Cookies: Not Part Of A Balanced Omnichannel Diet

Over the past few years, the retail industry has been inundated with buzzwords like “cross-channel,” “multichannel” and “omnichannel,” all of which can be loosely translated to the creation of a seamless consumer experience through all available shopping channels. Marketers set out to create the omnichannel shopping experience, yet according to RSR’s Omni-Channel 2013: The Long Road To Adoption report, more than half of retailers still believe consumer expectations continue to outpace their ability to deliver a consistent cross-channel experience.

Now consider the buzzwords of today, “personalization” and “customization,” and it’s clear that marketers have an even bigger challenge on their hands: creating an omnichannel shopping experience that is tailored to its individual customers. Which begs the question, why is omnichannel so challenging for retailers? And how can they overcome these obstacles to deliver personalization across channels?

The Challenge: A Cookie Fixation

One of the biggest challenges for retailers when it comes to omnichannel is the industry’s dependence on cookies. A cookie, also known as an HTTP cookie, Web cookie, or browser cookie, is a piece of data sent from a web site and stored in a user’s Web browser. When a consumer visits a web site, the data stored in the cookie is sent back to the web site with a history of the consumer’s previous activity on that site. For marketers, these paint a picture of a consumer’s online activity. Online being the operative word.


But here’s the problem. Omnichannel by its very definition means marketers need to go beyond online to truly create a seamless experience tailored to its customers’ behaviors and preferences across all channels — online, in-store and via mobile devices. Therefore, trying to build a relevant and personalized marketing program around an online cookie means you’ll always be missing the big picture. So while cookies make a great dessert and deliver some valuable customer data, they’ll never be substantial enough for a full cross-channel meal. See what we did there?

The Solution: Think Big

So how can retailers implement a personalized marketing program that is scalable across channels? Think big…and by big, we mean big data. In today’s digital world, marketers have access to more customer information and can store more data than ever before. This means there are more avenues for collecting information to paint that big picture beyond what a cookie can report. Consider the entire shopping lifecycle – including the in-store experience, opened and unopened emails, the use of loyalty cards, purchase history, browsing behavior and social media — all of these touch points tell you something about your customers, which can in turn help you deliver a more personalized experience at each point.

That is the key: use all the information you have from every touchpoint to inform a more personalized, relevant experience to every interaction you have with the customer.  When you are deciding to send someone your catalog or not, it should matter to you whether they opened an email yesterday. When you are deciding to offer them free shipping for that abandoned item in their shopping cart, it should matter to you what they returned in a store last week. This is what omnichannel means, and your personalization strategy has to travel across these touchpoints with you. If your personalization relies upon digital cookies, you will not get there.

Take the example of shopper “Jane.” Jane might be a frequent shopper at your store, but she never shops with you online, even though she is a happy member of your email list. If you are depending on cookies, an email to Jane can’t be personalized to her particular tastes and interest because you don’t have a cookie for her. But, if you use big data to understand what Jane purchased at her last in-store visit, combined with a promotional email she clicked through, and a dress she shared on Facebook, you can develop hyper-personalized messaging that includes a similar dress at a price point that you now know Jane is comfortable with. This level of personalization can be used across channels and has proven to increase ROI and customer attrition. According to a recent survey by Medallion Retail, nearly half of shoppers said they will buy more from a retailer that personalizes the shopping experience.

Consumers are ready for this level of personalization across channels and it’s time for retailers to move beyond the limitations of the cookie to meet their demands. In doing so, retailers will finally be able to create the omnichannel shopping experience that has challenged them for years.

Graeme Grant is the President and COO of CQuotient. He is a start-up and high-tech veteran, who focuses on bringing great ideas to market and developing high growth businesses from them. Gran’s particular area of expertise is in the retail sector where he has worked on both sides of the table. Prior to joining CQuotient as a founding member, Grant spent four years at Allurent — a company that uses interactive rich media to power superior online shopping. Over his tenure his responsibilities grew from VP Sales & Marketing, to COO, to eventually CEO. Grant also spent five years with ProfitLogic, where he played a variety of key roles including Director of Product Management, Executive Customer Lead, and VP of Professional Services.

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