What is first party data and why is it important?

Ellie Burns Written by Ellie Burns

5 min read   -  12th February, 2024

What is first party data and why is it important?

No marketing strategy is worth a penny unless it’s based on accurate, detailed and highly relevant data. It’s an invaluable asset that is becoming increasingly more challenging to collect due to the decline of cookies and lack of reliability in third-party data sets. 

This is where first party data comes into play. Third party cookies, although widely available and an accepted part of the online experience, are being phased out across multiple platforms, to make way for first party data collection. In order to help future-proof your marketing strategy, now is the time to pivot to collecting much more first-party data. But how can you do that effectively?

This article will tell you all you need to know about this more reliable and accurate source of data collection, and how your marketing campaigns can benefit from it:

What is first party data?

First party data refers to a powerful, modern connection between businesses and their customers. It is highly accurate and reliable information collected directly from a business interacting directly with the customer. This data is collected via website or app, for use in marketing to those customers.

In other words, it’s the data you collect from your customers, the kind you would previously have gathered from cookies on your site.

First party data can include all sorts of information, including:

  • Socioeconomic data - Age, marital status, gender, employment and education.
  • Online behaviour - Pages visited, time spent on site, buttons clicked.
  • Customer logs - Items purchased or left in the basket at checkout.
  • Social media - Preferred apps and usage habits.
  • Consensual contact information - Email address, phone number, username.

This presents a new approach that leaves the inaccuracy and lack of personalisation of cookies in the dust. It presents nuanced insights into user behaviour, engagement patterns and preferences.

It can also bridge the gap between the digital and physical world. For example, first party data collection is not just about collecting email addresses for digital newsletters or saved unsold items from the digital checkout; you can include data from in-person interactions with customers such as loyalty programs via post, or customer service interactions.

Why is it so important - and now more so?

Enhanced personalisation
First party data offers hyper-personalised experiences, for a modern audience with high expectations. Customers are online, expecting their preferences to be remembered and catered for. The flexibility of what metrics you collect data on gives you the perfect opportunity to personalise your site like never before.

Improved accuracy
The only data you collect is direct, straight from the source. So it’s far more accurate than second or third-party tracking data. This has an immediate positive effect on the accuracy of your analysis of any current and future marketing campaigns, because you can simply trust your data.

Sunsetting cookies
A potential cookie-less future may be around the corner. But first-party data collection offers numerous ways to bring in data from your users without relying on any cookies or tracking pixels. This is the perfect time to start experimenting with cookie-free data collection, so you’re prepared for whatever the future holds.

Building trust
This is currently the most transparent and upfront way to collect data from your customers. Nothing seems sneaky or underhand about it, fostering a much needed sense of trust and reliability in an increasingly artificial online market.

Addressing Privacy Concerns
Customers are rightfully concerned about online security, especially when it comes to passing over any personal information online. FIrst party data collection helps alleviate that worry. With heightened privacy regulations, it is also useful for maintaining strong levels of GDPR compliance. 

How can you collect more first party data? Our top tips:

Now you’re ready to jump in and discover just what data you can source directly from your customers, what’s the best way to begin? Here are a few pointers to get you started:

Create bespoke content
Tailor your content based on user interactions, crafting unique content for specific users and personas. Develop dedicated landing pages and provide personalised recommendations to encourage further engagement and drive return visits.

Partner with AI
Make use of AI algorithms to deeply analyse your audience’s behaviour and preferences. Elevate your own analysis and understanding with AI-informed predictions on trends and future interaction highlights.

Collect as you go
You don’t need every data point immediately (and that’s a huge red flag to savvy customers anyway). So opt to gather detail over time, little by little. This avoids overwhelming users and allows for a more organic progression of user engagement. As a bonus, this helps establish trust in your brand.

Harness the power of analytics
AI aside, there’s a wealth of options available to you in terms of analytics. Leverage tools like GA4 to make the most of what’s already available to you. You’ll want to match up data from the various sources that you’ve collected from, to help form the basis of your first-party data strategy. Connect your CRM with GA4 and start looking for connections.

Keep the conversation going
Now that you’ve collected some data on your customer, treat them like a person, not a product. Open the lines of communication and actively seek feedback directly from your customers to gain valuable insights into user needs and preferences.

Incentivise data sharing
The great thing about a lot of these more casual and conversational first-party methods for gaining data, is how familiar they feel on a personal and human level. Offer discounts and rewards to users who share their information with you. Make these offers exclusive and enticing. This is a benefit to the user in making them feel valued, and saving them money. But it’s also the sort of thing that they’ll want to share with their community and network, bringing more eyes onto your brand.

Make the most of social media
Engage with followers on your social channels to collect data directly while keeping the connection going in a more conversational style. This will open up more avenues of data collection to explore, and help foster meaningful interactions with your brand

Mistakes to avoid with first party data

Benefits and exciting new opportunities aside, there are a few key points to be mindful of regarding first-party data collection on your site.

Hiding your opt-out
Keep it simple. Be totally transparent with your opt-out options. This not only looks good to new customers who are being introduced to your brand for the first time, but is also imperative for GDPR. Authenticity online starts with trustworthiness.

Same-old strategy
Change things up! Adapt your approach to first-party data collection to see what your customer base are most responsive to. See what really connects you to your audience so you can double down on what works, rather than staying in the slow lane with an outdated method that isn’t getting you results.

Asking for everything
Your customers are not data points, they’re human beings navigating a crowded online space. So treat them with compassion and respect. There’s no need to push users for additional information, especially in the early days of connecting. Start slow and enhance your working relationship with them gradually. As this evolves, you’ll gather a much more authentic representation of your customer-base than a typical form or Q&A, sent minutes after they’ve first discovered your brand.

In Summary

First party data isn’t just a marketing strategy; it’s a way to keep your customers at the centre of your marketing outreach. It’s a slower approach to more meaningful and impactful connections that ultimately can massively benefit your brand identity, customer loyalty, and revenue.

It starts with discovery

Speak to us today and let’s start growing your business.

Get in touch Get in touch

It starts with discovery

Speak to us today and let’s start growing your business.