gradually unpicks the safety net of third-party cookies, other forms of data are emerging out of necessity. By all accounts, the two most prevalent forms are first-party and — perhaps more importantly — zero-party data. 

“First-party data is the data you collect from sources such as your own website, your mobile app and what you’ve got in your CRM,” Walsh explains. “Whereas zero-party data is data that the customer intentionally and proactively shares with you.”

Netflix can be used as a solid jumping-off point in understanding zero-party data. While Netflix customers are not rewarded for engagement with monetary value, they may not realise just how much they are being rewarded with better and more personalised content. 

Every click or press of the play button is being utilised by algorithms to get a granular picture of the user’s preferences — whether in terms of genre, featured cast, writer/director or even running time. In fact, each available title can be presented to the user via an exhaustive range of thumbnails, and it is through that user’s browsing habits that Netflix knows which thumbnail to present. 

In other words, the user is actively participating in sharing their preferences, which become insights that can be activated to then feed back in the form of a better user experience.

Closing the engagement gap with customer loyalty

The online presence of most businesses, however, isn’t as tunnelled and self-contained as Netflix. Which is why the brands that are retaining engagement are creating spaces where customers want to share their data. Perhaps the most powerful of such spaces is the customer loyalty program. 

Walsh sums up this want from personal experience: “My data is already out there. So, if I’m going to share it, I’m going to be sharing it with the brands I trust, through which I can get relevant offers”. 

Gomes echoes the sentiment: “I share everything with the right people because I know that I’m going to get better recommendations and offers; I’m going to be reminded of things that I might not have checked out and see content that’s relevant to me”. 

And Walsh and Gomes are not alone. According to Accenture, 83% of customers are willing to share their data to create a more personalised experience. 

This is the kind of authentic and willing attitude that a well-considered customer loyalty program fosters.

Customer loyalty in and of itself is not enough

It’s all well and good to implement a zero-party data strategy through a customer loyalty program; just as it’s admirable to attract users to said program to the point where they feel sharing their data will pay dividends. But that data can go to waste if it isn’t a part of an interconnected ecosystem. 

When all departments, not just the loyalty silo, have access to loyalty data, then it’s not only far easier to gain a 360-degree view of the customer, but also to act on that view in real-time. 

“If a loyalty member comes onto your website, you need to be able to go back into all the data that you have – instantaneously,” Gomes says. “Whether it be campaign, marketing or advertising data, or even the last time they had a call with a customer service agent, you need to have real-time access to that data in order to provide an excellent customer experience.”

Why? Because disconnected loyalty data can lead to undesirable outcomes, such as nonstop advertisements for the same product that you’ve either already bought, or returned, or even on which you’ve opened a customer complaint. If the customer experience doesn’t directly reflect what is happening in the moment, not only are you wasting money, time and good data, but you are more likely to lose the very customer that’s willingly given over their loyalty. 

Which is why more and more businesses are integrating platforms such as Salesforce Customer 360 or CDP with products such as Loyalty Management. Not only do such ecosystems allow the collection of zero-party data, but also the connection and activation of that data, so that a 360-degree view of the customer can be accessed and utilised to collect more data of quality.

In other words, when real-time loyalty information is put to meaningful use, a self-sufficient loop of data collection, connection and activation is put in place.

With meaningful customer loyalty comes benefits galore

Once that loop is in place, the many benefits of customer loyalty become clear. These include not only increasing your customer lifetime value, cart order value and customer retention, but also the ability to hyper-segment and measure engagement. 

However, all these benefits spring from what is perhaps the mother benefit; one that brands would usually derive from data such as third-party cookies – the means to build emotional relationships with the user. 

“Forging a living, personalised connection with customers is the present and future of digital marketing,” says Gomes. “And connected customer loyalty fuelled by zero-party data is the most reliable way to do so.”  

For more on the changing face of data and engagement, read the latest State of Marketing report.

Understand the biggest priorities and challenges across global marketing in 2021 - download the 7th Edition of the State of Marketing report.

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