An over-reliance on cookie-based customer tracking risks leaving marketers unable to identify—and therefore effectively market to—customers, latest data from consumer engagement platform Wunderkind reveals.

Original research of over 60 senior UK marketing and eCommerce professionals in Wunderkind’s ‘Countdown to 2023’ report indicates that two-thirds (65%) are nervous or concerned about platforms moving away from third-party cookies (3PCs).  With Microsoft and Mozilla already removing the tracking technology from their platforms, Google has confirmed it will cull cookies from its Chrome browser, which serves 65% of worldwide web browsers, by 2023.

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Despite cookies being on the way out, three-quarters (75%) of marketers admit to still being ‘reliant’ on them, with 41% saying they rely on 3PCs to identify site traffic.  And not only have many retailers yet to move away from 3PCs, but a significant proportion are unable to identify their website visitors, making it difficult to provide personalised communications to past or potential customers.  Four in 10 eCommerce and marketing professionals can currently only identify between 26-50% of their site traffic, and 23% only have the ability to recognise up to a quarter.

This issue has been exacerbated by channel and device ‘black holes’ in identification. More than a quarter (28%) of marketers have issues identifying shoppers when they visit the site using different devices, while 26% struggle to recognise customers when they move from one channel to another – from app to website, for example.  Despite this, the vast majority of marketers (75%) deem personalisation to be ‘crucial’ to their current operations, with 67% saying that personalisation is going to become more important to their operations over the next 24 months.

However, a lack of customer identification is hindering retailers’ ability to personalise online shopping experiences for digital consumers, as Wulfric Light-Wilkinson, GM EMEA at Wunderkind, explains.  “Not being able to recognise shoppers (including returning customers) is one of the key barriers hampering brands’ personalisation efforts. While many marketers already consider personalisation to be mission-critical for the long-term success of their businesses, many more fall at the first hurdle by struggling to identify a huge proportion of their website traffic.  This not only leaves them with ‘blind spots’ in the customer journey, but it also limits their ability to understand intent signals and shopper behaviours across sales channels and devices – crucial building blocks in creating the seamless, highly relevant digital shopping journeys customers now crave.”

Original research of over 2,000 UK shoppers also by Wunderkind revealed that almost half (49%) would be less likely to buy from a retailer if they experienced impersonal interactions with that retailer, proving that identification issues don’t just cause friction in the buying journey, but can also cost retailers in lost sales opportunities and reduced customer loyalty.

“So many retailers and marketers have become looped into a cycle of acquiring and re-acquiring the same customers through cookie-reliant paid advertising – and these recent changes have created an opportunity for brands to refocus on fundamentals like CRM, owned channel optimisation and delivering brilliant customer experiences.” Light-Wilkinson concluded.

For further information on how marketers can optimise personalisation strategies and build out first-party data as the industry moves toward a cookie-less future, download the full report: Countdown to 2023