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Marketing professionals in every vertical are searching for ways to target existing and potential customers without the use of third-party cookies. For many, the solution could lie in QR payments. Those that offer built-in loyalty programmes can turn transactional data into actionable insights and generate first-party data that can be used to boost revenue and build sales pipelines, while adhering to all new privacy requirements. 

For years, marketing professionals have relied on third-party cookies to understand consumers’ online behaviour better. Cookies help in tracking website visitors, which allows brands to improve the user experience, and, more importantly, to collect data that allows marketers to target ads to specific audiences. 

The downside is that they are also used to follow and track what website visitors are viewing even when they leave the brand’s website. And it was this that spurred on privacy advocates to push for use of them to be ended as part of the drive for greater user privacy. 

While they are no longer used by Safari and Firefox, when Google announced that third-party cookies were being phased out in 2023, marketers the world over scrambled to find ways to boost their first-party data in an effort to still deliver targeted marketing.  

“Accessing good first-party data has become urgent for marketers around the world. Many brands have been exceptionally successful at using third-party data to build and run campaigns. While changes will need to be made to marketing strategies, they all depend on building trusted databases of great first-party data. And for this to happen, brands need to look at every possible channel and at how these can help them gather customer information legally,” says Brett White, CEO of Zapper, an independent QR-code and URL-based mobile payments and rewards platform.

He believes loyalty programmes, which have already been very effectively used by many local retailers and banks, hold significant benefits as part of an omnichannel strategy. 

“Merchants that have designed and deployed loyalty programmes are in an excellent position to build solid first-party databases. Customers are willing participants and only too happy to share their information in return for tangible benefits. SA consumers in particular have shown themselves to be experts at gamifying loyalty and rewards programmes.  A well thought-through programme with meaningful benefits is guaranteed to drive business as well as to deliver an ever growing, up-to-date database for your marketing department,” White says. 

The 2021 Truth & BrandMapp Loyalty survey reveals that the average middle class South African is an active participant in at least nine loyalty programmes and that cash-back rewards and discount vouchers are the biggest drivers. 

Zapper has been partnering with a growing number of malls across the country in the past two years. QR codes printed on parking tickets are helping shoppers avoid queues to pay for their parking. Seeing them as more than just a convenience, however, mall management has jumped at the opportunity to join forces with their tenants, many of whom also offer Zapper payments. 

“When customers pay for parking using cash or card, no data about them is generated. However, when people pay with the Zapper app we are able to generate a significant amount of anonymised data about them. This can include, among others, the time spent at the shopping mall and the frequency of visits. What’s more, when tenants also use the app, additional insights can be gleaned, including transactions and average basket size per a store as well as frequency of visits by users to specific stores. The real power, however, kicks in when merchants activate the loyalty and rewards program that is part of the Zapper offering,” says White. 

Landlords and tenants can set up outreach campaigns based on the information derived from the loyalty programme. White explains that these campaigns can be targeted at cohorts or groups of shoppers who support a particular store in the mall, or even shoppers who tend to visit the mall at certain times.   

“We work with landlords and tenants to set up campaigns based on the insights derived from the app. For instance, it may be nice to offer free parking as an incentive or a thank you for shoppers who spend more than a certain amount at your store. Or, if we know certain users frequent the mall early in the morning, they could receive a voucher for a free coffee or a discounted breakfast at a restaurant.

“The power of building a database through a loyalty scheme is that it is completely within the law and good privacy practice, and you can turn insights into actions that have direct and measurable impact on your business. What’s more, when you work together with a number of stores in conjunction with mall management, the data of everyone can be pooled for much larger, co-ordinated marketing efforts. Like all things in life, the impact of many is far greater than the efforts of a few,” he says. 

As the retail environment becomes more and more competitive, the only way a store or mall can really differentiate themselves lies in the smart use of data, points out White. “Loyalty programmes allow you not only to understand your customers better but also to shift their behaviour - while at the same time giving them something meaningful in return,” he says.  

The big take-out: Merchants that have designed and deployed loyalty programmes are in an excellent position to build solid first-party databases.

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