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In 2020, Google announced its plan to phase out third-party cookies, which will go into effect in late 2024. Though Google’s elimination of third-party cookies has been pushed back once again, it is coming. The reprieve hasn’t done much to settle the fears of business leaders, publishers and marketers.
Even with the promised capabilities of Google’s Privacy Sandbox, many people are concerned about how the cookieless future will impact business models and marketing tactics, particularly around personalized digital experiences. But don’t fear the inevitable changes, because there is a better solution to fit your needs.
First-party data isn’t going anywhere, and marketing trends were already moving in that direction. Now, it’s just a matter of determining how to best capture and use all the consumer data available to you.
Purchase history, website activity, email engagement, consumer interests, mobile app behavior and more can tell you a great deal about your consumers. But many marketing decision-makers aren’t sure where to start, with 41% saying the biggest challenge will be the ability to track the right consumer data.
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Why first-party data is more valuable in the long run
First-party data is your consumers’ data. Its collection, segmentation and usage are entirely within your control, which means its accuracy and integrity are never in question. Besides, you have exclusive ownership, which can provide a major competitive advantage.
When used correctly, first-party data also offers the unique opportunity to position your brand in distinctive ways, which can provide several advantages for you and your consumers, such as:
As consumers share data, they’re telling you exactly what they want, often directly. So, use first-party data to tailor consumer experiences in meaningful and relevant ways. From the first discovery to the actual purchase, make the journey as seamless and enjoyable as possible. Create useful content. Share it across channels. Look for ways to continually add value to purchase decisions.
In terms of meaningful experiences, the Disney Genie service does just that for theme park visitors. The service, built into the My Disney Experience app, makes recommendations inspired by what visitors are interested in doing. The app will continue to suggest new options throughout a person’s visit to ensure they have the best time possible while at the park.
First-party data improves marketing initiatives by allowing you to personalize virtually every touchpoint along the consumer journey. Personalization can take many forms, but it often starts with dynamic audience segmentation and dynamic content. Then, you can explore customized product recommendations and messaging. Sending personalized emails drives engagement, as does interacting directly with consumers across channels.
Amazon is a company that understands personalization. The company gathers information from users’ past purchases, TV shows and movies they have watched and items they have looked at while shopping. They take this information and give personalized recommendations on what to buy or watch in the future.
As you deliver personalized, relevant consumer experiences to your target audiences, a level of trust begins to form. Trust is the basis of all long-term relationships, including brand loyalty. It’s all about meeting consumers where they are with the right messages at the right times on the right channels, and that’s made possible with first-party data.
Brands with loyalty programs can build personalized offerings based on consumer data. Data is the holy grail of any personalization program, and a loyalty program is the starting point. But while a loyalty program can be used to enable personalization, it doesn’t automatically equate to personalization. Personalization fosters brand loyalty because it allows consumers to develop deeper connections with brands and vice versa.
Where to begin collecting consumer information
Though this should go without saying, collecting consumer information starts with consent. You’re collecting information from real people, after all, and it’s essential to be transparent with your first-party data collection practices. How will you use consumers’ data? How will you keep their information safe?
It’s also important to incentivize data sharing. This is valuable information, and consumers know it. You must give something to get something — and I’m not talking about a weekly email with a few coupons. The incentive must be of real value to consumers.
At the same time, you’ll need a means for not only capturing first-party data, but also analyzing the information at scale. Otherwise, it’s nearly impossible to extract actionable insights from consumer data to inform your marketing tactics.
Even then, however, different departments within organizations often “own” their data assets. When consumer data becomes siloed in a company, it doesn’t just create barriers to data accessibility. Data quality begins to suffer, as overlaps can cause inconsistencies and lead to poor decision-making. You might think you truly know your consumers, but really, you only know part of their journey.
In other words, whatever data analysis solution you land upon must also offer the functionality to aggregate your first-party data from all your data sources. Only then will you be able to identify from where exactly you’re collecting consumer information and ensure it’s being tagged correctly.
New ways to use first-party data for better results
Once you can trust the data you have on hand, you can turn your attention to optimizing the consumer experience in new ways across myriad channels.
Take something as simple as personalized product recommendations. Helping consumers quickly find the items they’re looking for via contextual marketing increases the chances of conversions. It also makes consumers more likely to return for additional purchases, allowing you to capture even more data and create a richer picture of your target audience.
Dynamic audience segmentation, on the other hand, offers the functionality to automatically filter audiences based on behavior. Rather than organizing consumers into 10 or 15 segments that best fit their personas, dynamic audience segmentation allows you to continuously segment your audience. This means consumers are constantly assigned to the most relevant segments based on their current activity, context and historical data. This ultimately leads to the continuous optimization of the consumer experience, improving marketing ROI.
First-party data also helps you enable predictive personalization to offer better consumer experiences. Artificial intelligence and machine learning tools can assign consumers individual experiences based on unique characteristics and then serve content most relevant to their interests.
Let’s say a consumer has been recently looking at kitten food, small-pet travel carriers, and cat toys safe for kittens. Chances are they’re either in the market for a new kitten or recently brought one home. The pet supply store that collected that data could then start delivering content based on the various stages of the kitten’s growth.
Third-party data might still be available, and you can certainly still use this information to create personalized digital experiences. Soon enough, however, that option will be gone. So, start preparing for a cookieless world now. With first-party data as the foundation of your marketing efforts going forward, you’ll be able to offer more personalized, safer experiences for consumers and still generate business results.
Diane Keng is the CEO and co-founder of Breinify, an AI and predictive personalization engine that helps brands curate dynamic, meaningful experiences for their consumers at scale.