How retailers can power back-to-school campaigns in a cookie-free future

How retailers can power back-to-school campaigns in a cookie-free future

Cookies have long been a lunchbox favorite. However, when they are of the ‘third-party’ variety, they leave a bad taste in the mouths of consumers everywhere, including those preparing for back-to-school shopping. According to Cheetah Digital’s 2022 Digital Consumer Trends Index64% of UK consumers say they believe cookie tracking is “creepy”.

Google and other search engines have taken note, solidifying plans to phase out third-party cookie tracking across the board within the year. So if your current strategy is still full of third-party cookies, it’s time to find a new, better and ‘healthier’ way to connect with consumers.

Alphabets of data collection

Since the days of dial-up, some 30 years ago; intrusive third-party cookies track users across the Internet, reporting their activities and information to marketers. And consumers are fed up with it. So, to win the upcoming — and short — back-to-school shopping period, it’s vital that retailers move to a first- and zero-party data strategy to drive their advertising and marketing initiatives.

First rule, think “ABCDE” – always collect data, ethically. Grammar aside, this acronym will help you remember that data collected the right way will soon be the only way. The future of marketing to relevant individuals is about asking them about their interests, motivations and desires, not inferring or ‘spying’ on them.

This type of data is called zero-side data. Forrester defines it as “a class of data that a customer intentionally and proactively shares with a brand, which can include data about preferences, purchase intent, personal context, and how the individual wants to be perceived by the brand.

Zero-party data enables retailers to build direct relationships with customers. In turn, this helps to better personalize their marketing efforts, offers and product recommendations, which is vital in today’s environment. According to a report by Cheetah Digital, there has been an increase of almost 60% of UK consumers who feel frustrated by a brand whose personalization initiatives do not recognize their unique wants and needs.

That’s why zero- and first-party data (what you collect from your audience directly, through your own channels) will be essential to creating personalized campaigns that put your products front and center when it’s time to buy.

Exchange of value

While offering a teacher an apple for an A+ on a midterm exam may not work, exchanging value is a great way to get input from consumers. Basically, if you want data about your customers’ preferences, then you have to offer something tangible and enticing in return — this is the economy of value exchange. More than an “ask and you shall receive” type of exchange, consumers expect to be entertained, engaged and get something in return for their attention and personal information.

Perhaps surprisingly, this ‘something in return’ doesn’t always have to be a red-letter award or a huge discount. Of course, consumers are willing to trade data for a discount, but many will share their product preferences in exchange for exclusive access, unlocking content, or the chance to feel part of your brand’s community. In fact, more than half of UK consumers say they would trade personal and preference data to feel part of a brand’s community, according to a report by Cheetah Digital.

Retailers can provide this with interactive experiences that conduct research, collect options and provide an overall better experience while exchanging value for the consumer. Questionnaires, surveys, quizzes, contests or social stories can include reward mechanics that give consumers a real reason to engage and submit their first- and zero-party data.


Reckitt Benckiser

One of Reckitt Benckizer’s brands, Veet (“hair removal experts”), used a survey and a Spotify playlist to attract potential consumers on Instagram. To support its #readyforanything messaging, Veet has set up a Cheetah Experience to create a survey by swiping behind an Instagram ad. He asked users what big night they were getting ready for.

An exclusive discount and select Spotify playlist creator offered in exchange for providing valuable first-party data. The brand collected 500,000 unique listings with this strategy.

For back-to-school-focused retailers, it would be fairly simple to survey what parents are most excited about when their children return to the classroom and provide a back-to-school-themed playlist. Something along the lines of The Jackson 5’s ABC, perhaps?


More than half a century Vans not only delivers authentic skating shoes for skaters, but also clothing that reflects the individual personality and style of the rider. Walk down any high street and you’ll see someone with a van.

Over the past few years, Vans (primarily a retailer) has embarked on a rapid digital transformation to capture the behavioral and preference data needed to build deeper, more meaningful customer relationships. But instead of finding sneaky ways to collect data, sniff out customers or figure out what makes them take action; created its pioneering Vans’ Family loyalty program — an award-winning benchmark for every loyalty initiative and channel.

What sets the Vans’ Family loyalty program apart from the competition is that rather than the familiar points-win-rewards scheme with discounts and coupons, the program celebrates its fans by giving them access to exclusive products, early releases, events, collaborations and experiences like gear measures.

Download the back to school white paper here.

Are you interested in the world’s leading brands personally discussing such topics? Learn more about World Digital Marketing Forum (#DMWF) Europe, London, North America and Singapore.

Tags: campaigns, cookies, school

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