3 reasons why Cookies are the future of Personalised Experiences


Oliver McGough

April 21, 2015

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The cookie has been long lamented as a marketer’s weapon. A tool used against the user in aid of underhanded promotional tactics, to collect (and even distribute) personal data without knowledge nor consent.

To us lucky EU members, this rampage was brought to an attempted halt May 2011. The Cookie policy brought in aiming to teach web users what was happening to their online data, what companies were doing with it. Allowing users to opt out of cookie storage. Now a by-word for advertising, despite sweet comparisons the cookie has bittersweet connotations to many.

Yet, not all hope is lost. Many believe that this year – 2015 – is the year the cookie strikes back. A year in which the cookie will banish its past misuse, and move towards a friendlier future.

First things first.. What is a Cookie?

Not quite as palatable as it’s chocolate-chipped namesake, as cookie is a simple text file stored on your computer, mobile device, or whatever it is you use to browse the web.

This text file records user activity on a website, storing specified data. Usually this will be your login info, or text fields you’ve completed. When you return to the site in the future, it will look in your file to pull any data it can to be used.

Hence why when you visit Facebook, you needn’t login every time! This simple file can have many other uses, uses which can immensely improve a site’s user experience – from text fields and to beyond.

Examples of personalised experiences:

Easing the experience

Auto-filled form fields

Hubspot collects extracts of my data on each visit, leaving the form filled auto-filled with data they already have. It’s pointless asking me again, and ensures a higher chance of conversion

We all hate form fields. We all hate filling in names, date of births, email addresses, or pet’s names for the 1000th time.

By retaining data from past visits, cookies ensure we can bypass this cumbersome step in the experience. Auto-filled form fields, though creepy at first glance, are a huge timesaver. They ensure the next time we visit, we need not bother filling out the same form fields again.

Saving lost progress

Usabilla Live Campaigns detect when a user has dropped out with unsaved data, asking if they’d like to restore lost work – saving valuable time and heartache.

Form fields are the obvious use, but the power of the cookie is so much greater than saving simple keywords. With the unbridled power of the internet growing day-on-day, the web-application boom real.

As more applications move to this online format, we need online methods to manage not only simple user data, but time-consuming work. This opens up another use for the cookie – the auto save.

In the case above, as the user builds their survey their creation is saved to their cookies at each change. So should the internet suddenly drop, or our user nonchalantly closes their browser, the fruit of their labour isn’t entirely dead. Saved to their cookies, the next time they log in – hurra! Cookies to the rescue.

Shameless Usabilla self promotion, I know, but it’s a great example of unorthodox cookie use.

Developing relationships

We often forget users are people with feelings and emotions. People that strive off of relationships (Ok, this all getting a bit too deep).

Yet the vast majority of us are guilty of this oversight. We serve everyone the same website on their first… second… third… hundredth… visit. Serving users in a monotonous, robotic fashion.

Users want to be appreciated, loved, and embraced. Welcome them, discover them, and work for them. We can see repeat visits, we can see first time visits, and we can see their history on this site. Why not play with that?

Delivering relevant content

We’re into Google’s realm. A realm where Youtube and Google Search are kings. Ever wonder why when you search even the most obscure of phrases, they always seem somewhat relevant? Why no matter what random youtube video you’re watching, the recommendations are always ideal for you?

Many get caught up in the SEO game, forgetting that google actually serves content relevant to individual users, not based on a ra king borne of a checklist. Searches are based off of search history. Afterall that is the only way to reliably increase Click through rate (CTR) – to serve users content they are going to reliably click.

This works for our websites in the same way. Look at what the user has clicked in the past, and serve them something they didn’t see last time relevant to that visit. Deliver content relevant to your user.

Got your own great cookie ideas/examples? Throw them in the comments below.

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