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If you don’t think identity plays a significant role in user experience, think again.

Case in point: I was recently browsing my favorite footwear site on my smartphone for the perfect pair of shoes, but when I returned to purchase my pair of choice via desktop, I had to spend upwards of 10 minutes trying to find it again.

How much better would my experience have been if I had instead been greeted with a personalized product showcase featuring my 'most recently browsed' items?  

The digital landscape is expanding on a near daily basis yet, as consumers share more data, it’s becoming increasingly harder to reach them, especially in a relevant and timely manner.

This evolution of the connected consumer requires marketers to completely rethink the way they connect with current and prospective customers. Traditionally, marketers have relied on mass third party data to provide insight into consumers’ digital activity and improve targeting and conversions.

Today, brands that get it are placing an emphasis on collecting and managing their own first-party data. In turn, they’re gaining a more accurate view of their customers and connecting with them in more meaningful ways. Are you collecting first-party data? And is your business handling it responsibly?

If not, we’ve outlined three reasons why first party login data is overtaking 3rd party marketing techniques, and what you can do to update the way you collect and use consumer data.

Consumer privacy

Aware that information about their locations, families and finances is floating in cyberspace and can be shared with the click of a button, over half of consumers worry about their information being compromised every time they login to a business website (1&1).

Third party data is typically amassed via collection techniques like dropping cookies on unassuming users and tracking their way across the internet - not a great way to earn their trust.

Marketers can gain a much more ethical and accurate view of consumers by collecting their own first-party data points.

By requesting that consumers opt-in to sharing particular personal information, brands can take full control of maintaining customer data privacy and security, while consumers gain total transparency around the information they share.

Survival tip: Tell consumers exactly what information you are looking to collect from them and how it will be used to improve their user experience.

Provide them with a 'command center' where they can view and edit their shared data. Avoid asking for too much information at registration, and instead create opportunities to request additional data points as consumer trust is built over time. 

Personalized experiences

Not only do third party data collection techniques damage brand trust, but most mountains of third party data are built by piecing together users’ browser history in an attempt to provide insight into their preferences and behaviors.

But what happens when multiple users browse the internet using the same device, or decide to delete cookies or browse incognito?

Zeroing in on individual consumer identity, rather than page-level activity, gives brands a much more clear and accurate view into the preferences and needs driving consumer behavior.

Taking this approach allows brands to personalize user experiences that lend to higher conversion rates and repeat customers.

Need proof? 73% of consumers prefer to do business with brands that personalize the shopping experience (Digital Trends), while in-house marketers who personalize their web experiences see an average 19% uplift in sales (Monetate). 

Survival tip: Seek access to users’ social graphs via permission-based first party data collection techniques like social login.

Consumers’ social profiles house rich, real-time insight into their relationships, hobbies and media preferences, which can be used to effectively personalize content, product recommendations, discounts and more.

Cross-channel unification

Let’s face it: third party techniques were invented well before the smartphone or tablet, and are simply not built to handle today’s mobile landscape.

By collecting users’ on device activity, third party data simply fails to create a unified view of today’s modern consumer: 20% of which visit websites from four different devices each week (Experian). 

With 67% of online shoppers admitting to having recently made purchases that involved multiple channels (Zendesk), marketers need a way to tie cross-channel activity back to a single consumer profile.

Insight into consumer identity enables brands to effectively nurture customer relationships by creating seamless, cohesive user experiences across digital, mobile, social, and in-store channels. 

Survival Tip: Make sure your site is mobile friendly, and gives users a convenient way to authenticate their identities even via smaller mobile screens. Collect and aggregate identity data from multiple channels and devices into a single, unified database for faster and easier access.

Final thought

The digital landscape has outgrown the capabilities of third party data collection and targeting techniques.

The logged-in user revolution is upon us, and it’s now or never for brands to put an identity-centric customer strategy in place to stay relevant in the age of the connected consumer.

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Published 14 April, 2014 by Rachel Serpa

Rachel Serpa is Content Marketing Manager at Gigya and a contributor to Econsultancy. You can connect with her via LinkedIn.

5 more posts from this author

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Arun Sivashankaran

Interesting post, thanks Rachel. I also think there are a lot of opportunities to personalize the visitor experience in a meaningful & ethical way without necessarily forcing the user to log in. That being said it seems to me like a lot of the tools to do this are still relatively complex and inaccessible by marketers.

over 2 years ago

Simone Kurtzke

Simone Kurtzke, Lecturer in Digital Marketing at Robert Gordon University

Great post, and agree in principle, though I'd say that brands don't own the social login data - Facebook Likes and so on (i.e. 'social acquisitions') are ultimately still owned by the third-party social sites.

Like Arun I'd be interested in other opportunities for personalisation - especially local / mobile. Anything that is actually useful rather than narrowing down my choices - I find it rather limiting to be served up the same / samey stuff over and over again (based on 'things that I like' - if logging in - or from sites that I have recently visited - if cookie based retargeting).

Personalisation should be about customer centricity, i.e. what is actually useful or beneficial, making our lives easier.

I don't feel like I'm at the centre of a brand, or that they really care about me, when they follow me around with a display ad for ages after I've leisurely browsed their site, or when they ask me for permission to access all sorts of my data before I can access content.

Just today, I wanted to download a free new ebook (review copy), and they wanted me to create a full-on extensive profile on their site first (!).

So - personalisation = yes, but only if the aim is to make the customer experience easier and more useful / helpful (e.g. Amazon's cross-device customer journey would be a good example).

But nothing too creepy or matey - don't suggest books / records / products etc. that I'd 'also like', as this removes choice and serendipity. And if you must follow me around, at least know how to cap your ads....

over 2 years ago

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Amy

Interesting and insightful! I must admit I have made purchases myself especially through Amazon suggesting items I might also like to purchase! I like the idea of personalization but just hate the websites that get you to sign up and register! Too many emails informing me of the latest news...

over 2 years ago

Stuart McMillan

Stuart McMillan, Deputy Head of Ecommerce at Schuh

@Simone, I wonder if we'd look more favourable on filling out forms if we felt that they actually did any good?

What if in Amazon (given the multiple SKUs even for a single product), I could give some general insights as to my preferences? For example, they could have a range of questions like "Quality is more important to me than price" or "Price is the most important factor for me", and I could give answers using a slider to indicate how much I agreed with the sentiment. I could also give a free-text description of what I'm like as a shopper and they could do some natural language processing to understand my preferences.

I wouldn't mind giving this sort of information, as long as it was optional, if I felt that it was improving my shopping experience. It would be a bit like Prime, there is an up-front cost but I know I use Amazon so much that I can see a long term benefit.

over 2 years ago

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Simon Burton

Excellent contribution Rachel. As a vendor who specialises in working with brands such as Shop Direct, JD Williams, Comparethemarket, the AA etc., to understand their customers and prospects so that they may deliver a relevant, engaging experience, we at Celebrus wholly subscribe to the need to focus on those customers engaging with YOUR Company on YOUR digital assets. Tracking "anonymous" users across the internet in the hope that you may be lucky enough to land a piece of communication under their noses at the right time on perhaps a completely unrelated website, contributes very much to the spectre of "big brother" marketing tactics that has caused great concern for the consumer and has been the cause of much of the privacy concerns we in the trade and the government have had to address in recent years. I would describe the practice as following someone as they leave one store and enter another and continually showering them with leaflets and shoulder taps as they walk through the door, inviting them back to the previous store. I wouldn't like it and I am sure 99.9% of my fellow citizens wouldn't either.
The facts and figures you have indicated above, relating to personalising the shopping experience on your Company's digital assets to increase sales, retention and thereby customer satisfaction have been realised with fantastic results by our clients, so we know this is the way to go.

over 2 years ago

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Anthony Leaton

I agree with Stuart McMillan. Collected information needs to be optional and the offers / services and information fed back needs to be relevant.

Perhaps what is needed in marketing is less guesswork and something a little more innovative. As marketers the problems with tracking etc is that its far too generic. We are hoping to appeal to an individual that may have different professional or social lifestyle intentions, using different devices to access the same website. They will experience different offers, incentives etc.

Imagine for a minute that consumers create a baseline persona to a centralized third party site. They may then add-in extra information. This means that whatever ecommerce site they visit the information relevant to that person is referenced and served back to the individual of interest plus any other information the site may have gathered. This app will work across ALL devices.

To get relevant results one may select a persona business or leisure setting. At work I may be looking for books, travel and audio that are work based. Even Amazon send me 'recommended' books and audio that are relevant to the 'professional' but not the 'social' me.

Like everyone else, I loathe repeating data fields and surveys between sites. I'm sure that I'm not the only person.

Our problem is that there are a lot of applications which delete cookies with different devices used to access information, and different work/social profiles that will always get in the way of the user's experience. I believe the future of ecommerce is to make a shopper's life easier, relevant and centralised. Thoughts?

over 2 years ago

Stuart McMillan

Stuart McMillan, Deputy Head of Ecommerce at Schuh

Anthony, I like that idea!

I guess the closest to this currently is social login, and arguably the platform which is most build on the idea of identity is G+

Many social login providers give you access to a customer's profile, so you can understand your audience better. As a social media user, I wish I had more say in this. Currently on Facebook, for example, I shape my likes so that I only get targeted in areas I am interested, which is slightly perverse.

over 2 years ago

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Depesh Mandalia, Head of Digital Marketing at Lost My Name

As a consumer, we don't think of devices. We have a 1 to 1 relationship with websites and apps. As Rachel has said, why spend 10 minutes searching for a product on your desktop you saw on your mobile earlier in order to complete the transaction?

As device usage merges so must our 'personas' - this goes for things like wearables and smart TVs. At the moment we can only think of login's but I think it has to go more personal than this. Think of the iPhone 5 finger recognition. We take our fingers everywhere. What if you could scan your finger on your phone, you desktop (USB app?), scan to your eyewear or Smart TV and the website or app to recognise you.

Point is it is a very valid issue which needs to be addressed to maximise potential for the cross-device generation.

On Stuart's point, as a consumer I don't have time to be setting implicit preferences on a website by website basis. How about settings which follow me wherever I go, that learns behaviour (like a lifestyle change after having a child) or adapts (like seasonality or personal circumstance).

I believe Google has a lot of this data through our explicit search behaviour. Facebook does to through likes and status updates. No one provider has it all which is why Google needs G+ to complete the picture.

Great post :)

over 2 years ago

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Martin Edenström

Google acctually made it one of their yearly resolutions to fight this so called 'shopping card abandonment' craze, estimated to 97% amning mobile commercevvisitors. Amazon, Apple and Google are among the others well equipped to do somethibg about it using own browsers, apps etc. More about it here: http://translate.google.se/translate?sl=auto&tl=en&u=http%3A//www.mkse.com/tag/shopping-cart-abandonment/

over 2 years ago

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