First-party consumer data is a powerful tool for businesses to obtain, as it can help provide you with key insight to connect with customers, both current and prospective. This article highlights what first-party data is, how you can gather it in the first place, and the various ways you can implement it in your business plan.
It has been almost two years since the pandemic caused a major shutdown, and with that drastic change to everyday life came drastic changes to everyday shopping behaviour. Essentially out of pure necessity, both retailers and consumers had to move to the online space and rely more on e-commerce, which made a significant impact on the retail industry.
With increased digital consumption and higher rates of purchasing through digital mediums, marketing strategies have also shifted more to digital, and many brands have increased their investment in technology, mobile, and e-commerce. However, when discussing digital mediums, there is an important part of the equation that is key in uncovering more about your audience: data.
This article will delve into the importance of consumer data, particularly first-party data, and how you can leverage your data goldmine.
* The ideas within this article are based on It’s Time to Revisit Your Marketing Mix presented by Reshift Media CEO, Steve Buors, at the 2021 Retail Council of Canada Retail Marketing Forum.
Get Serious About Data
Data is more important now than ever, largely because of the major shift to online seen throughout the pandemic. However, many retailers don’t know the power data holds or how to access it
Data can be accessed through platforms like Google Analytics, Google Webmaster tools, ad campaigns, POS systems, e-commerce tracking, and more. There is also a ton of data that exists when a customer purchases something online, including what they bought, when they bought it, how they bought it, how they found your website to make the purchase, what products they looked at before buying, what pages they bounced off of, and other types of information.
At the bare minimum, it is important to consider your basic consumer behavior data, which can include:
- Sales (online and offline)
- Website traffic
- Google searches
- Social media data and customer feedback
A great way to get the most out of this data is by comparing what was going on pre-pandemic to the most recent three months. By contrasting the results, you can determine where things should shift in your business plan in order to meet your customers’ current needs. As a baseline, look at the data you have now.
First-party data has always been an important tool at your disposal. This is the information that a company collects from its customers directly. Rather than relying on an external source, first-party data is completely owned by the company, which is becoming increasingly essential because there has been a recent drive towards privacy with consumers becoming a lot more cautious about who they give their data to. For example, a recent Apple iOS update now prompts iPhone users to opt out of being tracked by their installed apps, which has greatly reduced the efficiency of third-party data that is collected by mobile apps like Facebook.
The graphic above is an example of what has typically happened in the past. Person A arrives on your website through a recent social media marketing campaign you launched, and your website includes Facebook pixel code. This pixel fires because of this new website visit, and it tells Facebook who Person A is, what purchases they mae, and how frequently they come back. The thing is, you don’t know who Person A is, only Facebook knows. This would be an example of a third-party data situation.
Now, Person A’s information goes into a Facebook custom audience, which is an option that allows you to find existing audiences on Facebook and market to them. Facebook can also use its algorithm to find what is called lookalike audiences, which is a group of people who match the characteristics of people who came to your website. Again, you don’t know who exactly these people are, but you know that you can target new groups of people that are similar to Person A.
The problem with this is you don’t own any of this data. If Facebook were to shut down, this technique for data collection wouldn’t work anymore because you wouldn’t have any of that valuable history. As well, with the drive toward more privacy, Facebook can’t achieve this process as easy as they previously did due to more data opt-outs. This is why you too should opt-out of relying solely on third-party data and shift toward a first-party data situation.
Implementing First-Party Data
First-party data is information that you control, and you likely already have a lot of it to work with. To get some of this data, you could use a customer list based on newsletter subscriptions or members of a loyalty program, or if you have any e-commerce engines on your website, you can use the information customers provide when they opt for delivery. It’s important to think about what you have and how you can leverage it. For instance, does a loyalty program work for your company and provide what your customers are looking for?
Using this data, you can still upload it to Facebook and create custom audiences and lookalike audiences, but you are providing the initial list of people, not relying on Facebook to create that list for you. You can also use that data across platforms, such as in email marketing, on social media platforms, or a more nuanced advertising program.
Once you have a plan on how you intend to gather first-party data, it is important to use it! You may want to create a personalized e-commerce experience, develop new products, improve your marketing effectiveness, or identify/adjust to changes in customer behaviour.
Tips to Gather First-Party Data
Although first-party data is important, it’s not typically an easy process, as many customers are not going to just willingly provide it unless they get something out of it. Think of the concept of quid pro quo – an advantage is granted upon something in return.
Providing “something in return” can look like offering customers points from your loyalty program, offering weekly email promotions, or offering account creators a different feature on your account. The point is, just because you have this first-party, it will all mean nothing if you don’t use it effectively.
Consider what data you need to gather, how it will be stored on your end, and how it will be applied in order to achieve your objectives.