It’s Time for Retailers to Jump into the Cookie Pool

It’s no secret that when people visit a brand online, they are tagged with a anonymous cookie ID. Most people expect this is happening each time they visit a site. Cookies allow the brand to track people from the place they entered, what pages they visited, and where they exited. That cookie follows them throughout their online journey and reports back a wealth of intelligence on both the user flow in general as well as the specific habits and preferences of a single ID. Digital marketers use this knowledge in a variety of ways, by retargeting customers, recovering abandoned carts, and personalizing customer-specific offers.

In retail stores, however, data is typically only collected at the end of a purchase, meaning any data leading up to the transaction gets lost. And if a customer browses the store but doesn’t make a purchase, zero data is collected on that visit. But it doesn’t have to be this way. With the right technology, physical brands have the ability to begin tracking shoppers just as well as e-commerce leaders, and no longer lose out on the vast amounts of data available to them.

Here are the first three steps retailers need to take in order to implement effective and useful customer identification tactics:

First, implement the technology

By adding a layer of customer-facing technologies to the physical store, retailers can collect the same types of data as their e-commerce counterparts. Beacons, tablets, and NFC tags allow you to discover when a shopper entered your store (and if they have interacted with your brand online prior), what products they looked at and engaged with (or didn’t engage with), what was purchased (and what was left behind), the path they took through the store, and any obstacles they may have encountered.

Second, let the customer opt-in their preferences

Once these technologies are in place, retailers can assign a shopper a cookie ID that follows them through both their online and physical store visits, no matter where they begin their journey, or whether or not they make a purchase. Customers can choose to opt-in to identifying their information with an email address which allows retailers to build a full shopper profile that understands the wants, needs, habits, and preferences of each customer. This information helps retailers create more seamless and more personalized experiences in the future.

Third, provide value in a meaningful way to the customer

Finally, it’s critical to make sure you’re using this data consciously; shoppers must see the added value. The key is getting to know your customers and, through the trail of clues they leave when they visit stores and websites, you can learn a great deal about how your customers’ behavior tracks from one connected format to another. Armed with this knowledge, retailers can direct personalized product incentives, discounts and suggestions to shoppers’ mobile devices while the shoppers walk through the store.

Knowledge is power, and the more historic and real-time knowledge a physical retailer can gather about a consumer through multiple touchpoint connectivity, the more power it gives that consumer to engage in a personalized buying experience that is unique to them.