First-Party Data Is the Best Defense in the Cookie Apocalypse

Bolt Team


Elise Hauser

Product Marketing Manager, Merchant Experience

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First-Party Data Is the Best Defense in the Cookie Apocalypse

The big news in ecommerce data and analytics is the cookie apocalypse. Retailers are asking: What does it mean for my ecommerce business? The answer to that question depends on how they approach collecting shopper data in a cookieless world.

The cookie apocalypse is the deprecation of third-party cookies across the internet. After the omission of third-party cookies, advertising platforms like Google, Facebook, and Amazon—which make up about 64% of digital advertising—will lose the ability to track shopper behavior across the internet. As a result, they’ll have less data on shoppers, making the ads less effective.

This event is terrible news for retailers. To drive the same results from advertising, they’ll have to spend more money on ads that are less likely to work. As a result, advertising ROI will decrease, and shoppers will have poorer interactions with brands.

But it’s not all doom and gloom. On the contrary, the cookie apocalypse represents some fascinating opportunities for retailers. As a result, retailers are building stronger connections with shoppers and increasing the ROI of their marketing efforts.

The shift from third-party data means an increased focus on first- and second-party data. First-party data is the data merchants collect directly from shoppers. This kind of data is:

  • Your shipping address
  • Items you purchase or put in the cart
  • Interactions with social media posts
  • Email engagement
  • Customer support calls
  • Shopper feedback programs

Second-party data is data that a trusted partner collects and shares with merchants. For example, merchants that use Bolt CheckoutOS can access insights about their shoppers. Bolt collects that data and displays it in the Merchant Dashboard.

Unlike third-party data, first- and second-party data are highly reliable and don’t represent the same security concerns for shoppers. In addition, many forms of first- and second-party data are collected by shoppers actively sharing information with brands they trust.

First-party data is the merchant’s best defense in the cookie apocalypse. It helps them get to know their shoppers, build engaging experiences, and attract new customers.

Initially, third-party cookies seemed like the perfect solution for advertisers. Retailers could outsource the work of collecting consumer data to tech giants. However, as ecommerce has evolved, third-party cookies have lost their shine. In the eBook, A Proactive Approach to the Cookie Apocalypse, we point out that the world of ecommerce has evolved.

Over time, retailers realized that third-party cookies aren’t perfect and are not accurate representations of consumers’ identities. Cookie-based tracking lacks reliability and is not proven to make advertising more effective. Third-party cookies and data have accuracy and integrity issues that are not present when working with first-party data collected directly from consumers.

-A Proactive Approach to the Cookie Apocalypse

The only way for merchants to honestly know their shoppers is through first-party data. It’s time to stop relying on Google and Facebook and start investing in direct relationships with shoppers.

Build personalized, engaging experiences

Once merchants build direct relationships with shoppers, they can use first-party data to personalize the shopping journey. For example, merchants can leverage shopper accounts to see their favorite and most purchased items. They can develop profiles about shoppers based on color preferences, size choices, and item categories. 

Start working with current customers to build brand loyalty by providing delightful, personalized shopping experiences. For example, stop targeting ads for things they just purchased. And instead, send them curated emails with items they might like based on past shopping behavior.

When communication with shoppers is relevant, and they have a delightful shopping experience, they become repeat shoppers. First- and second-party data prove this—metrics like average order value (AOV), repeat customer spend, and account registration rates demonstrate the impact of investing in brand experience.

Attract new customers

New customer acquisition is a big challenge many retailers face. And strategies that rely on third-party data to attract new customers are expensive and hard to evaluate. The secret to bringing in new customers is combining a powerful brand with wide-reaching outbound efforts. Merchants need to get in front of shoppers before they even know they want to make a purchase. 

The problem with using third-party ads to acquire new customers is that they don’t get the job done effectively. Advertising platforms claim they can get in front of shoppers who have shown intent to buy. When it works, great. But that intent data is often inaccurate—even to the shopper who already made a purchase. So then those ads are wasted. 

Expecting a new customer to purchase from a brand the first time they encounter it is asking a lot. A more successful strategy is to build relationships and trust with the consumer over time. At the end of the day, shoppers buy from brands they trust.

Develop a customer acquisition strategy

Building a customer acquisition strategy starts with acquiring and analyzing first-party data. Customer surveys and social media interactions are great ways to see what your customers already love about the brand. They are also great for learning what values resonate with them and what they have in common.

Develop a strategy that introduces new customers to the brand. And create a methodology to track what works. Focus not just on sales but on metrics like website visits or social media engagement. 

Digital advertising is not out the door but instead reframing success measures. Selling at the point of inspiration is a powerful tool for any ecommerce merchant. Still, an advertising strategy whose success is defined by immediate sales is not scalable. And it will likely not be successful as third-party cookies are deprecated.

What is scalable is leveraging first- and second-party data to build your brand and relationship with your shoppers.

Final thoughts

Despite its name, the cookie apocalypse does not have to be apocalyptic for ecommerce businesses. Instead, it can be a transformative opportunity for retailers to build their brands and increase customer trust. As you know, these things increase AOV and customer lifetime value. 

Learn more about leveraging first-party data in the cookie apocalypse by downloading the eBook, A Proactive Approach to the Cookie Apocalypse.


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