Google and Apple, the two companies that act as the major players in all things data, have made it clear that they are not going to allow the use of third-party cookies (by discouraging cross-site tracking) in the future.
As a marketer, or as a business owner, that’s a good enough sign to start thinking about how you can go about improving (or building, in case you don’t already have one) a first-party data strategy.
The numbers are stacked to favor you if you begin right now—according to an Econsultancy report, only 36% of marketers said they have a good understanding of how the disappearance of third-party data will impact their business.
Why is first-party data important?
Well, for one thing, it is much superior in quality when compared to third or second party data.
First-party data offers the opportunity to derive deep, precise behavioral and demographic insights about the customers which can help create 360-degree views, assist in making audience segmentation narrower, and play a significant role in building a relevant and effective communication strategy.
Also, first-party data has the great advantage of being available in your own backyard. You don’t have to buy it from another organization, you don’t need to worry about legal issues related to data privacy, and you can choose the data streams depending on how you need to use the data.
So, how to improve your first-party data strategy? Let’s look at a few ways you can do that and get ready for a cookieless future.
Be transparent with your customers
When you collect first-party data from your customers, it is important that you make clear to them the end goal you are planning to achieve with that data. You must also assure them that you are not going to sell their data to anyone else, that its security will be your responsibility.
By doing this you can build a relationship of mutual trust with your customers and put in place a smooth data collection process.
Think of it like this, when you download a music player on your phone, and it asks you for permission to access your contacts, are you able to trust that app?
On the other hand, when your customers understand that the data they are sharing with you is going to be used for making their experience better, they will be more than willing to share it.
For example, if your aim is to gain insights into the average age of your customers, you can ask them about their birthdays and tell them that you are going to use the data for giving them a special birthday discount. The touch of personalization will surprise you with the results it achieves.
Treat data collection like a marathon, not a sprint
When you decide the touchpoints you will use to gather customer data, and what data you will be gathering, always try and put yourself in the shoes of your customer.
So, for instance, if you ask for a customer’s income bracket within 10 seconds of them landing on your website, you will obviously scare them away.
That may be an exaggerated example meant to make a point, but you do need to be patient with a first-party data strategy. You may not end up with a mountain of data the way you did with third-party data, but you will be able to trust what you get, and you will save up a lot on the time and effort required to analyze it.
It is a good idea to begin small, by asking your customers to register their emails (most businesses are able to do this now by asking people to sign in with their Google accounts), and then using progressive profiling to get the right information at the right time.
Also, progressive profiling doesn’t have to be associated only with form-filling—there’s a lot of useful data that can be gathered by using click engagements creatively. That also brings us to event tracking.
Use event-based tracking
Event-based tracking is a useful alternative to collecting data with forms and clicks and it is especially significant when you are trying to understand the customer behavior in-depth.
Also, directly asking customers for information regarding their satisfaction with the business may not always work because they are not always able to articulate the issues they face.
For example, you might be facing a high churn rate because your check-out page takes too long to load properly, but your customers may be too frustrated to fill up a form telling you this.
By using event-based tracking you can monitor all the touchpoints in your customers’ journey, gather the data from them, and pass it on to various systems like CRM, Analytics, Ad Tech Platforms, Raw Data storage, and more.
After analyzing this data you can also identify the problematic silos in the customer journey and work on resolving them.
Read up more on what is customer journey mapping and how you can get going with it.
Set targets and keep a track
Adopting a first-party strategy is a relatively new decision for most businesses and the transition can feel a bit bumpy in the beginning.
A good way to ensure that your plans don’t fizzle out after the initial excitement of doing something new, you should set clear internal targets regarding first-party data acquisition.
This will serve as a necessary motivation and incentive in today’s time when the customers are getting more and more sensitive about sharing any additional information with brands.
The challenge for marketers is to focus on finding the right tactics for accelerating first-party data acquisition while also building a stronger connection with the customers. Once you have set the goals, you should get ready to track the progress you are making towards meeting them, and encourage a culture of iterative improvement.
To improve your first-party data strategy, you can also invest in the right expertise and technology you will need to sustain it.
A good Customer Data Platform, for example, is incredibly helpful since it is a one-stop software solution that can collect the data from all customer touchpoints and then sanitize that data to make it usable for various teams in the organization.