How you can start making the most of first-party data

Google’s phasing out of third-party cookies has left marketers scrambling to tap into the power of first-party data to continue reaching and connecting with audiences.

With a recent report estimating that nearly 75% of marketers still rely on data collected from third-party cookies, the need for brands to connect more directly with consumers through first-party data has never been more apparent.

So, what is first-party data, and how can it be more effectively gathered and used to shape personalised customer journeys and communications?

First-party data

Perhaps the biggest benefit of first-party data is that you own it – it’s data that you collect directly from your audience based on how they interact with your channels.

This might be through actions taken on your website, email subscriptions or apps, data within your CRM tools, or even information gathered through customer feedback or surveys. Due to the nature of this data, it encompasses a wide variety of attributes, such as user location, page visits, buying behaviours and even website or content interactions, providing quality insight into consumer behaviour and preference.

While this kind of data respects the privacy expectations of consumers, it also offers a powerful way to target qualified leads and personalise marketing campaigns. With a survey conducted by HubSpot finding that only 42% of marketers possessed basic demographic data on their target audience, a focus on first-party data offers brands the opportunity to build more detailed pictures of their target customers, and allocate marketing budget more effectively.

Gathering data from the source

Though consumer privacy expectations are at an all-time high, this does not mean your customers are completely unwilling to share personal information. In fact, research conducted by Google Ads found that around 90% of consumers are willing to part with some of their personal data for the right incentive, such as better convenience or personalisation.

As such, a key part of effectively gathering first-party data is determining what both you and your audience regard as a fair exchange. Some consumers may be perfectly content to share their email with a brand to gain regular product update emails, while others may require a more compelling reason, such as a discount code or coupon.

Another key consideration related to this when collecting first-party data from your audience is balancing privacy concerns with the type of and amount of data you are asking for. Get clear early on about the types of data you actually need to add value to your campaigns and marketing, as this will inform your data gathering strategy. Many brands ask for excessive information that in reality, does little to optimise or improve their campaigns, instead, focus on ROI-generating data points, such as website activity or purchasing behaviour, as these are much more likely to inform marketing activities.

Consumers are increasingly canny when it comes to parting with personal information, so taking a transparent approach to collecting only the data you need to drive better experiences and marketing communications is vital to establishing trust.

Leveraging first-party data

A solid data-collecting strategy is only one component of truly tapping into the power of first-party data. To optimise the use of the data you’ve gathered and draw real, actionable insights from it, you’ll need the right tools and systems to store and analyse the data you’ve collected, such as a data warehousing tool, customer relationship manager (CRM) or customer data platform (CDP). This allows you to effectively manipulate and analyse disparate data sets collected from your various channels, and makes ongoing data maintenance and clean-up easier, ensuring your data stays relevant and up to date.

Once you’ve organised your first-party data, it can be used to segment your audience, creating detailed buyer personalities to inform personalised email campaigns, offers tailored to individual customers based on buyer behaviour, or even content tailored towards various segments.

Similarly, the ability to create accurate segmentations within your audience is key to developing dynamic ad campaigns and tailoring your branding and messaging more effectively towards different demographics.

Building your brand through first-party data

According to the 2024 Personalisation Trends Report, a staggering 84% of European consumers cited their favourite brands as those that treat them like an individual. So, while the challenge of effectively gathering first-party data remains, brands who overcome this are uniquely placed to build genuine engagement and loyalty with their audiences.