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First-Party Data Strategy: 2021 Trends 5 minute read
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July 12, 2021

First-Party Data Strategy: 2021 Trends

Brian Dearth
Brian Dearth
Head of Strategy and Growth
First-Party Data Strategy: 2021 Trends

As platform after platform is phasing out third-party cookies, the data landscape is changing. The emphasis on privacy and data regulations will only continue to grow, and third-party data and cookies may soon be history.

This means most B2C brands, as well as B2B brands, will need to rethink their digital roadmap strategies. While many brands are prepared for this drastic change, many are not. 

According to a recent survey by Wpromote, 42% of B2B digital marketers are not prepared to remove 3rd party cookies, nor do they have a plan for managing the challenges that come with increased data privacy regulations.

What Is First-Party Data?

Before we explore this development further, let's define what first-party data is. It’s a term that refers to data that you collect directly from your customers. So, not via a third party, but rather via channels that you own, such as your website, app, or emails.  

First-party data includes, but is not limited to:

  • Data in your CRM system
  • Data from your website, app, and social media accounts
  • Data from product level purchases
  • Data from your subscription-based emails 
  • Data from customer surveys
  • Data from customer feedback

Third-party data, in contrast, consists of information collected by a party that does not have a direct relationship with the person whose data is being collected. Third-party data is often collected from a variety of websites and platforms and then aggregated together by third-party data providers.

Now that we’ve clarified that, let’s have a look at some of the changes that are affecting what data will be available to brands in the future.

Understanding the Google and Apple Privacy Changes

As people have grown increasingly aware of the amount of data companies are constantly collecting from them, the reluctance to share that data has increased. 

Understandably, consumers are concerned about data privacy. Privacy regulations such as EU’s GDPR and California’s CCPA have been implemented to increase online privacy and provide transparency to the consumer, and the big players have received much pressure to improve data protection. 

Apple introduced third-party cookie blocking to Safari already in 2017 with the Intelligent Tracking Prevention (ITP). In 2019, ITP 2.2 and 2.3 were released, which meant cookies were automatically deleted after 24 hours. This has, of course, restricted the possibility for companies to track consumers even more. 

And in April 2021, with the launch of IOS 14, mobile application providers are now required to ask their users for approval to gather tracking data. In other words, iPhone users must now opt-in to keep seeing targeted ads in their mobile apps.

Google has postponed plans to stop tracking their users as they browse, but in 2023 that option will also cease to exist. The goal was initially to stop using “cookies” in 2022 due partly to the numerous complaints from regulators and privacy advocates. But Google has since delayed this significant change by a year to allow advertisers more time to adjust to the new conditions.

How Will These Changes Impact Your Business?

The area that is the most impacted by these changes is targeted advertising. According to McKinsey, programmatic advertising accounted for 78.4% of US ad spending in 2020. And among non-premium publishers, more than 80% of their ad revenue depended on third-party targeted ads. This means a staggering $10 billion is at risk in publisher revenue, and that is only in the US. 

As the possibility to track many online actions is reduced, the ways in which businesses handle attribution will need to change. The way forward will most likely be to get better at using data from your own sources, such as your website and emails. Brands will also need to embrace privacy-friendly ways to track and measure online behavior. You can do this by leveraging your own data and tracking interactions with your own touchpoints.

Leveraging First-Party Data Is The Way Forward

So what does all of this mean for marketers in terms of a hands-on, practical level? If cookies are a thing of the past, then what’s next? 

These new conditions fundamentally impact how eCommerce brands go to market. Brands will need to shift their focus from third-party data to first-party data, which in many cases means the whole eCommerce strategy needs to be recalibrated and redefined.  

The first step toward an efficient first-party data strategy is to get your data house in order. Many brands tend to skip this step and head straight for tactics, which is a mistake. First, make sure you have access to solid/clean data, preferably through a Customer Data Platform. And, there are still many options to enhance that customer data with additional demographics and behavioral data.

When you have your data in order, you can start focusing on optimizing every part of your funnel. The best idea is usually to begin optimizing from the bottom of the funnel and then move upward. Get crystal clear on how you’re moving users through the funnel and how you’re getting existing users to stay. 

Once you know this, you can focus on getting new prospects at the top of your funnel, which brings us to the next question: how do you get people to the top of your funnel? Doing so requires new ways of increasing traffic and conversions on your site.

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Increasing Site Traffic Without Relying on Paid Advertising

Every brand wants to increase site traffic; that makes perfect sense. But focusing too much on acquiring new traffic can sometimes make marketing teams lose sight of the traffic that is already going to the site. How many of those visitors are turning into paying customers? That’s usually the best place to start and the lowest-hanging fruit: optimizing conversion from the traffic you’re already receiving. 

Having said that, there are numerous ways to get new traffic to your site that are not relying on cookies and targeted ads. SEO (Search Engine Optimization) will become even more critical as ads become less potent. And the overall quality of the content you produce will determine how many visitors you attract and how likely they will return. A revised commerce content strategy may be in order.

It will also be essential to design better processes for data collection at key touchpoints to get a complete view of the buying journey. Today, many companies inadvertently let large amounts of data pass them by, and then they have to guess to fill in the blanks. The amount of data available to large brands on a daily basis can be overwhelming. But revising data capture and reporting processes may yield significant insights.

Collecting First-Party Data Requires Trust

Unlike third-party data, first-party data is unique to your business. It’s data that you own and can collect with direct consent from your customers and visitors through various interactions on apps and websites and in response to marketing initiatives, like email and loyalty programs. When used well, first-party data will help you build direct relationships with your customers in a way that creates value for them—while boosting your business as well.

And remember, collecting first-party data requires trust. You need to take a transparent, step-by-step approach and gradually build the relationships where your web visitors and customers are willing to share information with you. Progressive profiling is your best bet at building up customer profiles that will enable you to personalize your marketing. 

Partner With Experts and Implement the Right Set of Tools 

As eCommerce brands navigate all of these changes, having the right partners in place will be crucial. Understanding the tools available and making the most of these relationships, sooner as opposed to later, will set your brand apart from your competition. 

Use so-called ‘clean rooms’ to get safe access to event data linked to various user IDs for ID management. These products include, but are not limited to, Google Ads Data Hub, Facebook Advanced Analytics, Adobe Experience Platform, and Amazon Marketing Cloud.

Other tools that facilitate the use of first-party data are Customer Data Platforms like Snowflake. Their planned features will also make it easier for companies to sell data in their Data Marketplace and create anonymized analytical data views. All of this has the potential to be extremely helpful for marketers trying to adapt to the new, cookie-less world of marketing. 

Sometimes, making significant strategic decisions like moving your product into a mobile app will be what it takes. Doing so can allow you to collect solid first-party data. The key is to be aware of this evolution and move toward an ecosystem that does not rely on cookies and third-party data. 

How Vaimo Can Help

At Vaimo, we’re experts in digital commerce. As a full-service omnichannel partner, we can help you with every part of the process—we deliver strategy, design, development, and managed services to brands, retailers, and manufacturers worldwide. So if you’re looking for a partner to guide you through these changes and help you understand how to make the most of the new digital landscape, we’re here for you. 

We can help you recalibrate your eCommerce strategy, implement the technical changes required, as well as redesign and improve the digital customer experience and buying journey. Get in touch to talk to one of our experts.

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