A global need for privacy is the top consumer phenomena at the moment. 91% of people worldwide are concerned about the amount of data corporations can collect about them, and 42% have taken steps to limit the amount of data they provide online. In response to this (rising) insatiable desire for privacy, most platforms have recently implemented or announced restrictions around data collection and user tracking.
A new era of digital marketing is imminent (on its way). Google had (recently) announced their plans to stop supporting third-party cookies on its Chrome browser by the end of 2023. Thereby eliminating two decades of media- and data-driven performance focused advertising. Marketers therefore need to prepare for a future of cookieless advertising; time marches forward and we’ll need to keep up and adapt to the times.
What are cookies?
Cookies in the digital realm are similar to those in the physical world. Instead of a trail of crumbs, it leaves short lines of code. Whenever you visit a website, these codes are inserted in your browser capturing the site name, user ID, and any other pertinent details such as what’s in your cart. First-party cookies are those stored by the website you visited, while third-party cookies are those maintained by a different organisation.
To begin with, first-party cookies aren’t going away. We won’t have to redesign our websites to meet this change. However, it will have an absolute impact on advertising. Retargeting has long been one of the most powerful tools in an advertiser’s arsenal, and the lack of third-party cookies will make it more difficult to stay present in your potential customers’ minds.
What’s crucial now is to consider how this transition will influence your company and how you may pivot so that you are unaffected when third-party cookies become outdated. Third-party cookies aren’t going away for another year or so, so get ready now.
Post Cookie Solutions
While Google has no doubt been the singularity point of this change, they have also taken the liberty to provide solutions. The Privacy Sandbox initiative is a collaborative open source development that aims to provide a safe way to browse the web whilst maintaining free access to everyone. In a nutshell, consumers are able to maintain their privacy. Advertisers and businesses are no longer able to employ indiscriminate and intrusive tracking mechanisms to gather data. Updates to the rollout are available in the Privacy Sandbox Timeline for all to view.
Part of Google’s Sandbox, FLoC, or Federated Learning of Cohorts, allows advertisers to track internet users without revealing their identity. Instead of enabling access to an individual’s (browning) browsing data, advertisers would now only be able target interest groups based on cohorts of users. As advertisers will only have access to the cohort ID and not the identity of individual users, FLoC protects against the misuse of data collection.
Topics: (as of 25 JAN 2022)
Due to community feedback and trial data, Google has found a risk of fingerprinting exists with the use of FLoC. Topics, therefore, was announced to replace FLoC and its flaws. Instead of interests, advertisers and publishers now have access to topics that a user has accessed, for instance “Books and Literature” or “Autos & Vehicles”. To further prevent the risk of fingerprinting, the topics list will be restricted to about 350 and will not include sensitive information such as race or gender.
Facebook conversions API
Facebook, another in demand platform for advertisers, employed their own solution called the conversions API. Initially served as a response to iOS14 update, the conversions API works in tandem with its current pixel to improve the accuracy of Facebook tracking.
Pixel vs conversions API
For those unfamiliar, Facebook’s Pixel has been around for a long time. It’s a browser side-tool that allows tracking of data through the browser. However, with the emergence of ads and cookie blockers, the pixel loses out on its accuracy of data tracking. In contrast, the API is a server side-tool, where as literal as it sounds, allows data tracking through the server. Furthermore the API does not rely on cookies, meaning to say pesky browser settings like blockers won’t affect its tracking prowess.
Capturing and tracking the right data in an educated cookieless world will become the end goal of all businesses. Certainly the use of second party data acquired from data gathering services will still be an option, but these are fairly unreliable with a substantial liability in terms of potential privacy problems. This boils down to just two different types of data left: zero and first party.
What can you do with first-party cookies?
The widespread use of third-party cookies has enabled marketers to follow a model of acquiring new customers, allowing them to churn, and then re-acquire them through retargeting campaigns. While this has allowed many brands and organisations to improve brand recognition and drive acquisition, it has also enabled them to bypass the difficult task of determining how to create consumer trust and loyalty.
Much emphasis has been placed on efforts aimed at acquiring new consumers, but customer retention is equally (if not more) vital. According to Fred Reichheld of Bain & Co, increasing client retention by just 5% can result in a 25% increase in profitability. Investing in client acquisition so soon after turnover, on the other hand, can result in a net loss.
First-party cookies help you increase client retention by providing a more relevant experience to your customers. You may strategically re-engage with consumers through your owned channels and stretch customer lifetime value over a lengthy period of time by getting an understanding of each customer’s preferences through their encounters with your products. In-app recommendations or follow up emails are some of the simple examples of increasing customer retention.
First-party cookies in that note, will assist teams in the gratifying work of understanding their consumers and delivering highly relevant experiences across the customer lifecycle. Happy customers also drive referrals and positive reviews, which in turn is a significant source of new customers.
Capturing data the right way
The question that sets itself apart is how do you acquire consumers’ data willingly?
The key concept here is personalisation, creating compelling touchpoints to collecting said data.
Retail or ecommerce brands have successfully grasped this by employing loyalty programs that offer desirable benefits.
According to Accenture 54% of shoppers are open to sharing data in exchange for personalised offers. This speaks volumes on the modern consumer, they are no longer fulfilled with generic discounts but are instead looking for meaningful rewards.
As consumers tend to ignore traditional data capturing methods, like surveys or quizzes, gamification is a great way to break that. New engaging visuals, sliders and a personal tone helps reach out to the desensitised consumers, who deliver direct feedback and valuable data, to further support existing first-party data.
The core theme of personalisation is to deliver personalised experiences. As mentioned, consumers are no longer interested in a one-size-fits-all approach. As affiliates, you should know your individual audiences’ needs, wants and interests and curate personalised posts based on that information to resonate deeper with them.
There are many personalisation strategies out there, but here are the three most common approaches:
The first audience breakdown starts with audience segmentation. Segmentation begins by analysing the demographics, behaviours and past interactions of your audience. Allowing you to anticipate on a surface level the kind of relevant personalised content that results in conversion. While segmentation does offer personalisation, the offerings here are largely catered to the masses–the entire segment of your audience. Audience segmentation, thus loses out on effectiveness compared to a more in-depth segmentation like persona based segmentation.
While demographics like age and hobbies are no doubt insights, it doesn’t fully highlight a consumer’s purchase behaviour patterns.
Persona based segmentation on the other hand, formulates personas to understand what your audience does or doesn’t do. Functional, emotional and decision attributes play a part in understanding your audience to a deeper level.
For instance, their role in a company (function) relates to the challenges they face (emotion) and thereby the level of engagement that needs to be taken with them (decision). All three attributes (function, emotion and decision), therefore bring forth a deeper understanding of your audience, ready for a personalised and strategic outreach.
Customer Journey-based Segmentation
Customer journey-based segmentation, on the other hand, understands the audience by categorising them according to specific stages in a customer’s journey (i.e., purchasing process).
This allows you to make informed decisions and craft content to help your audience proceed on to the next stage. Addressing specific concerns that your audience has at specific stages helps to boost your authority in the field.
Benefits of Personalisation
We’ve gone through some personalisation strategies, but are the efforts taken worth it? What benefits will you reap with personalisation?
Capturing and analysing audience data, not only helps to support the personalised recommendations you give to your audience; it enables you to address any problems or concerns your audience has. In turn, this also boosts your reputation in your chosen niche. Personalised communication makes you approachable to your audience and thereby benefit from increased engagement rates.
Increased engagement rates have a higher probability of gaining audience loyalty. For starters, loyalty itself is extremely important for affiliates. A loyal audience will not only heed your call to purchase, but are also more than likely to help spread the word. Word of mouth, in an ideal situation creates a network effect–amplifying sales, reach and boosting your reputation in your specific niche.
Bespoke content made for an individual or a specific persona, is rightfully more appealing. As personalisation goes, content is no longer a one-size-fits-all approach, nobody wants to be just another number on the board. Based on a report by Hubspot, personalised call to actions performed 202% better than generic ones. By placing yourself in the consumer’s perspective, the customer journey is a long and winding route. Thus, you will only be able to progress forward by encountering strategically placed solutions; one of which is via email marketing.
A channel that most affiliates should already have, email marketing has made its comeback with the phasing out of cookies. Chances are your audience would have subscribed to many email newsletters from all different sources; and, unfortunately, not all would be read. This is where personalisation comes in to ensure your email is read. According to Deloitte, just by addressing your audience by name in the email can result in a 5.2% boost on open rates. This can go up to a staggering 55% by using personalisation techniques.
Before we get ahead of ourselves, what matters the most for affiliates? Bingo…Leads!
Email personalisation starts with getting leads and what better way to start the nurturing process with opt-in forms? Besides incentivising users to provide their email addresses with free stuff, you should use analysed behavioural data through the strategies above and address your audience individually. Personalised messaging in this manner allows you to create value in exchange for these cherished addresses.
Now, don’t rush in, because there’s more to come. A Thank You page after an opt-in form is an opportunity to create a deeper relationship with your audience. Personalise the Thank You page by linking to other pieces of relevant content. You can include your social handles, social proof, and even access to discounts. Enhance the experience even further by incorporating some type of gamification into the mix, and you’ll gain even more analytical data to help you fine-tune your personalisation strategies in the future.
Once you’ve gotten the emails, it’s time to go full throttle with personalisation. The aim of your first email is to gather as much information as you can on your audience. For instance, what kind of content would they like to receive? The information collected should then serve as the basis for the following methods of personalisation:
Create value for your audience by crafting dynamic content specific to their wants. Knowing their shopping habits simplifies the task. If your target audience has searched for male skincare products, particularly acne-related facial wash or moisturiser, you may send him an infographic for male skincare routine with a list of recommended offers.
To keep the engagement wave running, schedule trigger emails to pick up changes in your audience’s action. Have they added to cart but not yet completed their purchase, or perhaps a mail to inquire on their status? Trigger emails can help to increase engagement and improve click through rate, while also assuring your audience that you are available to assist them.
Overall, personalisation is a must for affiliates to move forward in 2022 and it’s successful adoption can be seen in many businesses. Personalisation, in the long run, can elevate your audience experience to an engaging and loyal relationship.Be it through emails, social posts or landing pages, this strategy puts your loyal audience first. This subsequently drives your brand awareness that leads to conversions and even more loyal audiences.
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