Are UK businesses ‘back to school’ ready?

Written by Nick Watson, VP Client Success EMEA, Cheetah Digital


Cookies have long been a lunchbox favourite. However, when they’re of the ‘third-party’ variety, they leave a bad taste in the mouths of consumers everywhere, including those getting ready for back-to-school shopping. In fact, according to Cheetah Digital’s 2022 Digital Consumer Trends Index, 64% of U.K. consumers say they believe cookie tracking is “creepy”.

In a recent playbook, we deep dived into how UK businesses can connect with consumers in the back to school season in more personalised, authentic ways.


The ABCs of collecting data

Since the days of dial-up, roughly 30 years ago; intrusive, third-party cookies have followed users around the internet, reporting their activity and information back to marketers. And consumers are sick of it. So to win in the upcoming — and short — back-to-school purchasing window, it’s vital that retail marketers shift to a first- and zero-party data strategy to power their advertising and marketing initiatives.

The first rule of thumb, think “ABCDE” — always be collecting data, ethically. Grammar aside, this acronym will help you remember that data collected the right way is soon to be the only way. The future of marketing to individuals with relevance is all about asking them about their interests, motivations and desires, rather than inferring or ‘spying’ on them.

This type of data is called zero-party data. Forrester defines it as “a class of data that a customer intentionally and proactively shares with a brand, which can include preference data, purchase intentions, personal context and how the individual wants the brand to recognise her.”

Zero-party data empowers retail marketers to build direct relationships with customers. In turn, this helps to better personalise their marketing efforts, offers and product recommendations, which is vital in today’s landscape. According to Cheetah Digital’s report, there’s been a nearly 60% increase in U.K. consumers that feel frustrated with a brand whose personalisation initiatives fail to recognise their unique desires and needs.


The value exchange

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

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

As an example, retail marketers can deliver this with interactive experiences that conduct research, accrue opt-ins and deliver an overall better experience with a value exchange for the consumer. Questionnaires, polls, quizzes, contests or social stories can incorporate reward mechanics that give consumers a genuine reason to engage and submit their first- and zero-party data.


Embrace the power of email

To truly deliver better back-to-school email marketing and have emails that actually get noticed in noisy inboxes takes treating every recipient like an individual. That means, messaging that goes beyond a first name or lumping consumers into generic buyer personas. Getting your email opened, read, clicked and converted starts with building more meaningful relationships with consumers.

Email has consistently reigned supreme as U.K. consumers’ preferred channel for receiving offers, content, incentives and rewards from brands. In fact, according to Cheetah Digital’s report, when it comes to driving sales, email beats paid social and display advertising by up to 128% in the U.K. This is largely due to email’s hyper-personalisation capabilities.


Engage across every channel

Customers interact with an average of six digital touchpoints when engaging with a retail brand, oftentimes unpredictably, says Cheetah Digital’s report. Each of these experiences, whether it’s content on social media, landing on a website, offers from SMS or email or payment through wallet, etc. must be integrated to deliver a truly consistent experience. This is vital for letting your customer seamlessly move from one experience to another.

In fact, a true omnichannel experience is about putting the customer at the heart of your strategy, where all channels and touchpoints revolve around them — not merely the product.

Take this all-too-familiar customer experience for instance. A customer purchases new school shoes, which is a necessity purchase rather than desire. It’s not uncommon for this customer to be hounded with display ads, emails and personalised website content for kids’ school shoes for the next month even though she has no desire to purchase another pair anytime soon.

According to Cheetah Digital’s report, there’s been a near 60% increase in U.K. consumers who feel frustrated with a brand whose personalisation initiatives fail to recognise their unique desires and needs. This year, getting a personalised omnichannel experience right is the path to increased revenue in customer retention in a saturated back-to-school market.


Download the back-to-school white paper here.


About Cheetah Digital

Cheetah Digital is a cross-channel customer engagement solution provider for the modern marketer. The Cheetah Digital Customer Engagement Suite enables marketers to create personalised experiences, cross-channel messaging, and loyalty strategies, underpinned by an engagement data platform that can scale to meet the changing demands of today’s consumer. Many of the world’s best brands, including Starbucks, Hilton, Neiman Marcus, Levi’s, and Williams-Sonoma trust Cheetah Digital to help them drive revenue, build lasting customer relationships, and deliver a unique value exchange throughout the customer lifecycle. To learn more, visit


About the author

Nick Watson is VP Client Success EMEA at Cheetah Digital and has supported brands like Coca-Cola, Shell, Manchester City FC, Bauer Media and Reckitt Benckiser collect over 1.3 billion preference insights, purchase intentions and opt-ins from consumers to power truly personalised marketing. After many years at BBC Magazines and Tag: Worldwide, Nick joined Cheetah Digital to help create technology that made it easier for marketers to collect ‘zero party-data’ across all owned, earned and paid channels. Nick is now leading the Customer Success team in EMEA.

About Editor 2631 Articles
Lisa Baker is the Editor of International Business News. As the Owner of Need to See IT Publishing, Lisa is an experienced business and technology journalist and publisher.