More than half of organizations don’t feel fully prepared for a cookieless future, according to Twilio’s State of Customer Engagement Report, 2022. But Google has announced it will be cutting third-party cookies in the second half of 2024.
Companies have historically tapped into third-party data, or cookies, to collect information on customers in order to provide them with a personalized experience. Apple has already done away with third-party cookies in Safari and Firefox now blocks them, too. With Google’s announcement that it will follow suit, many consider this the death of cookies.
So, how can businesses provide customers with a personalized experience while also navigating this upcoming cookieless future?
One answer is conversational messaging.
Conversational messaging involves two-way communication between brands and consumers on channels like WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, and others. Consumers get personalized care like they would in person, and businesses have the ability to scale that care. It’s a way to build relationships with customers and learn more about them, directly from them.
With conversational messaging, the consumer opts in, either by starting a message or providing their phone number. From that point, each interaction is an opportunity to learn more about them—from channel preferences to profile attributes—to deliver a more personalized experience over time.
Here’s how conversational messaging will help you navigate the upcoming cookieless future.
How a cookieless future will affect businesses
Customers value and expect personalized experiences. In fact, almost two-thirds will stop using a brand if their experience isn’t personalized, according to our State of Customer Engagement Report, 2022.
The catch 22 is that while customers want more personalized experiences, which require data, they are also becoming more protective of their data and how it’s collected and used.
So how can businesses provide that personalized experience, without cookies, while also protecting their customers’ data?
The answer is first-party and zero-party data.
Businesses collect first-party data through direct customer engagement on their owned channels, especially their website. For example, the way customers interact with your website, such as where they click, hover, read, etc. is considered first-party data. These behaviors can be tracked and used to build customer profiles, but it’s a passive form of data collection.
Zero-party data, however, is a more active interaction with your business. For example, customers who take part in a product quiz or survey are providing your business with zero-party data. They are actively sharing information about themselves, and the questions they have, with your business, which you can capture, store, and analyze to personalize future experiences for them. This can also be used to understand common customer questions and create better automation experiences, such as bots.
That’s where conversational messaging comes into play.
How conversational messaging can help you learn more about your customers
Consumers know that the fastest, easiest way to get help is usually to speak with a person. That’s why conversational messaging is growing more popular. Eighty percent of consumers would like brands to offer conversational messaging, according to our Conversational Messaging Trends Report.
But on top of it being the preferred communication by customers, it’ll also help businesses approaching the new cookieless future.
Conversational messaging empowers customers to initiate conversations with businesses when they have a question about a product or service or want to make a purchase. These conversations can start by live chat on a website, texting a business' number, clicking on an ad, or engaging in chat directly from the search page. With conversational messaging, customers are willingly providing businesses with information–or zero-party data–that they can use to create more personalized experiences.
For example, let’s say a consumer is scrolling Facebook and comes across your brand’s ad for a pair of shoes. They love the style but want to make sure they’re comfortable for wide feet. With conversational messaging, they can reach out via a message and ask about the fit and comfort. They leave the conversation with an answer that they need to make a purchase, and you now have an important piece of data–that they have wide feet–that you can use to send them better product recommendations and ads.
Because conversational messaging puts the power in customers’ hands, they are more willing to provide information to the business. And because conversational messaging focuses on opening up communication with a conversation instead of blasting messaging at customers, it becomes a mutually beneficial, trusting interaction. In fact, 95% of consumers say they would trust a brand more if it was easy for them to initiate a conversation.
So, how can you get started as a business looking to dive in with conversational messaging?
How to set up a conversational messaging strategy to build personalized experiences for customers
First-party data is also important in regards to conversational messaging. Seeing how customers or potential customers respond to your owned channels—including your websites, applications, and social media—provides you with a better understanding of what the customer responds to. In turn, this helps create better, more targeted advertisements, especially social media advertisements.
Targeted ads can absolutely help open up conversation with customers. In fact, 64% of all consumers say they are likely to message a brand directly through an advertisement. One way to get started is by A/B testing. Your business can look at ad conversions with CTAs that drive to landing pages versus those that drive to a messaging experience and see which one customers prefer.
If you move forward with conversational messaging, you want to make sure the CTAs on your advertisements promote that conversation, instead of just trying to sell to customers. Ad CTAs such as “Let’s talk!” or “Message to learn more!” open up a pathway for customers to speak with brands. Not only does the click show customers are interested in a product or service, but it also helps businesses get more granular by seeing what type of ads their target audience prefers to engage with.
First-party data can also help businesses understand which channels their customers prefer to use. For example, most websites include social media icons that link to their channels. Many even include Whatsapp in that selection. You can also simply ask customers their channel preferences when they create an account with you. By collecting that data, you’ll understand which channels your customers frequent and can focus your business’s efforts on connecting with them there. Whether it’s Facebook Messenger, Google Business Messages, WhatsApp, or another channel, your business will know where to engage customers effectively.
From there, it becomes a cycle of connection. You’re learning more about your customer by how they interact with you on your website, while also collecting data directly from them through messages. All that data can be used to have better conversations. That’s why businesses that can rely on first- and zero-party data will be able to navigate the upcoming cookieless future.
Learn more about how conversational messaging can help your business connect with customers in our new report: Conversational Messaging: The Next Storefront Experience.
Jessica Nath is a Content Marketing Specialist at Twilio, Inc. She currently lives in Salt Lake City (before you ask, no, she doesn't ski) but will always be a Yinzer at heart (certified Pittsburgher). She can be reached at jnath [at] twilio.com.