The following was previously published in an earlier edition of Marketing Insider.
Every marketer knows that the impending elimination of third-party cookies on Google Chrome and Apple’s anti-tracking changes on iOS devices have made first-party data more essential to digital marketing. Brands can no longer easily track customers across third-party sites, or freely share customer data among themselves. They need more first-party data to drive targeted marketing.
However, most brands will not be able to collect enough first-party data to drive successful digital marketing at scale. Thus, the answer is not only to collect more; it’s to maximize the value of first-party data at brands’ disposal.
Here are ways to do just that.
Maximize the value of intent signals. Forget audience segments based on purchases. Marketers must now focus on creating highly effective strategies based on a more immediate signal: intent.
Fortunately, signals of intent are everywhere. A well-thought-out website can be a gold mine of valuable intent signals. Brands should be able to segment customers based on whether they just visited a landing page or thoroughly researched a product, then orchestrate campaigns based on that data, spending more on prospects who have demonstrated interest but need a stronger push down the funnel.
Facebook and other walled gardens are also still gold mines of intent. Maximizing the value of those signals will go a long way toward making up for lost third-party data.
Focus on actionable intelligence, not the amount of data. When it comes to data-driven marketing, it’s not so much the amount of data but what you do with it. To be sure, a certain degree of scale is necessary. Leading practitioners are able to take the same datasets as others and generate more useful insights based on it, which is why most digital marketing agencies (and brands and companies in general, for that matter) currently cannot hire conversion rate optimization or personalization experts fast enough.
Say a brand has emailed every customer or prospect on its mailing list and is still not seeing desired results. Is the brand marrying email data with website data or with data observed on social platforms? Is it setting up automatic processes to identify personalized cross-selling and up-selling opportunities, targeting customers who are likely to desire a complementary product based on past purchases or intent signals?
Sometimes generating actionable intelligence requires combining data with old-school brand intuition. Consider a pizza chain with a mailing list or loyalty program roster of customers who love ordering takeout. The brand can use this data to identify lookalike audiences on third-party platforms that are likely to draw audiences with an affinity for its products. For example, the pizza chain might target gamers on Twitch who are similar to its takeout loyalists.
Foster a virtuous cycle of loyalty to create a first-party data pipeline. The savviest brands won’t just maximize the value of intent signals and first-party data. They will use those same processes of value maximization to create a pipeline of first-party data, fostering a virtuous cycle of engagement, first-party data collection, and customer acquisition. Loyalty programs and engagements are key to that cycle.
The pizza chain example can illustrate how that virtuous cycle comes together. After acquiring Twitch users who, indeed, convert at higher-than-average rates for the pizza chain’s gamer-focused campaigns, the chain might provide incentives for its new customers to join a loyalty program.
This need not be your parents’ loyalty program — along with the occasional discount, the program might also include access to online events, social media engagement, and even in-person experiences such as a game night at the local pizza parlor.
Once the brand commands a loyalty program that offers high experiential value, it can continually amass first-party data that can in turn drive future customer acquisition campaigns (which drive more data collection and even more optimized campaigns, and so on). What may have started with a little out-of-the-box thinking about current customers or website intent signals can blossom into a rich first-party data pipeline.