How to Collect First-Party Data for Better Marketing and CX

How to Collect First-Party Data for Better Marketing and CX

JK Sparks 5 min

In a few years, there’s a chance we won’t use the phrase “first-party data.” We’ll just call it data.

That’s because there’s been a silent revolution in the world of data collection. We’ve previously defined first-party data as the customer data you acquire from your own sources: websites and email sign-ups. By 2024, Google aims to phase out third-party cookies tracking customer behavior. You’d better be ready with a glut of your own first-party data. After the word “data” online may become synonymous with “data we tracked ourselves.”

Phasing out by 2024 means the clock’s ticking on your data strategy. Here’s how to get on track with your first-party data collection before then.

What you’ll learn in this article

  • How and Where to Collect First-Party Data

  • Benefits of First-Party Data (vs. Second- and Third-Party Data)

  • How to Use First-Party Data for Better Marketing and CX

  • How to Audit Your First-Party Data Collection

  • Future-Proof Your Marketing with First-Party Data


How and Where to Collect First-Party Data

First-party data is simple to define, but even if you acquire it yourself, that still leaves multiple avenues. Let’s explore some of the most popular:

  • Email sign-ups where customers hand over basic data (email address, first and last name) on your website

  • Registration forms (like signing up for webinars) that collect more detailed customer contact information and demographics

  • Customer surveys you send directly via email

  • Lifting customer preferences and other data from direct conversations via customer support

  • Data you’ve collected directly from customers and saved in CRM, or a customer relationship manager

In other words, the answer to “how and where” is “anywhere and everywhere.” You just need the systems and incentives in place to persuade customers to share their data with you.


Benefits of First-Party Data (vs. Second- and Third-Party Data)

The primary benefit of first-party data: it isn’t platform-dependent. If you collect the data yourself, you won’t run out. You’ll be in full ownership of the data, which has all sorts of ancillary benefits.

You can use it to drive LinkedIn or other social media content or run retargeting campaigns your competition can’t. You can create personalized experiences based on what customers are telling you about their preferences. In all, first-party data gives you ownership over your ability to improve your offerings.

Most importantly, you’ll be flexible enough to handle when Google and Apple iOS finally phase out third-party data tracking for good. Though mobile apps may struggle with this, 70% of respondents in a Deloitte survey believe digital advertising as a whole will remain just as capable.

If you own your own data sources by the end of 2024, you’ll have all the advantages of data collection—with none of the drawbacks.

That’s where the value of an owned audience comes in. As we noted there, consumer media businesses can use first-party data to understand which customers are the best targets for their monetization offers. Using tools like audience segments to enhance personalization won’t only be beneficial—it will be necessary to compete with other consumer media businesses. And there’s simply no way to buy or rent this first-party data. You can only develop it yourself.


How to Use First-Party Data for Better Marketing and CX

Once you have a strategy for collecting first-party data, you’ll need somewhere for that data to go. A CRM? An e-commerce tool? CMS? A loyalty program? Feeding it into social media platforms to help ideate content?

It will depend on your goals. But marketers can use customer data to improve the experience on a website or in-app through a few strategies:

  • Audience segmentation. With first-party data handy, divide your audience into their preferences using a variety of measurements: psychographics, demographics, behaviors, pain points, and more. Using this data, create data-driven customer profiles so you know who you’re marketing to. Similarly, use first-party data like customer feedback via conversations and surveys to drive improvements to your CX.

  • Map your customer journey. With enough data points, you can have a cookieless map of the customer journey that reveals customer preferences. For example, when are they most likely to convert into buyers? Something as simple as Google Analytics running on your website can provide the metrics you need to sense how your first-party data strategy can fuel future insights and change the way you convert readers into subscribers or customers.

  • Improve attribution. As you gather more precise personal data, you can see where potential customers became customers by improving your attribution. Surveys, for example, have been asking customers how they came across a business since the dawn of the Internet. Use your first-party data to improve attribution and help you decide which marketing campaigns are truly moving the needle.

  • Improve branding. As your company collects more data, you can use customer preferences to drive messaging with email marketing, landing pages, social media, and more. First-party data may not have much of an impact on brand awareness, but the direct relationships you cultivate with individual customers will help you shape better brand messaging for future customers.


How to Audit Your First-Party Data Collection

Maybe none of this is news to you and you’ve started first-party data collection efforts. How do you know if the systems you have in place are going to drive the kinds of results businesses have gotten used to in the era of third-party data tracking? Conduct an audit of your first-party data collection with the following in mind:

  • Identify your data sources. Website analytics? CRM databases? Customer interactions? Look for any asymmetries here that suggest you’re leaning too far in one category while ignoring data from other potentially potent sources.

  • Evaluate your data quality. Is the data up-to-date, for example, or does it use data from months or even years ago? Evaluate context as well. Customer survey responses are great, but if those responses occurred before some sort of game-changing technology in your industry, they might be outdated.

  • Analyze your performance. Look for signs that your metrics aren’t quite where they should be. Have your engagement rates and conversion rates gone up after you started using first-party data? If not, what are the gaps in your data collection that’s leaving you vulnerable?

  • Check your tools. Google Analytics isn’t the only tool here. Adobe Analytics, Snowplow, and Optimizely each have first-party data features. You’ll want to make sure you match the solutions you use with your ideal collection strategies. Optimizely, for example, helps you gather on-page data for an enhanced web experience.


Future-Proof Your Marketing with First-Party Data

The cookie-less future isn’t some distant dream of big-data platforms like iOS and Google. It’s nearly here. If everything goes according to schedule, we’re closer to Google’s goal to remove third-party tracking than we are to its initial announcement in 2021.

That’s why “earning” your own data can help you future-proof your own marketing efforts. GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation), for example, is the European Union’s data privacy and protection legislation. Companies that already had a head start on their first-party data didn’t have to be concerned about what this legislation would do to them. Those who didn’t bother migrating from third- and second-party data, however, suddenly found themselves scrambling.

First-party data—owning your own data—means never having to scramble again.



How does owned media help with first-party data collection?

Owned media provides you with the channels to collect more comprehensive first-party data. Think of clear first-party data as another benefit to the owned media strategy. But rather than scrambling to keep up with changing regulations and policies, you’re always in full possession of the customer data you need to improve marketing and UX.

How does GDPR affect first-party data collection?

GDPR has been in effect since 2018, and it’s actually helped the transition to first-party data because it’s gotten more customers used to sharing data with companies when it’s what they freely choose. For that reason, customers may be more inclined to share their data with you, assuming that you can entice them to by producing great content as well.

What are the security and privacy implications of first-party data collection?

More data means more security responsibility. Everything from a customer’s purchase history to whether they’re visiting you on Chrome may be in your data vaults. With GDPR, for example, there are regulations in place that determine what each company has to do to maintain the privacy and security of its first-party data. That’s why it’s probably a good idea to start with established first-party data platforms that can help ensure your data remains secure.



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 Collect First-Party Data for Better Marketing and CX

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