The inception of cookies dates back to 1994 – some 20 years after the introduction of personal computers – when it was developed as a solution to make eCommerce shopping carts possible by an employee from Netscape Communications. Since then, its functionality has evolved innumerably into authenticating logins, storing preferences, tracking online behaviours, and it has now become the underpinning of re-targeting campaigns for many marketers today.
The intrinsic importance of cookies centres around the need for personalisation. With the democratisation of eCommerce, online businesses are in dire need to reinvent the wheel in order to personalise shopping experiences catered to the varied audiences’ needs and interests – studies have shown that consumers tend to spend significantly more when their experiences are personalised. Over the years, we have also witnessed a paradigm shift from personalisation being an exception to becoming a base consumer expectation, as such, technologies are now readily available for businesses to adopt, and integrate into their sites – a far cry from when eCommerce platforms were disparate, fragmented and incompatible in the past, making it difficult for brands and retailers to integrate seamlessly.
However, with the meteoric rise of privacy sanctions and mobile usage (cookies do not work within mobile apps) in recent years – 73% of eCommerce sales will be made on mobile devices by 2021 (Statista, 2019) – the browser cookie is now starting to crumble. This, coupled with the ban of third-party cookies by browser makers, has dealt a huge blow to one of the most fundamental tracking tools of the digital era. Is it time to dunk the cookie? Yes, well, for third-party cookies at least.
That said, all is not lost for digital marketers. The focus should then be on acquiring first-party data via customer relationship management systems, transactional systems, subscriptions and newsletter sign-ups, where “identity-based” tracking can be employed. For example, when users are required to create an account on a brand site, surfing habits can be tracked and personalised ads can be served up accordingly. As you can see, personalisation can be done in a myriad of ways, one of which is automated and dedicated email campaign based on customers' interests and preferences. Studies have shown that customised promotional emails produce six times more revenue than those that weren’t personalised.
On-site personalisation is another effective use of first-party data. Rather than providing a single, broad experience, website personalisation allows companies to present visitors with unique experiences tailored to their needs and desires. You can include a short survey on your site’s landing page for users to indicate their personal shopping affinities or interests, and serve them with tailored messaging. With first-party data, your targeting strategy can also be much more granular. A dynamic creative served as an ad can contain a message based on a range of different factors, including previous user behaviour (such as an offline transaction), location, and even intent, not just browser history.
For example, through geographic data or an IP address, an ad server can understand the location of a user, and the personalised message in the ad creative may be the location of the nearest business location and deal or rate available at that location. So what does the future hold for digital commerce? Online businesses need to stay relevant and find new ways to keep consumers engaged, be it producing captivating content with shoppable features. or executing creative offline experiences to drive online purchases.
For example, when we launched asics.com in Singapore earlier this year, an interactive vending machine was deployed at multiple locations for over a month resulting in more than 1000 interactions with an 8% redemption rate. Personalisation is the cornerstone of every successful online business, but innovation should always remain at the forefront of our marketing strategies to keep the customers coming back.
The writer is Roy Lan, regional marketing communications manager, ASICS Asia.