Unlocking the Power of First-Party Data: Agility in a Changing Digital World

Starting in early 2024, Google is phasing out use of third party data collection (cookies) and now rendering first-party data the most important information for digital marketing. Whereas third party data relies on websites collecting and re-selling user insights, first-party data comes from users directly providing brands with their personal information; this shift is monumental for the digital economy

First-party data is the most trusted, relevant source of information about audience demographics, behaviors, and preferences because it comes directly, voluntarily, and often instantaneously. At the forefront of this change, Google says: 

Unlike third-party data that is often available to many different companies, first-party data is unique to your business…We found that those using first-party data for key marketing functions achieved up to a 2.9X revenue uplift and a 1.5X increase in cost savings. Despite its clear benefits, however, most brands aren’t yet harnessing first-party data’s full potential.”

First-party data can greatly enhance a brand’s understanding of their customers, providing the insights needed to shape compelling online experiences in real-time. As the world of digital marketing evolves dramatically, these tips can help unleash the power of first-party data for more targeted, profitable, and agile online marketing campaigns.

First-Party Data Acquisition and Activation Requires a Dynamic Tech Stack

Brands need dynamic tech stacks in place so they can securely and skillfully gather, store, analyze, and activate the valuable first-party data they collect over time. For businesses upgrading to more sophisticated first-party data structures, Google describes the process as “assessing digital marketing maturity” and then “[partnering] to fill any expertise gaps.”

Because resonant content experiences drive revenue outcomes, fragmented data that fails to present ongoing, holistic insights about audiences can’t be used to craft increasingly relevant user experiences that audiences expect. And audiences can tell! If a brand’s tech stack has first-party data collection and storage systems that leave splintered, siloed, or stagnant understanding of digital audiences, that brand’s digital authority in the eyes of consumers will diminish over time. Brands need tech stacks that can keep up with changing audiences and digital environments – and bring data together in actionable ways.

Precise, pertinent data acquisition and integrated storage capacities are not the only aspects of first-party data strategy that brands must consider when assessing digital maturity and tech partnerships. Once a company knows it’s consistently collecting the right information and storing this data in useful ways, it’s important for companies to have tools that accurately analyze that data to serve the best experiences and offers to their unique customers over time.

For instance, developments in artificial intelligence are supporting businesses in this process. AI tools can gather deeper insight into audiences, help craft content experiences or product suggestions, and adapt in real-time to fill gaps as they recognize audience patterns quickly. For example, the Wall Street Journal is a leader in first-party data based digital subscription products and is successfully using AI tools as part of its tech stack for analyzing digital ad operations and optimizing campaigns. Companies with the right technology in place for their unique brands and audiences will be able to capitalize on first-party data in responsive, agile ways, no matter how audience expectations shift.

Prioritizing Data Privacy and Security Builds Trust for First-Party Data Collection

Raised in online ecosystems, the large new generations of digital natives are expert at identifying brands who cater to their unique preferences at all times. In fact, they expect it! More audiences will migrate to competitors when they feel their high standards for digital privacy are not being respected, or when they believe brands are not transparent about how their data is being used.

If brands are to earn the trust required to collect these users’ first-party data, Google argues they must do more than have privacy setting choices:

Brands need to go beyond the basics to provide truly positive privacy experiences. This involves letting people know why their data is being collected, what it will be used for, and how the customer experience will be improved. All these factors combine to create transparency and build trust with your customers.”

Data security and data privacy rank as equally important to today’s online consumers – and it’s also essential to ensure ongoing data accuracy for many types of businesses. Brands need frequently updated internal policies ranging from employee training to regular vulnerability assessments to protect their most valuable digital asset – first-party data. 

Flexibility Is Critical for Successful First-Party Data Strategies 

The world of digital marketing is changing constantly – and so are digital audiences. With one of the biggest shifts in digital marketing history launching next year, companies need proactive first-party data strategies. Adaptability is key.

Digital analytics expert Alex Wilkins advises that businesses that stay flexible also build stronger first-party data strategies:

“[Survival] of the fittest is not about who is the strongest or the smartest but who is best able to adapt to change…We’re not necessarily reinventing the wheel, we’re trying to achieve the same things as last year and the years before that – it’s the methods through which we achieve them that are changing.”

Brands will remain adaptive when they accurately assess their digital maturity and cultivate agile tech partnerships to implement best practices they learn from industry leaders at the cutting edge of new developments. As audience expectations around content and data experiences change, testing and iterating must deliver more than mere assessments, but actionable understanding. Businesses with this approach can harness the full potential of first-party data to drive marketing success in a rapidly evolving digital world.


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