Last week, I responded to web analytics expert Avinash Kaushik’s popular blog Occams Razor where he “de-mystified” misconceptions about digital marketing and analytics. I talked a bit about the proper use of data in effective marketing. This week, I’m going to address why “Cookies! Cookies are all we need!” is a myth, and how other technologies should be used to create a more useful single customer view.
Why cookies aren’t the answer
There is no doubt that cookies give us critical information regarding website or other digital behavior. They help us understand who is visiting a site, how often, what their sessions look like, who is responding to emails and more. Plus, they are a critical part of triggered customer experiences.
But when we rely too heavily on cookies and data, we can depersonalize the user. We often forget that users do things other than visiting our site, and we lose track of them when they log out or leave our site. Most importantly, marketers are starting to question whether cookies should be the primary method for tracking, responding to and gathering insight from site behavior. There are three trends that don’t bode well for cookies:
- automatic rejection of 3rd party cookies by Safari and Firefox and higher cookie rejection by users;
- use of multiple platforms, particularly mobile and tablets;
- the mash-up of work and personal PC use—we may browse on one PC at work and purchase when we get home.
If you really want to get at a user’s full spectrum of behavior and intent to more effectively market to them in a relevant way, you need to go beyond cookies. As Avinash points out, “If we rely on cookies, we are going to make poorer and poorer decisions about our products and our marketing every single day.”
For example, say I’m looking to buy a desk. I may use my PC and my mobile phone to search multiple stores for desks and research pricing. Each store may track my behavior on their specific website with cookies while I browse, but they lose my scent when I move to a competitor’s website or to my mobile. They certainly lose track of me when I take my purchase to a brick and mortar store.
How to cater to each individual’s behavior and intentions
Avinash says he is, “…a bit freaked out that not enough people are worrying about this problem,” of relying solely on cookies. He’s right in pointing out that a cookie-centric strategy just isn’t going to work for businesses moving forward.
There’s a better way to go about tracking your prospects and customers and using the information to provide a more personal, relevant experience.
Having what is now commonly known as a single customer view across sites, across devices and even online to offline will help you to better understand your customers and provide insights to connect with them in a more meaningful and effective way. You achieve this customer view not with cookies, but through technologies that gradually move each individual from an anonymous user to a known identity that you can market to in a personalized, relevant way.
A single customer comes from integrating technologies like:
- Cross-site data capture that enables personalization through progressive profiling
- Device-to-individual identification that recognizes a customer across devices (such as PC to mobile to tablet)
- Social network data and presence to identify unique individuals across social platforms
- Offline-to-online match that integrates your digital data with your CRM database for better segmentation, targeting and more
- Email consolidation to identify customers with multiple email addresses and determine the primary address for better campaign response
Learn a bit more about these data integration techniques in this post.
Through a framework that integrates these various technologies, we can more effectively harness siloed information on individual users into a single customer view and begin to offer users personalized content and messaging in real time. By offering each user more relevant content, we encourage users to begin self-identifying online, allowing us to further hone our messaging to better assist prospects and customers in their decision making.
But, a word of caution: user data, given the number of channels and platforms, will never be perfect. This is when aggregating that information can develop meaningful personas and segments to create more relevant and engaging experiences.
Tying it together
Data plays a vital role in business and marketing. And cookies are an important marketing technology. But I wholeheartedly agree with Avinash that neither can stand on its own.
Our focus should be on people first—identifying them and their intent through the use of data and technology. By moving more people from anonymous state to a known entity, we can provide them with the relevant information they want and need, creating smarter, more effective customer interactions that result in better customer experiences.
Which is really what marketing is all about.