Unlocking the Power of First Party Data

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Click to learn more about author Jason Lark.

The popular sentiment is that ‘data is king’, and it’s not exactly wrong – but when it comes to customer data, marketers should always follow the rule of quality over quantity. Data can be valuable for your business, but only when it’s actionable and its insights can be applied to enhance customer-focused campaigns. This is a lesson that brand need to learn, and often don’t.

Modern marketing is essentially the process of looking for needles of insight in haystacks of information. When we collect information regardless of its relevancy or its usability, all we’re doing is adding more straw to the bale. Poor quality data leads to impersonal, poorly targeted, and poorly personalised customer experiences – experiences which tend not to make as much money as they could.

Though second-party data – essentially, first party data bought from another brand can be a useful means of plugging the holes in your own database, it isn’t always easy to align your data sets with those of another company. Third-party data will also be of limited use: as a paid-for ‘off-the-shelf’ solution, the information acquired won’t necessarily be relevant to your company’s specific needs.

It’s therefore essential to have a defined first-party Data Strategy based on the information your company accumulates on a daily basis from its customers and prospects. A recent report from Econsultancy found that two-thirds of marketers believe that using this data is the most effective path to true customer understanding.

These four practical considerations can tell you how to get the most out of first-party data.

  1. Strategy and Specificity

A good first-party Data Strategy isn’t vague or arbitrary: it’s based around your specific goals.

These objectives can be large in scope (i.e. selling more of a specific product range) or granular (i.e., engaging more with a specific customer), but the information you collect should advance them – and if it doesn’t, you shouldn’t collect it.

For example, if a long-time customer buys more at a specific time of year, that’s a meaningful correlation, and it’s one that’s worth tracking. You can exploit that with discount offers or package deals. Tracking purchase times can therefore be worthwhile. If a customer has only purchased once and then lapsed, their information isn’t quite as useful; there’s no reason for you to hold on to their old address details or inactive phone numbers.

  1. Good Housekeeping

With that last point in mind, it’s also worthwhile to regularly clean your data sets. In many cases, customer data has a short shelf life. Remove and refresh it regularly to ensure that you and your marketing team are working from the most up-to-date information. Ask your customers if data is still correct or relevant, but make it clear the benefits of this.

  1. Segmentation to Experience

Second and third party data, matched correctly, enables brands to segment customers and prospects into relevant groups, and then test content and products to learn what works and what doesn’t. By contrast, first party data enables brands to clearly identify individual customers and then deliver highly relevant experiences to them. This is clearly the more beneficial option; brands can build a Single Customer View (SCV), knowing what they want, what they don’t, and how best to deliver an individual experience – not a segmented one.

  1. Democratise Your Data

Finally, make sure that everyone in the company has access to the first party data they need. When information is unnecessarily siloed, it becomes harder to make the most of it. Customer experience is the responsibility of everyone within a brand, and the only way to make it consistent for the customer is to have a consistent mindset and decision-making process internally. Data needs to run horizontally across your vertical departments.

Follow the above advice and you’ll have the beginnings of a workable first-party Data Strategy. But keep tinkering with it and iterating on it: great marketers never sit still.

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