First-party data is firsthand knowledge about your customers, and it’s a powerful tool for creating targeted marketing campaigns, especially as advertising cookies disappear.

Advertising cookies, or digital trackers used to collect data, have long allowed marketers to collect data on users’ online behaviours and preferences to help refine marketing campaigns.

However, Google is phasing out third-party cookies in Chrome, prompting businesses to explore new strategies for targeting their marketing efforts and understanding their audiences.

A critical element in successfully navigating this change involves using first-party data. Adapting to the changes brought about by Google’s recent shift away from third-party cookies is both necessary and an opportunity for businesses.

Leveraging first-party data for long-term success allows your business to navigate changes and move ahead of competitors who may not make the shift as smoothly.

What is first-party data?

First-party data refers to information you collect directly from your customers or website users. It comes straight from the people who interact with your website, engage with your content and make purchases from your business.

These customers willingly share with you their preferences and behaviours. This data could include their purchase history, website visits, feedback and any other information they voluntarily provide through different interactions with your company.

First-party data is valuable because it’s authentic. It’s direct feedback from your customers. This information provides a wealth of insights you can use to improve your marketing strategies, ad targeting and products or services you sell. It also helps you build stronger relationships and rapport with your audience.

First-party data vs. advertising cookies

Let’s compare first-party data to advertising cookies, which have been enabling marketing strategies via third-party data for years.

First-party data

Imagine first-party data as the friendly information your customers willingly share with you. This includes details like their preferences, purchase history and interactions with your website or services.

It’s authentic and reliable data collected directly from your customers. Think of it as the foundation of your business insights, helping you understand your customers on a personal level.

Feedback customers provide on your website is first-party data. So is their purchase history with your business. You’re deliberately collecting and protecting this customer information and using it to guide your marketing efforts.

Advertising cookies and third-party data

Advertising cookies are attached to websites you visit but aren’t owned by the website itself. These little trackers collect information about your online activities behind the scenes. This can include the websites you visit and the products you browse online. Advertisers use this third-party data to create a picture of user activity across the web to help understand how to market to you more effectively.

When you visit an online store and later see a similar ad in one of your social media feeds, it’s the result of third-party data collected by advertising cookies.

Why first-party data is leading the charge

Google is moving away from advertising cookies as part of a broader industry trend toward enhancing user privacy and addressing concerns related to data tracking. Cookies have their drawbacks, even while being valuable for ad targeting and personalizing user experiences.

  • Privacy concerns

Cookies track user behaviour across websites, raising privacy concerns as users may feel their online activities are being monitored without their consent.

Some users find persistent and intrusive tracking through cookies to be invasive and disruptive to their online experience, leading to a negative perception of the websites and platforms using these tracking methods.

  • Third-party data accuracy

Third-party cookies can be full of inaccuracies, potentially leading to misguided marketing efforts based on flawed or outdated data.

  • Use of ad blockers

The rise in the use of ad blockers is partly a response to users seeking to avoid the tracking associated with cookies, limiting the effectiveness of traditional cookie-based advertising.

  • Regulatory compliance

More robust data protection regulations, such as the Consumer Privacy Protection Act, have imposed stricter rules on user data collection and necessitated more transparent consent options, challenging the traditional use of cookies.

Google’s plan to transition away from advertising cookies aligns with these considerations, signalling a shift towards safeguarding consumer privacy and prioritizing user consent.

5 benefits of collecting first-party data to use in marketing

Understanding how first-party data can impact your business in positive ways is the first step to overhauling how you’ve approached consumer data in the past.

Here are a few ways first-party data can enable more effective marketing:

1.     Reliable insights

First-party data gathered directly from your website visitors and customers can be a trustworthy source of information. It’s more dependable than third-party data and becomes a solid foundation for more effective marketing efforts. With more accurate data, you can create stronger connections with your audience and build trust each time you get it right.

2.     Personalized marketing

With insights from first-party data, you can create personalized marketing journeys. This approach allows you to tailor campaigns to specific customer groups, nurturing high-quality and more relevant leads. Understanding your customers on a deeper level helps you create messaging and campaigns that resonate, leading to more meaningful interactions.

3.     Optimized offers and campaigns

First-party data serves as a valuable tool for understanding customer preferences and behaviours. Leveraging this data enables businesses to optimize their advertising and product offerings, ensuring they align with real customer insights. By staying attuned to market demands, you can consistently meet evolving needs and expectations.

4.     Cost savings

Relying on third-party data has always come with risks, uncertainties and potential inaccuracies. On the other hand, first-party data reduces dependence on external sources, leading to cost savings as you refine your marketing strategy. Building an in-house library of accurate data empowers strategic decisions that align with your business goals while mitigating the risk you’ll invest based on inaccurate data.

5.     Adopting tools for a competitive edge

Having the right tools can enable more efficient marketing and expand your reach. Investing in analytics platforms and other data management tools can help you make the most of your marketing efforts with data-driven decisions.

Handling first-party data: compliance and privacy concerns

When collecting and handling first-party data, marketers must prioritize privacy and compliance.

Here are a few ways to be sure your data collection is being done mindfully and in accordance with local regulations and general best practices.

  • Communicate to customers what data you’re collecting, why and how it will be used, and obtain their explicit consent.
  • Create and implement robust security measures to safeguard customer data.
  • Comply with data protection regulations and other applicable laws in your area.
  • Establish clear data retention policies outlining how long you will store customer data and regularly purge unnecessary data.
  • Provide customers with ways to access and control their data.
  • Conduct regular assessments to identify and address potential vulnerabilities or non-compliance issues.
  • Develop a clear and effective response plan in case of a data breach.
  • Choosing a trusted partner to help with first-party data.

It could be time to dive into collecting and protecting first-party data to support your marketing efforts. Look for a partner that has built tools and services with first-party data and privacy at their core to help you reach your audiences at scale in all environments.

The right partner can help you leverage first-party data by:

Enhancing data value:

  • Segmentation: Find a partner that can help to segment your platform’s users based on data they provide about demographics, interests and behaviour. This allows you to target specific groups with higher relevance and efficiency.
  • Data clean rooms: Look for a partner who can offer data collaborations through secure data clean rooms. This facilitates sharing audience information while adhering to privacy regulations. You can use your data alongside a potential partner’s anonymized audience segments for look-alike modelling to reach a wider relevant audience.

Content and ad targeting:

  • Contextual targeting: You can use first-party data to enhance contextual advertising. By understanding the context of a user’s visit, you can display relevant ads. For example, someone reading a travel article might be served an ad for a travel promotion.
  • Retargeting and remarketing: With help from an experienced partner, you can retarget users who have previously interacted with your content. With this approach, you can serve relevant ads to users who visited specific pages, encouraging them to complete desired actions, such as making a purchase.  

Building trust and transparency:

  • Transparency initiatives: Look for a partner who can clearly communicate how user data is collected, used and protected. This builds trust with their users, making them more likely to share their data, which ultimately benefits your marketing.
  • Privacy-focused solutions: It’s wise to work with someone who has adopted privacy-preserving technologies like first-party cookies. This assures users that their data is handled responsibly while still providing the valuable insights you need.

Book a consultation with a Postmedia expert to ensure you’re on the right track.