Consumer behaviors regarding your brand are no longer limited to transacting with you. In a digital age, consumers can also visit your website, download your app, register with you in some way (e.g. sign up for newsletters), share your content, answer your surveys, etc. All of this creates first party data, defined by Ad Age as …information collected directly and stored by website publishers, retailers and other types of companies about their site visitors or customers. I’d make the definition a bit more expansive and add in Facebook fans and Twitter followers, etc. especially since many websites now offer social log-in so that interest profiles can now be accessed.
I believe that fully leveraging first party data is the number one difference between marketers who take maximum advantage of the digital age and those who are stuck in a traditional mode.
Now, if I didn’t have you at hello, if the word “data” sounds too cold, change the wording…instead of calling it “first party data”, let’s call it “first party relationships” because that is where first party data comes from…first party relationships. So which marketer wouldn’t want more relationships and more interactions from each relationship?
And yet, most marketers are going about their jobs as if first party data is some discretionary, add-on thing. It isn’t; it is central. It means that brands must become media to attract audiences and that market researchers must become data synthesizers to extract insights and recommendations from the reconciliation of surveys and digital data streams.
If a marketer gets the importance of first party data, here is what they would do differently
- Drive use of owned websites and apps that encourage log-in based on e-mail credentials and/or social media profiles. Your clickstream data is the second most valuable first party data you have after transactions. Integrating these data streams creates a killer combination. Two great examples of marketers that get this are Starbucks and Weight Watchers.
- Create customer segments that are targetable audiences. A marketer can now find their own customer segments via the Facebook exchange, Twitter tailored audiences, and ad networks that serve display advertising. These segments can be defined by situations as well as persistent characteristics. For example, Walmart could precisely target advertising throughout the web to those who visited their product pages but didn’t buy anything. Market researchers take note: your attitudinal segmentation approaches that don’t link to digital data and targeting strategies don’t cut it anymore.
- Extend the value of first party data with matching to third party data such as Acxiom or Experian. Companies like Converseon can even find social media profiles for half or more of your users based on name and e-mail matching so that you can organize social media conversations by consumer segment. This is a real insights breakthrough.
- Make a serious financial commitment to amassing and executing on first party data and then measuring the ROI.
- Monitor brand KPIs that reflect success at creating and leveraging first party data. It is the role of brand KPIs to encourage the right behaviors and marketing research is falling short if it sticks with traditional brand tracking measures exclusively from surveys.
- Create big data infrastructures that serve multiple purposes: brand KPIs, insights extraction, predictive analytics, feeds into marketing mix modeling, and campaign assessment.
CPG Marketers and most media used to envy financial or Telco because they couldn’t build first party, direct relationships. They couldn’t get in on the “one to one marketing” fun, but now they can with website visitation and app use. Any marketer can now buy impressions selectively and programmatically based on direct customer knowledge, targeting individual users with the right message, on the right screen at the right time. But to do so, marketing needs a data engine that research can and should provide that fully embraces first party data.