The future of e-commerce is not personalization. this is:

The opinions expressed by the entrepreneurs are their own.

If you’re having a hard time remembering when e-commerce wasn’t a thing, congratulations! Are you normal? However, the environment is evolving as we speak and retailers are now building their own advertising platforms.

The future of the industry is leveraging first-party data on these platforms to deliver a more connected consumer experience and improve advertiser revenue without compromising customer privacy. But, to know where we’re going (and why it’s so impressive), we need to know where we’ve been.

Related: Forget about third party data. You’re already missing out on most of your first-party data

E-commerce was once the Wild West

If you could step into a time machine and set the controls to the beginning of the dot-com era, you’d only begin to see the seeds of modern retail media sprouting in the fresh soil of the Internet. Back then, Amazon and Paypal were babies. Many of the companies exploring the new digital landscape were “pure play” like; no physical stores. Then, in the late 90s and early 2000s, brick-and-mortar “big box” retailers began creating their own dot-coms. Think,, and

Let’s say you were a brand or vendor looking to advertise with pure play or big box companies. They were game, at the right price. You would raise thousands of dollars in market development funds (MDF) for things like homepage banners or email blasts. The company would put your logo on their website and if the stars align, your sales would skyrocket.

The data inherent in this paid landscape was so barren that you’d be lucky to see a bang for your buck and partnership. Forget modern marketing tools and metrics such as return on sales reports, impressions, click-through rates (CTR) or purchase behavior. And without them, good luck tracking your return on investment (ROI) performance.

Around 2007, the hall’s doors were opened. In stepped programmatic marketing and Adzinia Media Group (ancestor of Amazon Ads), which allowed marketers and brands to use automated processes to buy ad inventory. But it wasn’t until 2012 that advertisers began receiving data from these services. The breakthrough came in 2016 when Amazon, Triad Media Group, Criteo and several others introduced compliance arm rests and performance metrics.

Related: Opportunity for premium inventory amid retail media growth

Personalization brings some law and order

When the big box companies finally got their hands on consumer data, things started to get a little more civilized in the digital Wild West—or rather, personalized. The goal was to use consumer data to provide an optimal, customized experience.

Major retailers have developed tools to drive traffic to their websites and stores using their first-party 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 receive a certain level of performance metrics.

Catching? Sales still closed through a larger retailer. Brands could represent their products with badges or other endorsements from the retailer, but their own brand was as visible as rocks in a bucket of mud. All the traffic went back to the retailers’ websites, not the brands. Likewise, any physical advertising salespeople get in these retailers’ brick-and-mortar locations drives consumers right back to big-box stores.

Related: Opportunity for premium inventory amid retail media growth

Let’s finish taming the city

Today, we’re entering another round of advertiser refinement. As consumer data tracking laws evolve to promote privacy, and as the ability to use third-party tracking dies, “personalization” is an overused word.

The new approach, which is important when you think about the volume of products, brands and sales channels we see today; contact.

Retailers understand that they need to work with a larger, more general audience. (Superbowl, anyone?) Success now 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 resonates with the brand.

This focus on emotion makes a huge difference. The study found that clients who have both a positive emotional connection and overall satisfaction with an investment firm are six times more likely to pool their assets with that firm than those who are merely satisfied.

Advertisers who combine emotional connection with first-party retail data will literally change the media landscape.

Amazon, which has tons of data through publisher properties like Twitch and FreeVee (formerly IMDb), is leading the way with this new method. They open up their platform to serve ads from Amazon’s website. While you can still direct buyers to close sales on Amazon, if you’re like most brands, selling direct to the consumer is probably more profitable than paying a fee. If you sell products on Amazon and have a website, they can help drive traffic to your dot-com and close sales there. If you can do it, guess what? You can now collect buyers’ email, shipping and other data to contact buyers.

Related: How to Build Your Digital Marketing Momentum in 2023

A revolution in the digital sky

Now imagine being able to hash your own first-party data from your e-commerce site against the retailer’s first-party data. Imagine using it to identify audiences with a high affinity for your brand who didn’t pull the trigger and buy. Here’s what the future looks like as it evolves to adopt a model that will benefit retail media companies, vendors, brands and consumers. A growing commitment to consumer privacy means relying on this information to offer shoppers security in their transactions.

As retailers prioritize connection over personalization, nothing stops using first-party data to build stronger, more direct customer relationships through actionable measurement. First-party data is transforming media and e-commerce, offering a fun, data-driven journey for those willing to take advantage of it.

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