First-Party Data – Strategies and Techniques

Gathering data about your current and potential customers is one of those essential things we take for granted. Knowing who your audience is allows for better marketing. One of the ways marketers have gotten this data is through third-party cookies (see our post Digital Marketing vs Privacy for more information). Recently, privacy concerns have caused browsers like Safari and Firefox to block third-party cookies, with Chrome set to do so in 2023. With this avenue of customer data blocked, first-party data, or data that’s voluntarily given by the customer, becomes a primary way to gather customer data.

Regardless of the death of third-party cookies, marketers have good reasons to prioritize first-party data. It’s a low-cost solution that allows brands to get closer to customers by understanding what they need and want versus the potential inaccuracies of third-party data. The most important benefit is the fact that the brand owns and controls the data, making it unique and easy to implement. There are many valuable uses for first-party data, from the personalization of goods and services to product recommendations. Knowing how to get the data you need is more important than ever. What follows is a variety of ways you can gather first-party data, and the techniques that make it more likely that visitors give you that data.

First-Party Sources

Website/Mobile App Registration

Every day, people register for websites and mobile apps to receive the benefits that go along with that registration. They provide pieces of data about themselves in exchange for the additional value provided by that brand. Google, Facebook, Amazon, and Apple all require registration to use their services. Usually, this identification is simply an email address and password, things that most people don’t have an issue with providing. However, you might be hesitant about adding registration for your site. The trick is to make sure you’re adding value for those that register. If you’re running an eCommerce site, you might consider not making registration mandatory, but offering such things as first-time discounts, sales, early-access content, etc. for those that do register. This will incentivize your loyal customers and prospects to sign up for greater value.

Newsletter Signups

Email Newsletters are a way for brands to stay in touch with consumers. Companies can share special promotions, values-based messaging, unique content not found on their website, and more. Like website registration, newsletter signups usually only involve getting a few pieces of information, sometimes just an email address. The newsletter can be a gateway to obtaining other first-party data as well. You gain valuable information about consumer interests when you offer subscribers various ways to customize the content in which they’re interested, in addition to transactional data when consumers buy from your newsletter. Brands can use these first-party data signals to inform future promotions and even product development. Keeping tabs on open, click, and unsubscribe rates can provide insights into content relevance, timeliness, and frequency.

Polls and Surveys

Asking customers what they think is the best way for brands to stay engaged with them. Polls and surveys offer brands a low-cost way to reach out to consumers. This is a simple way for brands to get first-party data, as well as turn consumers into focus group participants. In exchange for answering a few questions, consumers could be rewarded with discount codes, access to exclusive content, and sales events.

Contests and Giveaways

Consumers enjoy the chance to win something, especially if the barrier to entry is low. And there’s a corollary between how much information a person is willing to give out and the perceived value of the prize. Given these two things, marketers can tailor their giveaways and contests to gather a good amount of customer data by drawing them in without causing them anxiety about the amount of information they’re required to enter. Often, sweepstakes use custom landing pages that collect information like names, emails, and addresses. Through quizzes or polls, brands can capture more detailed information about consumer habits, interests, and shopping behavior.

Loyalty and Rewards Programs

The majority of consumers say they would switch to a competitor who offers a better customer experience if the brand they typically use didn’t value them. Customer loyalty and retention have been declining as a result. Through loyalty and rewards programs, you can offer customers a wide range of perks to keep their attention on you, regardless of whether they interact with you via text, email, or mobile app. The value of loyalty programs should match the value of information that you exchange with your customers. They can help brands learn what drives someone’s purchase decisions, so they can build out personas and lookalike-targeting strategies.

Online Purchases

In 2020, a large number of consumers began shopping online for the first time. As a result, brands were rewarded with new audiences and, oftentimes, new consumer segments. Consumer data provides companies with a wealth of information not only about what their customers purchase, but also what products they purchase together, how often they make purchases, what price points work best, and where their best customers reside. For a complete view of your customers, combine this data with your offline purchase history. Using this combination, you can discover which products are better suited for online versus in-store use and vice versa, enabling you to optimize inventory and move products in the right channels. Furthermore, some consumers will only purchase through particular channels, so linking the dots on your purchase behavior can help determine where products have the greatest likelihood of selling.

Customer Reviews/Feedback

A customer review is a goldmine of information, whether it’s on social media, a website, or another channel. These reviews can be attached to a customer’s existing data to make it easier to build out complete profiles. You can also use the data you collect to make product updates, promotions, and more. No matter what first-party data you collect, customer reviews are one of the most important factors in purchasing decisions, so they should be implemented whenever possible.

Gated Content

Gated content is any content on your website or app that requires something, usually a form submission, from the visitor before it can be seen. This is a popular way for companies to gain prospective customer information in exchange for white papers, ebooks, videos, or more. The use of selective content locking is particularly popular with news publishers. Also, highly trafficked pages can provide insight into an article’s value, which can help in planning editorial content and, for publishers, monetization strategies. But be careful. Make sure that what you’re offering is worth the trouble in filling out a form, because customers will oftentimes be able to find similar content elsewhere without the additional effort on the part of the visitor. We examine gated content in more detail in our blog post, Rethinking Gated Content: Marketers New Dilemma.

Social Media

Social media is a fact of life for consumers. They spend hours on social media each day, which is not an understatement. In fact, more than half of the time spent on mobile is spent on social media apps. The ability to use social media to build brands globally not only helps companies build a global presence, but it also assists them to identify who and what their target customers are. There are several ways in which brands can capture this information from customers, including social media channels such as Facebook and Twitter. Through these profiles, brands are able to gain a deeper understanding of users. Are your followers engaging with other brands besides yours? Are they willing to share any information with each other? The information provided by this type of data can be used as a basis for building mutually advantageous partnerships and cross-selling opportunities.

Offline Purchases

When your business has a physical location, transactional data is often trapped at the point of sale. In most cases, this siloed data doesn’t get integrated into a comprehensive consumer profile. Make sure you connect the dots by asking for the consumer’s phone number or email. Using paperless receipts or messages, brands can encourage consumers to notify them when out-of-stock items arrive in the store as a clever way to collect this information. In addition to capturing offline intent and purchase data, QR codes also serve as a useful tool for capturing offline data. You should ensure that the offline purchase behavior of the consumer is linked to the online identity of that consumer.

Offline Events

Putting a literal face on customers and prospects is possible through virtual and in-person connections. Furthermore, these gatherings allow for the collection of more personal data, such as the causes and affinities of your audiences, their interests and opinions on a variety of topics. Furthermore, events can be augmented by capturing data in other ways, such as polls and surveys, or through giveaways created during the “live” event. Post-event recaps and opportunities to view recordings give those who missed the event a chance to engage with the content.

First-Party Content Strategies

Use Progressive Profiling to Increase Data

As the name suggests, progressive profiling isn’t a race to collect first-party data, but a marathon. This method rewards consumers with a low bar to enter your site or mobile experience while providing more value each time. Every time a user interacts, you greet them with a short request for data. Remember the goal is to build up the consumer’s profile over time and not turn them off to sharing more information

Track Visitor’s Website Interactions

How do consumers behave on your properties? Marketing tags can tell you. Capture data on how consumers interact with your brand in a variety of ways. From clicks and views to time spent, location and cart data, this first-party data can tell you not only who visits your site (and where) but what pages and products they’re interested in. Use this data to personalize the experience and create more of what your customers want.

Encourage Content Sharing

Consumers want to feel valued by the brands they buy from — or they will leave. Customer loyalty and retention are declining, with two-thirds of consumers saying they’d switch to a competitor with a better customer experience and service. Loyalty and rewards programs are one way to keep your best customers and prospects engaged and committed. Whether through email, text, or mobile app, you can offer customers a range of perks to keep your brand top of mind. From points programs to spending tiers, limited time offers to free perks, make sure the value matches the exchange of information. Loyalty can tell brands what drives consumer purchases, helping build out personas for prospecting and lookalike targeting. Loyalty can be a treasure trove of first-party data information if brands truly reward consumers with what they want and value.

Putting it Together

First-party data is a brand’s most valuable asset. There are a number of ways to build up your resources, no matter if you’re a direct to consumer company or not. More data isn’t always better, however. Be strategic in crafting your strategy and only collecting what you truly need as every piece of data requires the consumer’s consent and trust. To extract the greatest value from your first-party data, consider data integrity standards so whatever you collect can be connected and accessed using the same language across the business.