Conversion Optimization

7 Smarter Marketing Alternatives to Third-Party Cookies (for eCommerce)

With search engines phasing out third-party cookies for greater user privacy, here's how to prep for the inevitable and some alternatives to gathering customer data.

7 Smarter Marketing Alternatives to Third-Party Cookies (for eCommerce)

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For decades, third-party cookies have been a staple of the eCommerce world. 

Most people are used to the idea of it.

But it’s also raised many privacy concerns.

That’s why, Google and other search engines are shifting towards greater user privacy. 

What’s happening? 

Google Chrome restricted third-party cookies for 1% of users from January 4th, 2024. 

From Q3 2024, they plan to ramp up third-party cookie restrictions to 100% of users.

This represents a significant change for the ad business and seems to be a step forward for privacy, but it’s also a limited one.

It doesn’t mean that Google will stop collecting your data, and it doesn’t mean the company will stop using your data to target ads.

So Google will still technically deliver targeted ads to you, but it will do so more anonymously and less creepily.

It may seem easier to collect third-party data, but it’s best not to completely rely on it. 

Without third-party cookies, eCommerce personalization algorithms will offer less customized content and negatively impact the conversion rate. 

Accurately attributing conversions to specific marketing channels and campaigns will become an uphill battle in the post-cookie era. 

Without the ability to track user journeys seamlessly across different platforms, eCommerce businesses will face difficulties in measuring the effectiveness of their marketing campaigns and optimizing their strategies accordingly.

Delivery of relevant ads to the right audiences will become a challenge that can put the efficiency of retargeting at risk of low return on ad spend (ROAS).

On the other hand, it will resolve a shopper’s privacy concerns and assure them about online security.

What's better than third-party cookies? First-party data

Research shows that:

  • 90% of consumers are willing to share personal behavioral data with companies for a cheaper and easier experience. 
  • 80% of consumers are more likely to purchase a brand that provides personalized experiences. 

With the growing emphasis on online privacy, third-party cookies, which have long dominated online advertising, are being phased out. Using a VPN can further enhance your online privacy by masking your IP address and encrypting your internet traffic.

First-party cookies offer a more privacy-friendly solution that provides numerous advantages over third-party cookies

One of the primary concerns with third-party cookies is that they are frequently utilized to track users across multiple websites, raising privacy concerns. 

In contrast, first-party cookies are confined to tracking users solely on the website that set the cookie. 

This prevents businesses from employing first-party cookies to track users across the internet as third-party cookies do.

First-party cookies provide both online stores and consumers with greater control over how data is used. 

Stores can have the ability to determine the duration of cookie storage, the type of data collected, and how it is used. 

First-party cookies are more secure than third-party cookies because they are not shared across multiple websites, reducing the vulnerability to attacks.

7  Ways First-Party Data Can Help After 3rd-Party Cookies Vanish

1. Send super-segmented email campaigns 

Use first-party data to design ‘tailored’ email marketing campaigns.  

This method is twofold – firstly, the data can help to create emails with specific messaging and secondly, you can gather more data and see who is opening your emails, who is clicking through and coming back to the store, or whose interest is waning.

See how hair care brand Prose segments its emails according to its subscribers’ hair type so it can promote relevant products.

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Through this email campaign, the brand can evaluate which subscribers in particular segments are most engaged and follow up with purchase reminders. 

For less engaged subscribers, the brand could try and gather more first-party data to better understand their preferences.

2. Establish trust 

Reviews are a powerful first-party data tool. 

As a data source, reviews can be used to validate purchasing.   

See how Plufl emphasizes ‘Loved by 11,000+ Householders’ in its pop-up: 

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The brand reiterates the messaging again on the product pages by displaying video reviews:

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3. Recommend tailored products 

Use first-party data to create interactive shopping experiences. 

Implement quizzes or interactive tools that recommend products based on customer preferences and needs.

Here are some tips on how to personalize product recommendations: 

Let shoppers answer a series of questions, shoppers will get personalized recommendations, customized products, and discounts. 

See how Subtl Staks uses a product quiz as a business model

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4. Personalize retargeting experiences 

With over 3.6 billion people actively using social media platforms worldwide, online stores can gather first-party data to learn more about their customers and target audience.

Use social media listening tools to track, analyze, and monitor conversations related to your brand, competitors, and industry. 

This data can be used to retarget your visitors with ads, create custom audiences, and track conversions. 

Also, remember to install social media pixel on your website to track the activity of your social media visitors. 

Here are two more tips on how to personalize customer experience:

  • Create Custom Audiences: Use the pixel to segment your visitors into custom audiences based on their online behavior.
  • Monitor Conversions: Leverage the pixel to track conversions and measure the effectiveness of your social media campaigns.

5. Improve AOV through insights 

Returning customers and loyalty program members are a great way to gain shopping insight. 

When choosing rewards, think about what your customers value most and what would motivate them to participate in your program. 

Use the loyalty program to identify trends and patterns, develop new products and services, and improve your customer service.

For instance, if your loyalty program members love a certain product, then label it as the ‘bestseller’. 

You can also display different visual cues to nudge shoppers to add more to the cart. 

See how Aeropostale shows a ‘How to style it’ tag on the product page that offers subtle cross-sells: 

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6. Build an engaging community

Community building is a powerful way to collect first-party data from your audience. 

When you create a community, you're creating a space where people can connect and share their thoughts and ideas. 

This can be a goldmine of information for businesses, as it allows you to learn more about your customers' interests, needs, and pain points.

Popflex has a collaborative community that offers exclusive community benefits, browse, and shop for products more easily.

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Through this community, Popflex can gain a deeper understanding of its customers’ behavior. 

Are shoppers loving the new products? Is the new product inclusive? Where are shoppers discovering the brand? 

7. Clearly ask for consent 

Create a clear and concise cookie policy that explains to users how your website uses cookies, what types of data are collected, and for what purpose. 

See how Borsalino asks for consent and also offers a way to withdraw consent:

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This way, eCommerce stores can understand customer behavior regarding cookie consent and create unique experiences. 

For instance, when I accepted ‘necessary’ cookie settings and went back to shop on the store, they showed a ‘Welcome back’ pop-up with a quick view of my cart: 

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Furthermore, set appropriate expiration dates for your cookies. 

Some cookies may be session-based and expire when the user closes their browser, while others may have a longer lifespan. 

How to prepare for the end of third-party cookies? 

Here’s how to ensure you're prepared for your store site to run without third-party cookies:

  1. Audit your third-party cookie usage.
  2. Test for breakage.
  3. For cross-site cookies that store data on a per-site basis, like an embed, consider Partitioned with CHIPS.
  4. For cross-site cookies across a small group of meaningfully linked sites, consider Related Website Sets.
  5. For other third-party cookie use cases, migrate to the relevant web APIs.

If you need more information on how to prep before the end of third-party cookies, see the Google documentation. 

To counter the data deficit, eCommerce businesses must prioritize collecting and utilizing first-party data. 

This entails leveraging: 

  • customer loyalty programs, 
  • email marketing lists, and 
  • on-site analytics. 

The third-party cookie ban reinforces the importance of user consent in online advertising. 

Stores will need to obtain explicit consent from users before tracking their online activities. 

While this presents challenges in terms of user acquisition and data collection, it also offers an opportunity to build trust and transparency with consumers.

With the decline of third-party cookies, contextual advertising is poised to flourish. 

This advertising technique, which targets users based on the content they are currently viewing, offers eCommerce businesses a viable alternative to reach and engage their target audience.

Aligning ads with relevant content can help stores to deliver more personalized and meaningful advertising experiences.

In a world where customer data is harder to come by, delivering an exceptional customer experience becomes paramount. 

eCommerce businesses need to invest in enhancing their websites, optimizing the user journey, and providing top-notch customer service to foster loyalty and drive repeat purchases.  

How Customer Data Platforms (CDPs) Can Help In A Post-Cookie World

See how See Customer Data Platforms (CDPs) can help to navigate conversion strategies in a cookie-less world.

1. Manage data collection

Customer Data Platforms (CDPs) serve as a central hub for consolidating data from various sources, including websites, mobile apps, CRM systems, and offline channels. 

This unification creates a comprehensive view of customer interactions and behaviors, allowing organizations to better understand their customers.

2. Unified customer profiles

CDPs use identity resolution algorithms to match and link customer data across various touchpoints. 

This helps to connect interactions and activities from different channels to the same customer, providing a holistic view of their journey.

Customer Data Platforms (CDPs) use a variety of techniques to create accurate customer profiles, including:

  • Segmentation: Customers are divided into segments based on their common characteristics, such as demographics, interests, and behaviors.
  • Scoring: Customers are assigned a score based on their likelihood to take a desired action, such as making a purchase or signing up for a newsletter.
  • Predictive modeling: CDPs use predictive modeling to identify customers who are likely to churn or make a purchase.

3. Better first-party data collection 

CDPs help stores leverage their first-party data—which includes information collected directly from customers through their interactions with the store’s site—to personalize the user experience and run more meaningful lifecycle marketing campaigns. 

4. Better on-site user experience

CDPs track customer behavior by capturing page views, clickstream data, and other online interactions. 

This information helps in understanding how customers navigate through a website, what pages they visit, and what actions they take. 

This way, you can optimize different pages on your store and get more conversions. 

How about a conversion rate audit? (It's free!)

98% of visitors who visit an eCommerce site—drop off without buying anything.

Especially first-time visitors who have very little trust in the brand.

Why: user experience issues that cause friction.

And this is the problem Convertcart solves.

We've helped 500+ eCommerce stores (in the US) improve user experience—and 2X their conversions.

How we can help you:

Our conversion experts can audit your site—identify UX issues, and suggest changes to improve conversions.

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