Finding the Future with First-Party Data

The technology users in today’s world are becoming savvier about their personal data and how it is being used for targeted marketing and digital experiences. As a result, how much advertisers know about their users is becoming more obvious – terms like Big Brother and “stalking” or always-listening smart devices are popular in conversations about privacy.
As a result, new laws and regulations are being created here in the US and also across the globe (see: GDPR, LGPD, and CCPA). At R2i, the advice we give to our clients is to move towards a privacy-driven approach and invest in first-party data in order to adapt to consumers concerns and create more trust with users.
Below is a helpful diagram from Google outlining how the rules of the road are changing – and while change can be unsettling, its important to keep in mind that understanding why these changes are happening and how to work with them is the best way to create a win-win situation from these updates.  
First vs. Third Party

Third party data is more widely available to many companies, whereas first party data is collected by and unique to your business. A business can collect information with direct consent from the users, and therefore also own the data. This data is collected as users navigate on apps and website, click on emails, create accounts etc. When used effectively, there is much value in first party data – and in a world where third party data is starting to be sunset, first party data will be the future of marketing.
Here is a quick outline of the differences as provided by Google:  
Futuristic Next Steps
To get your organization started on a first-party data journey, we recommend the following next steps as key elements of this data journey:  
Get ahead of the curve

Third party cookies and data are not sunset just yet, but its coming. Many leading organizations (think: Google, Adobe and big tech) have targeted 2022 as the date to be switched over and no longer dependent on third party data. That means the best time to act is now, give yourself 6 months to line everything up so you aren’t scrambling to align with new policies and/or missing valuable data because historically you didn’t start collecting it soon enough.  
Here are our 3 key elements to getting ahead of the curve:  
1. Update your targeting, marketing, and data collection
 to function on first party data exclusively. This might be a big undertaking, so understanding the scope of this switch will be an important first step. Two examples related to web analytics:

a. In regards to Adobe Analytics, ensure that the Experience Cloud ID (ECID) is being set. Per Adobe, that automatically sets your analytics in a first party cookie. Previously, there were more steps in updating CNAME records, working with IT, etc. However, now its including the extension within Adobe Launch, adding some configurations, and publishing the tag management version. R2i can help clients with enabling this crucial feature as the ECID is the catalyst to share information across the adobe experience cloud platforms.

b. In regards to Google Analytics, in 2021 we have started helping our clients make the switch to GA4 from previous tracking libraries. GA4 moves web analytics into cookie-less tracking - read more about that major update here in our other blog post.    
 Refresh your privacy policy language  to reflect the changes in your organization and how you are collecting, storing, and using data. Use as much natural language (read: not legalese) so that the users can feel confident you are being honest and straightforward about your data practices. This builds trust and loyalty, and helps combat the “stalking” accusations. Please consult with your legal and privacy team directly on appropriate language updates.  
3. Review the media you have in market
  and how your partners are leveraging cookies. This would be a great time to ask your media partners what they are doing to prepare for this update and how they will still be able to properly target the right audience and track performance. An example here is that Google recently announced that their products will be powered by APIs which will prevent individual tracking while still delivering the results for advertisers.    
Invest in the transformation
Some updates are optional, this one is not so much. Invest early and in the right places to set your business up for success. Below are the main areas we suggest focusing on with first-party data in mind:    
1. Technology – there are a number of tools coming to the market to assist with the new requirements surrounding data privacy. Of particular importance are consent management platforms, these tools help assist and automate the opt-in of users to data collection. These tools also give the users increased choice and flexibility about what types of data they are willing to share.
  2. Legal Team –   loop in your department to ensure compliance and all updated language (see: privacy policy language above). Decisions regarding how long and where to store data is also something they should review and document reasons for whatever choices were made.  
3. Share Privacy Values –   in addition to updating the privacy policy, which is a legal requirement, providing your website visitors with a clear and user-friendly explanation of your privacy values continues to build trust and loyalty. This is often in or around the About Us or Contact Us section of the site, and also references the Privacy Policy and provides links to legal resources and/or opt-out processes.    
Offer value in exchange for data
As previously mentioned, the new way to collect data will be consent based. In order to get users to consent to sharing their data, its best to communicate the value and benefits of sharing that data. Typically, that language is presented alongside the consent management tool but is also reflected in the overall privacy values.
Sharing what data is being collected is a legal requirement, go beyond that and tell users how the data benefits them for example, by providing personalized experiences, keeping them logged in, allowing them to put items into a shopping cart, making helpful suggestions/recommendations, and showing relevant content etc.
In general, people are scared of what they don’t understand. By providing all this additional information showing compliance, honesty, transparency, and opt-out options - users should feel more comfortable with sharing this valuable first party data and see it more as a win/win opportunity.    
Test to find success
Delivering on the benefits outlined above is important after promising them to users and continuing to build trust. Be sure to employ a testing and/or personalization program to ensure you truly are delivering the value you claim to your users.
The testing strategy you employ is really where the value of first party data shines. Continuing to connect with users in ways that make their web experience more tailored and personal, without feeling “stalked” because they consented to data collection is exactly the sentiment that will hopefully build long term customers for your brand.    
Technology is ever evolving and rolling with the punches here will be a lot easier than trying to swim upstream. Continuing to put your organization in a consumer-first mindset will make them feel humanized, not like they are just profit drivers. Today’s world requires more connection than ever, ensure your users know that you treat them with integrity – and that will drive loyalty and advocacy, and ultimately revenue. Give the people what they want, so they can buy more of what they need.  

Feel free to drop us a line if you need help with getting your organization’s data savviness up to par or leave a comment below for other tips and tricks you’d recommend to make the most of the future of first-party data.

About the author: Andrea Goldstein

Andrea is a Senior Analyst and the trailblazer for our R2i presence in Los Angeles, CA. She began her career executing campaigns and producing content across multiple online and offline channels on both the client and agency side. She identifies data as the common thread and truly fell in love with analytics after witnessing the magical power of data and visualization. Testing and personalization were a natural next step, data driven strategy is the key to her success. With a passion to make raw data beautiful and drive digital ROI for her clients, Andrea integrates cross-channel data to create customized and easy-to-read interactive dashboards. She is most interested in helping clients answer their toughest business questions by reimagining the data to reveal trends, identify areas of optimization, and forecast performance - striving for the ultimate “wow” impact.

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