'Customer centricity’ has always been a cornerstone of marketing and will continue to be. While many brands claim it is built into their processes, structures, tools, approaches, and their culture, glaring gaps are becoming evident as we see cookies crumbling and devices going ID-less. Many brands are scrambling to collect customer first-party data (FPD) assuming it will be the panacea of the new digital era. But there has to be a method in this madness.
Customers' data does not only imply just first-party data or personally identifiable information (PII). PII data can be a means to understanding your customers but not an end in itself. I see many brands frantically looking for ways to collect or even purchase PII data which I would suggest is a short-sighted, immature, and ad-hoc attempt to embark on the path of customer-centricity as a way to prepare for the upcoming cookie-less and device ID-less future.
’Know your customers’ (KYC) suddenly seems so relevant now. But it is equally important to build customer trust and privacy because today privacy is no longer a privilege but a right. In the rush towards KYC many brands were dependent on third-party cookies even if they were unreliable and an entire ecosystem of digital advertising was built around this. This era is coming to an end and is for the better. Better for brands. Better for customers. And brands will have to get ‘real’.
Cookies were always unstable, non-transparent, non-persistent, non-interoperable. Instead of running helter-skelter to collect first-party data, start building direct and real relationships with your customers and don’t depend on cookies. I would also say not to depend on device IDs either or we will be making the same mistake again. My view is device IDs are not privacy complaint and will soon meet the same fate as the cookies if iOS updates are an indication. It’s time to start collecting ‘zero-party data’, instead.
Zero-party data (ZPD)
ZPD refers to all the information (desires, preferences, likes, dislikes etc) that your own customers are willing to share explicitly with you in exchange for some value. This value can be monetary or non-monetary in nature. ZPD enriches consumer insight and even informs product or service development. The world we will be entering into will be driven by consumer privacy and consumer consent. The scale and relevancy of your personalisation will depend on the amount and quality of consented data that resides with you.
One should start building value exchange programs very much like an annual content calendar across brands. Investments should be earmarked for them. Brands should start to appear responsible to their customers, build empathy and trust while carving a privacy-conscious approach to customer centricity. If done right, useful data will start coming in on its own.
Cookie-less timeline and readiness
With Google announcing the extension of the deprecation of third-party cookies by 2023, the preparatory leave (to address the cookie-less situation) has been extended for all players in the ecosystem. This sense of relief is ephemeral. The clock hasn’t stopped ticking both for cookies and device IDs.
Preparations for this cookie-less future affect two general types of clients differently. Firstly, there are players who until now have been heavily dependent on third-party data and lack a substantial FPD-base. Largely FMCG or CPG clients, they now have to completely overhaul the process of getting FBD through value exchange programs, deciding on D2C versus ecommerce, retail and loyalty programs. More importantly, they are also realigning their adtech and martech stacks. Discussions have started but actions seem to lack the warranted pace.
Secondly, there are the retailers, D2C brands, ecommerce players, apps and financial clients who are sitting on a huge amount of FPD. These companies will need to reassess their FPD from consent perspective. Consent for all FPD needs to be audited to make it privacy complaint. This also requires reassessing their tech stack with a consent management platform in place, testing solutions which can address device ID–less options so that retargeting and personalisation can be done at scale. Clients in this category tend to be more evolved in understanding the overall situation and are more likely to possess the agility required.
Advertisers need to focus on ZPD and FPD irrespective of whether the world is going cookie-less or not. It's sad but true that some of us have wasted almost two decades and have just come out of our slumber. The reality is that proper customer data management is still not too late to achieve, provided we do it right this time.
Please stop seeing your customers as mobile numbers and email IDs. Say “hello” to your customers now and build a one-on-one relationship on their terms!
Anil Pandit is senior vice president of programmatic at Publicis Media in Gurgaon.