The rise of first-party data

The era of third-party data is coming to an end as modern people demand greater privacy and data protection. Tasneem Ali writes about first-party data and how it can enable advertisers and publishers to still grow and evolve in a consensual way with consumers. 

‘First-party data’ is the trending phrase on the lips of marketing professionals across the globe but it is not actually new. It has long been the foundation of many of the most successful marketing campaigns for multiple companies. When you consider that first-party data is information (including demographics, behavioural and contextual data) that is obtained directly from individuals, it makes logical sense to leverage that data to increase future sales.

In the current marketing environment, consumers and regulators are more cognisant of the rights of individuals to privacy, and there has been growing resentment for the unsolicited approach associated with third-party data. Add to the mix the impending demise of the cookie in 2022, and it is easy to see why first-party data is enabling a new generation of data collection.

With this in mind, it’s pertinent to ask: How can publishers continue to grow revenue and how can advertisers continue to increase engagement with relevant audiences? Marketers need to find other ways to learn about their audiences while complying with legislation and consumer expectations. To ensure personalisation and privacy, securing consent to gather individualised customer data is needed and first-party data sits at the heart of enabling this.

First-party data vs third-party data

Third-party data consists of information harvested from a variety of sources such as websites, social networks, surveys and subscriptions. This data is then sold to marketers and publishers to build targeted profile segments. For example, a beauty product brand might buy third party data to target 15-25 year old women who are interested in skincare products.

The advantage of third-party data is its large volume and wide scope, but it’s not exclusive and anyone can get hold of it. It’s also impossible to know whether the right audience has been captured, as consumers who once clicked on a skincare product as a one-time purchase may no longer be interested in such products anymore.

First-party data comes from consumers interacting directly with a brand. It helps enrich previously collected identity data, and is what a publisher can understand about its users based on their behaviour, such as details of what content has been read, and a name or email address if one has been provided. While it doesn’t have the size and scale to match third-party data, it’s generally considered to be more valuable because of its relevance and reliability.

Enriching first-party data

So, while it’s clear that first-party data provides the best opportunity for marketers, the challenge ahead is two-fold. How do you grow your first-party data pool while at the same time enriching the data in order to better understand your audience? First-party data is important but it doesn’t tell the whole story. Even if a customer is willing to share their name, age, gender and location, the depth of this knowledge is limited.

To make first-party data even more powerful, it can be enriched by directly surveying an audience. This is known as first-party, declared data. Many publishers have some data to start this process: they know the geolocation of their audience, they might have a sign-in, they might know some user interests based on behavioural data that’s located on their site but by using branded surveys to ask visitor specific questions, it’s possible to gather data with much more depth and build a more detailed and accurate picture of a specific audience. With certain products and services, such as health, accuracy can be critical for getting the right service delivered to the people who need it.

Pure.amplify has worked with News Corp for five years to create first-party audiences at scale while enriching their existing business data. News Corp is able to collect self-declared data from consumers who visit their online publications and ask questions via branded personalised surveys while browsing content. This enables the business to package this data with their media content. This means that the advertiser or agency pays a premium because it has the data component included within ad spots.

Marketers have historically relied heavily on tracking behaviours to drive segmentation. While the industry is scrambling to find an alternative, there’s an unprecedented opportunity for publishers to provide a new standard in the digital marketplace – by building first-party, declared data assets from authentic consumers. The future lies in real data from real people, and this is why first-party, declared data is only set to rise in popularity. More importantly, first-party data plays a major role in replacing increasingly difficult to access third-party data, which brands and publishers heavily rely on today.

Tasneem Ali is the Head of media business at Pure.amplify.