How to Build First Party Data Strategy, Step by Step

How to Build First Party Data Strategy, Step by Step

JK Sparks 5 min

No one’s tracking you anymore. At least that’s the goal of shifts in data collection in the coming years, with big-time data miners like Google pledging to stop tracking by the end of 2024.

But while this is an obvious win for web users, it leaves businesses wondering what comes next. The obvious answer: collecting first-party data. As opposed to third-party tracking, first-party data is information you gather direct from customers and web visitors with their express permission.

What is a first-party data strategy?

A first-party data strategy is your action plan for acquiring, collecting, and analyzing proprietary data from your customers—with their permission. This is especially important as the web moves on from older, third-party data tracking techniques.

A first-party data strategy is essential in a world where third party cookies are going out the window and data privacy is becoming a top concern. You need a first-party data strategy to get a head start on a new era of data collecting. But more importantly, first-party data is a great way to leverage your existing audience and uncover proprietary data your competitors won’t have. Here’s how you can do it.


What Goes Into a First-Party Data Strategy

Welcome to the era of first-party data. The good news? Using more direct relationship marketing for your customers means you’ll start to prioritize relationships over transactions.

The bad news: it could be a bumpy ride before many marketing teams get fully on board.

Collecting first-party data can result in healthier marketing habits on your end. After all, a first-party data strategy allows visitors and customers to hand over their data willingly, through channels like signing up for a newsletter, subscribing to your community, or answering surveys you send out.

But there’s more to an overall data strategy than how you get the data. You’ll also need to know:

  • How do you collect the data? Surveys, polls, data from customer support? Email captures for newsletters, phone number captures from SMS lists? How you collect the data will depend on your existing customer engagement strategy.

  • How do you manage the data? First-party data often comes in raw, unfiltered formats. You need to know how to parse it out, segment your customers, and find insights before you can fully use it.


Steps to Building a First-Party Data Strategy

The problem with building a solid first-party data strategy? Big, technical phrases like “first-party data collection” sound overwhelming. You may have no idea where to start. But you can build a first party data strategy by breaking it down into its constituent parts, then build a tech stack to enable each step. Let’s start with the basics.

  • Step One: Get GDPR-compliant. The General Data Protection Regulation regulations in the E.U. serve as a strong guideline for best practices. Learn the rules—such as being transparent about your data collection processes and using said data for express commercial purposes—to build the foundation for everything that comes next.

  • Step Two: Choose your data sources. Website funnels, user surveys, applications, games, newsletters, subscriptions—anything that requires audience participation is an opportunity to ask for permission to use your customers’ data. Your challenge will be to pick your battles. Find the best data sources to 1) yield as much data as possible and 2) not ruin the user experience.

  • Step Three: Parse your data into insights. Build a “customer profile” to get a sense of who your typical target customer is. Think of this as a blueprint for all of your data. The chief benefit of this blueprint is it will point to any holes in your customer profile. Are there questions you’ve left unanswered? If so, you can use these gaps to inform your future data collection efforts.

If you’re unsure how to start, try consulting with your customer experience team. They’ll likely have the customer journey insights you need to optimize your data collection into the personalized experiences you’ve built. Are customers happy to fill out surveys? Would they rather fill out quizzes or interact on your mobile app?

Once you dial your strategy into the direct relationship you’ve created with each customer, you can start collecting data points without relying on third-party data. And you can rely on this data repeatedly when forming a marketing strategy for future campaigns.


The Tech Stack Needed to Support a First-Party Data Strategy

Retargeting. Real-time advertising data. Knowing your key customer touchpoints. Analyzing your social media engagement. Proper customer attribution for each data point. This is what we’ve come to expect from the era of third-party data, but it sounds intimidating when you try to capture the data yourself.

The solution? Build a tech stack to support your first-party data strategy, emphasizing the following elements:

  • CRM: Customer relationship management software can collect first-party data without losing sight of the individual customer relationships you’re building.

  • CDP: Your customer data platform is how you’ll consolidate your data set into one single, integrated database. Use cases might include building your customer profile or segmenting different areas of your audience.

  • Data warehouse: A data warehouse is your skeleton key for data management, housing everything from customer purchase history to the key marketing metrics you want to monitor as you grow.

  • Owned media software: This is how you engage with target audiences directly. Rather than building an audience on Twitter or LinkedIn, you’re using your own platform to build loyalty. Whether that’s an SMS messaging list, a newsletter, or your in-house loyalty programs, you’ll need a platform to support this software that connects you as directly as possible with your audience.


Incorporating a First-Party Data Strategy into Your Digital Marketing

You can’t build a large audience without a little first-party data trickling your way. But the end of the third-party era means you’ll need more than a trickle in the coming years. That means you need to cultivate a more direct relationship with your new customers. And without proper data governance on the back end, you’ll struggle to discover key audience segments driving your results.

When you switch to a first-party data strategy, you’ll be ahead of the curve in many ways:

  • You’ll be compliant with GDPR and Google regulations. This will help keep your data gathering strategy on great terms with digital marketing regulations for years to come.

  • You can create data-driven, individualized customer profiles. Since data comes directly from your customers, you can track them with laser focus: their purchase history, their lifetime value, and preferences that could potentially guide your business into the future.

Collecting first-party data doesn’t have to be as hard as it sounds. You can adhere to new privacy regulations without losing customer retention by incorporating a solid tech stack. Using AudiencePlus can help by giving you the platform to grow your brand on media channels you own, making first-party data easier to collect.

But that’s another post altogether. In the meantime, Follow AudiencePlus on Twitter to keep up-to-date on everything happening in the world of marketing data.



JK Sparks | About the Author

Head of Marketing, AudiencePlus

JK is allergic to the words “guru, ninja, and hack” when used to describe anything marketing related. Instead of chasing the latest “growth hack,” he’s focused on building sustainable and predictable levers that fuel long term success. By implementing this approach over the last decade, JK has helped organizations in both bootstrapped and well-funded environments scale from <$100K to more than $100M in revenue. You can follow him here.

JK Sparks 5 min

How to Build First Party Data Strategy, Step by Step

With third-party cookies going away and data privacy a greater concern than ever, a first-party data strategy is essential - learn how to build one.

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