Cookies: the good and bad

1994. Bill Clinton was in the White House. OJ was on the lam. And Tonya Harding was up to no good. At the same time, Netscape, a computer services company, was getting off the ground, and a man named Lou Montuilli was developing an innocuous plan to identify users browsing the internet, and cookies were born. Before we dig in too far, let’s take a quick refresher on exactly what they are.

Cookies are pieces of data created by the websites you visit. Essentially, they make browsing the internet more convenient—they keep us logged into sites, store items in online shopping carts, serve up local content, and so much more. There are two kinds: first-party, which belongs to the owner of the site, and third-party, which belongs to someone other than the owner, like an ad platform. First-party cookies drive user experience and collect data that can only be accessed by the site’s owner (and they are here to stay). On the other hand, third-party cookies are primarily used for advertising purposes. And, like mistaking a raisin for a chocolate chip, they have a dark side. Skip ahead to 1996, and the first alarm bells were sounded: user privacy could be exploited to great financial gain by ad tech giants. Third-party cookies could gather user behavior and location, along with other private information, including age, gender, marital status, income, health issues, purchases, and more. In the interest of brevity, we’ll keep this high level, but in 2011, the Cookie Law was enacted, making it against the law to put third-party cookies on a device without consent, and by the end of 2023, they should be obsolete, returning cookies back to their original recipe, creating better browsing experiences. 

So now, with the disappearance of this third-party data, many brands are pivoting to find new ways to understand the consumer, and this is where zero-party data is coming into play. Only recently defined by Forrester Research (in 2020), zero-party data is information that a customer “intentionally and proactively shares with a brand” – unlike third-party which is often collected without consent. Brands looking to stay ahead of the pack are focusing on zero-party data because it comes directly from the source: consumers. Brands can use this data to personalize experiences, understand consumer behavior, and develop trust. One of the easiest ways to tap into this consumer intelligence is through post-purchase reviews. 

All insights—from star ratings and comments to images—submitted by a user are considered zero-party data. Following a purchase, the consumer decides to go online and share their personal opinions, experiences with the product, shipping, and customer service, and thoughts, whether positive or negative, on sizing, quality, and product performance. This data is recent, user-generated, and invaluable to brands. It’s also the reason why the Channel Signal platform is quickly becoming the go-to tool for product and marketing teams. It delivers real-time insights from consumers, all in one place, with reviews from all major retailers, including Amazon, Zappos, Target, and Walmart. With the full picture of your review landscape, you can make better-informed decisions and truly understand the people who are buying your products and how they’re using them. At the same time, you can use the data to predict trends and buying patterns and develop messaging that speaks directly to your audience. 

The rise of zero-party data is an opportunity for brands to listen to the consumer and create better, more personalized shopping experiences. With product reviews directly influencing conversion rates (the higher the star average, the higher the rate of conversion and vice versa), brands that zero in on this consumer intelligence can turn the third-party cookie crumble into a recipe for success.

Ready to learn more? Let’s hop on a quick call to see what the Channel Signal platform can do for your brand.