The future of e-commerce isn’t personalization, it’s this.

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If you’re having trouble remembering when e-commerce didn’t exist, congratulations. you’re normal. Still, the environment is developing as we speak, and retailers are now building their own advertising platforms.

The future of the industry is to use proprietary data within these platforms, without compromising customer privacy, to provide a more connected consumer experience and improve advertiser returns. But to know where we’re going (and why it’s so awesome), we need to know where we’ve been.

Related: Forget third-party data. You are already losing most of your own data

Ecommerce was once the Wild West

If you could step into a time machine and set the controls to the dawn of the dot-com era, you would only begin to see the seeds of modern retail media sprouting from the fresh soil of the Internet. Back then, Amazon and Paypal were babies. Most companies exploring the new digital landscape were “pure” like, with no physical stores involved. Then, in the late 1990s and early 2000s, large physical retailers began creating their own dotcoms. Think,, and

Let’s say you were a brand or a marketer who wanted to advertise with pure or large companies. They were a game, for the right price. I would spend thousands of dollars in market development funds (MDF) for things like homepage banners or email blasts. The company would put their logo on their website, and if the stars were to align, their sales would increase.

The data inherent in this pay-to-play landscape was so sterile that you would be lucky to see a tumbleweed in exchange for your funds and your association. Forget modern marketing tools and metrics like return sales reports, impressions, click-through rate (CTR), or purchase behavior. And without that, good luck tracking your return on investment (ROI) efficiency.

Around 2007, the doors of the salon opened. Enter programmatic marketing and Adzinia Media Group (the ancestor of Amazon Ads), which allowed sellers and brands to use automated processes to buy ad inventory. But it wasn’t until 2012 that advertisers started getting data from these services. The big breakthrough came in 2016 when Amazon, Triad Media Group, Criteo, and a few others introduced relevance railings and performance metrics.

Related: The Premium Inventory Opportunity Amid the Retail Media Boom

Personalization brings some law and order

With big companies finally able to take advantage of consumer data, things in the digital Wild West started to get a little more civilized or, more accurately, personalized. The goal was to use consumer data to provide an optimal and personalized experience.

Major retailers have developed tools to drive traffic to their websites and stores using their own shopper behavior data. Walmart, for example, created Walmart Connect, while Best Buy used Criteo. Both companies used The Trade Desk for programmatic display advertising. With these tools in hand, advertisers could “buy” online space and gain some level of performance metrics.

The capture? Sales were still closed through the largest retailer. Brands could present their products with badges or other verification of the retailer, but their own brand was as visible as rocks in a bucket of mud. All traffic returned to the retailer sites, not the brand sites. In the same way, sellers of physical ads purchased at the physical locations of these retailers drove consumers back to the big box stores.

Related: The Premium Inventory Opportunity Amid the Retail Media Boom

let’s finish taming the town

Today, we’re entering another refinement period for advertisers. As consumer data tracking laws evolve to favor privacy, and the ability to use third-party tracking disappears, “personalization” is a buzzword in excess.

The new approach, which is critical when you think about the volume of products, brands, and sales channels we’re seeing today, is Connection.

Retailers understand that they have to work with larger and more general audiences. (Superbowl, anyone?) Now, success means ad content that focuses on emotional attachment. It doesn’t matter who the audience is, just that they can relate to the message and that it generates affinity with the brand.

This focus on emotion makes a world of difference. One study found that clients who had both a positive emotional connection and overall satisfaction with an investment firm were six times more likely to consolidate their assets with that firm than those who were simply satisfied.

Advertisers that combine emotional connection with the retailer’s own data will literally change the media landscape.

Amazon, which owns tons of data via properties from publishers like Twitch and FreeVee (formerly IMDb), is leading the pack in this new method. They are opening up their platform to run ads outside of the Amazon website. Although you can still direct shoppers to close a sale on Amazon, if you’re like most brands, selling direct to consumer is probably more cost-effective than paying a fee. If you sell a product on Amazon and have a website, they can help drive traffic to your dot com and close the sale there. If you can do that, guess what? You can now collect email, shipping, and other buyer data to connect with buyers.

Related: How to Leverage Your Digital Marketing Momentum in 2023

Revolutionizing the digital horizon

Now imagine being able to encode your own data from your e-commerce site with your own data from retailers. Imagine leveraging it to identify audiences with a strong affinity for your brand who haven’t pulled the trigger and bought. This is what the future looks like as you evolve to embrace a model that benefits media retailers, marketers, brands, and consumers. Increased commitment to consumer privacy means relying on this information to offer buyers security in their transactions.

With retailers prioritizing connection over personalization, nothing stands in the way of leveraging first-party data to build stronger, more direct customer relationships, with actionable metrics. Source data is transforming media and e-commerce, offering a data-driven fun ride for those ready to take advantage of it.

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