3 Steps Brands Can Take to Build First-Party Data Practices

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One of the ways marketers are preparing for the cookieless future is by generating more robust first-party data. In the very near future, brands of all sizes need to be less dependent on the data collected by others. To many, this very concept is being interpreted as the beginning of an era of hardship for brands, when the opposite is true. If advertisers can own and operate a robust first-party data set, then that is when all the doors of opportunity unlock. 

However, thriving in the future isn’t a matter of simply generating more first-party data; it’s about building and utilizing the right kinds of data. Owning and operating a robust first-party data set calls for layers of execution to optimize marketing results. 

Brands must ensure that the first-party data they are assembling is properly permissioned, meaningfully collected across channels, unified, and organized. Getting started comes down to breaking down these goals into manageable projects and timelines that ensure first-party data sets are unlocking all the doors by 2023.

Properly permissioned data

The best place to start is with an assessment of data collection practices. Every brand should grade itself on the following:

  • Are you creating transparency and trust with your consumers? 
  • Do you enable them to understand how you collect data and what you do with it?
  • Are you following legislation to allow for opt out and reporting when necessary? 
  • Are you creating proper documentation and SOP’s to ensure that your data is permissioned and easy to update?

Ensure these principles are applied to all areas of data collection and storage – if consumers opt out in one place, are they opted-out in another? Identify the gaps and create plans to expand consumer communications or the ability to opt out across all data sources. 

It’s important to know what you can and can’t do with the data collected. Every advertiser needs to define data governance and data stewardship to ensure that its data is properly permissioned for marketing use, and also that the use actually follows those permissions. 

Once the wheels are in motion, advertisers can confidently do more with data while protecting consumers’ info and maintaining their trust. This also enables brands to safely leverage data collaboration platforms and other data solutions or tools.

Meaningfully collected across channels

It is unlikely that an advertiser would not collect any data from a channel they are activating campaigns within. However, the more likely scenario is that the quality and quantity of data from each channel is different.  

Catalogue and review what data you are generating from each channel. Carefully look to see which channel is lacking and why. Perhaps sales data through social channels is more opaque than it is through direct channels, for example.  

From there, understand which channels offer more opportunities for data collection and what the barriers are. If your consumer data is being captured by another platform relevant to that channel, ensure you are receiving and have control over that data. 

Don’t hesitate to look to offline channels as well and ensure that these are collecting the most relevant data possible. Offline data — whether direct mail, customer service calls, brick and mortar retail purchases — can be highly predictive and helpful in developing audiences, even if the majority of your marketing efforts are online. 

The bottom line is that playing channel favorites or being lazy about where your channel data ends up can leave a lot of predictive data on the table. Treat all channels with the same diligence and organization to capture the most relevant information possible. 

Unified and organized

Consumers throw off a ton of data when engaging with a brand across the internet. Modern marketers need to consider not only how data is captured but also how it is organized and unified after the fact. Ten different streams of data will not be impactful if consumers are identified differently ten times and the data cannot be integrated for a comprehensive understanding of consumer behavior. 

The assessment here starts with looking at what your final data stack looks like. Is it a mess of tangled spaghetti, one unified data asset, or somewhere in between?

From there, define an ideal state, but also one that is attainable by no later than 2023. If you are starting with spaghetti, the time and financial investment to get everything aggregated may not be on the table, but there may be some consolidation, matching, and clean-up work that could drastically improve the asset you have and how efficiently you can work with it. 

The truth is that with a greater breadth and depth of properly permissioned multichannel data, brands will be able to rely on a system of organized, hygienic data to ensure they are activating the data in the most efficient way possible. Unorganized and/or disjointed data will incur more costs and, perhaps even worse, lead to bad customer experiences. It will also limit brands from easily connecting to new identity solutions once cookies phase out completely, or partnering with like-minded marketers in data clean rooms, which can compliantly enhance data.  

By focusing on these critical areas now, brands can prepare not only for the cookie-less future but also the unpredictable future of personalized ad targeting that exists beyond that. Meeting each of these criteria is attainable, and many brands likely already check some of these boxes. Others may be playing catch up, weaning off third-party cookie data or data generated and owned by social platforms. This data has been easily accessible, which may make the time and investment to pivot and focus on first-party data feel daunting. But rest assured, time spent now will pay off when those data sources become less available.

Donna Hamilton is SVP of Data Strategy at Alliant.