First-Party Data Doesn’t Have to Be Just a Safety Net

First-Party Data Doesn’t Have to Be Just a Safety Net

Most brands accept they need to build out their first-party CRM database. But in the current climate, this is largely seen as a defensive move; a way to safeguard audience insight when third-party cookies make their much-discussed departure.

It’s true that first-party data does provide an effective safety net, and brands should certainly look at it that way. However, it also opens up a wealth of other possibilities and a chance to take ownership of the customer relationship, regardless of cookie deprecation. This opportunity is particularly exciting for CPG brands that have so far relied on retailers for customer insight, but really it’s something every brand should be doing.

The bottom line is, the world is changing and first-party data will help your brand change with it. An ongoing effort to maintain and grow first-party data won’t just protect your brand, it will also put you in a proactive position to stay ahead in the evolving landscape.

Connecting through an identity spine

In the past, there was a limit to what you could do with CRM data. You might be able to send emails to a customer, or potentially even an SMS, but that was about it. Now, in a world where ecommerce is exploding and everything is interconnected, the possibilities are limitless.

With first-party data, your brand can create a central identity spine, appended and enriched with second-party behavioral attributes. Every team within your organization can connect through this identity spine, enabling a more holistic media strategy. Your comprehensive media plan can encompass a wide range of channels, from social, search and digital advertising, to connected TV, email and direct mail—all built around CRM data.

Right now, distinct marketing teams like search and social are often disconnected, with their own tech partners, their own budgets and – most significantly – their own data sources. With first-party data you can address this disconnect. Everyone can operate under a standard key, such as a hashed email, so you can connect the dots between different departments—even outliers such as affiliate and direct mail. You can develop a cohesive plan where everything is trackable and data driven. It’s time to bring your marketing teams together and that means taking ownership of data.

Building out your own first-party data delivers:

Enhanced customer experience

If your teams work with distinct providers for individual marketing channels, and each one sources data from different places, it’s virtually impossible to control the customer experience. Valued customers and promising prospects are bombarded with repetitive, or even conflicting, messaging from multiple directions, quickly damaging their perception of the brand. When all parties can tap into a first-party identity spine, you have far more control over how many ads people are exposed to, as well as when and where they see them. First-party data puts you in control of communications to deliver more relevant customer experiences. When we talk about conscious marketing, these types of experiences are at its core.

Personalization opportunities

Unique messaging for each individual customer or prospect may not be a realistic goal, but marketing interactions do need to be as personalized as possible to forge strong connections and drive intended outcomes. First-party data gives you a far better understanding of your customers, enabling you to break out audiences into cohorts that can be pushed to activation platforms, so individuals receive more relevant and engaging experiences. This can be a gradual process, with your brand slowly building in a greater level of personalization over time.

Meaningful measurement

When your brand’s entire media plan is built around a common identity spine with person-level data, measuring the true impact and effectiveness of marketing tactics becomes far easier. Data across all engagements with a particular person can be used to analyze performance in real time. The powerful insights this uncovers can enable you to shift budget to more effective channels and tactics and optimize towards your chosen outcomes. You’ll be positioned to understand the impact of emerging channels—such as connected TV—as part of a unified media plan, rather than trying to measure their performance in silos.

The resurgence of lead generation

While the value of building out first-party CRM data is clear, getting started is often easier said than done. In a privacy-first world, where there is increased scrutiny of consumer data use, brands need to establish a proper value exchange for people to consent to sharing their personal information.

But there are still ways your brand can get going with this process. The recent focus on privacy has spurred a resurgence in lead generation practices as a way to accumulate customer data ethically, with full consent and transparency into what it will be used for. Possible entry points might include newsletters, or inter-brand partnerships with co-branded sponsorships and sweepstakes.

Some channels provide easier wins than others. Platforms such as Facebook and YouTube are trusted by their users, and lead forms in these environments can be pre-populated, making users more likely to share information. Embedded lead forms are becoming more prevalent in these spaces as the necessity of first-party data is increasingly recognized, with Google Ads lead form extensions being a prime example.

Ongoing effort is required

It doesn’t really matter how or where you get started with building out first-party CRM data. For most brands, it will be a case of learning to crawl and then walk before you can run. What matters is that there is an ongoing, evergreen effort to grow and maintain first-party data in a privacy compliant manner. This means implementing not just the mechanisms to collect that data ethically, but also the right tech partners to safeguard information in a way that complies with the relevant regulations.

We all know the importance of first-party data will increase with third-party cookie deprecation, but it shouldn’t be seen as a mere safety net to protect brands at that point in time. Building your entire, multi-channel media plan around a single identity spine, based on first-party CRM data, can allow you to take ownership of the customer relationship and deliver personalized, measurable experiences designed to drive your brand’s desired outcomes, regardless of the cookie situation.