Optimize First-Party Data For A Cookieless Future

The future is “cookieless,” though that future’s arrival continues to shift as Google Chrome recently extended its timeline to early 2025. While marketers may have more time to prepare, the inevitable upcoming loss in traditional tracking and targeting abilities means they must act now for customer and revenue retention.

Third-Party vs. First-Party Data

To level set, all marketers should have the same understanding of third-party and first-party data -- that is, the way in which data is collected. Third-party data is collected by an external group that has no direct affiliation with the business. Through cookies, marketers can see an extensive trail of a user’s internet history and a great deal of context around that trail.

By contrast, first-party data is collected and owned by a business and gained through direct interactions with customers or users. Many marketers interpret first-party data as mere analytics --  informational data points without the robust context of third-party data. Herein lies the opportunity to gain more from first-party data by expanding the definition to include zero-party and second-party data.



Zero-Party Data

Zero-party data is collected and owned by an organization. The differentiator is that customers and users voluntarily and proactively offer this data. It is often focused on user preferences, interests, and intentions. Common examples can be found in account profile information, including birthdays, and results from product recommendation quizzes such as those found on beauty sites.

This information is often freely given as a value exchange to receive better-targeted recommendations. Organizations must then deliver on that promise.

Second-Party Data

Often, second-party data is interpreted as third-party data -- it is another company’s data that your organization gets access to. Actually, it is your data, generated from your marketing and advertising activities by your consumers with your investment, collected on platforms that you control. Expanding the definition unlocks a new realm of possibilities for better understanding consumers and optimizing advertising activities.

The challenge is that this data lives within brands’ partner platforms usually operated by media agency partners. Brands must ensure ownership of the data properly sits with themselves and can be ingested back into their first-party marketing data warehouse.

Ingesting and integrating first-, second-, and zero-party data from various platforms into one cohesive pool is crucial to extract better insights. With an integrated and structured dataset, it is possible to run queries and understand past performance to inform future decisions. Next, apply machine learning and AI to the dataset to predict what will happen and better understand the hidden patterns in the historical dataset.

All of that said, having the most first-party data with all the predictive and consumer insights one could ask for is useless unless it is actively applied and used. First-party data is a critical building block to successful marketing, advertising and overall competitive advantage as third-party cookies deprecate.

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