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Transforming first-party data into a key business asset

James Park

April 01, 2024

Marketing agility and adaptability are more critical than ever, with organizations grappling with evolving customer behaviors, stronger privacy regulations, emerging technologies, and fading digital signals. The velocity of these changes will only accelerate through the democratization of AI-based tools by both businesses and their customers. To compete, let alone succeed in this marketing landscape, organizations need to execute a first-party data strategy and treat it as a crucial business asset. Doing so will prepare organizations to hedge data durability, enable marketing tactics, and realize performance improvements, all in a privacy-centric and transparent manner. Recognizing the value of first-party data in marketing is not just strategic but essential for futureproofing against these challenges. 

The demand for digital privacy has brought us the pending cookie-less future, along with many other measures that have compromised traditional tracking methods. Elimination of third-party cookies, redaction of mobile ad IDs, Apple’s Mail Privacy Protection (MMP), and Link Tracking Protection (LTP) are recent examples of a growing trend that will bring additional measures to block digital signals about a customer’s behavior without their knowledge and consent. The development of first-party data represents a shift in how businesses gather and leverage customer information, focusing on sustainable data collection methods that build trust and add value for both the customer and the business. This evolution in data strategy highlights the role of first-party data in enabling direct, consent-based interactions with customers to ensure businesses can engage their audience effectively in a world that values privacy. 

Marketing strategies often pull from industry trends, consultants, publications, and technological capabilities to create plans incorporating activation concepts such as personalization, customer journey insights, segmentation, unified customer data, profile development, and cross-channel measurement. If first-party data is not present and serving as the foundational core, these initiatives create immense waste because of the additional resources applied and are less effective due to the reduced quality and availability of the data. Ultimately, the state of an organization’s first-party data will directly impact its marketing agility and adaptability. First-party data must come first.  

Creating visibility, building customer trust, and enabling marketing initiatives all need a feedback loop to help organizations navigate and ensure they are heading in the right direction. Performance measurement, testing and optimization, business intelligence, and advanced analytics are heavily reliant on validated, cleansed, and standardized first-party data. Dirty data leads to erosion of trust and extended lead times for your analytics outputs.  

Developing and implementing a first-party data strategy is an organization-wide initiative that will require both soft and hard change management to address organizational challenges, identify opportunities, optimize processes, and leverage technology. The solution will vary and be unique to each organization, but there are a handful of actions that can be taken to set a path for success:  

  • Executive Sponsorship – As with any major initiative, establishing executive-level sponsorship provides thought leadership, generates momentum, creates alignment, expands vision, and helps clear roadblocks. A good portion of the strategy will be developed in this area and help drive the project forward.  
  • Organizational Behavior and Education – First-party data includes a wide array of sources with various levels of ownership across different teams within an organization. This is where a good deal of the soft change management will occur, as collaboration and cooperation will be critical. The starting point is educating stakeholders on the need for first-party data as a critical business asset and not just another IT project.   
  • Purpose – Just as you would set at the organizational level, establishing a purpose with an agreed-upon vision and mission will guide where to spend your resources — whether time, people, or budget. It also supports alignment and drives clear decisioning from an organizational behavior perspective.  
  • Assessment – Conducting an assessment seeks to identify the current state of data, including data collection processes, sources, quality, integrations, flows, and outputs, regardless of whether and how they are leveraged today. Based on the purpose you have established through executive sponsorship and organizational alignment, you can leverage your key objectives as a guide to identify and prioritize opportunities to help you move towards your vision state. Additionally, the assessment will feed into a flexible roadmap and help decide which technologies and integrations to focus on.  
  • Customer First – As marketers, we need first-party data to compete. Still, all the effort outlined above will be for naught if we don’t approach it with a customer-first, privacy-centric mindset that harmonizes data collection and consumer privacy. The process of gathering data must be transparent and provide a clear value exchange for the customer. This mindset can also help drive other avenues of accumulating data, as in the case of zero-party data, where the customer provides information knowingly and willingly because they understand a value exchange exists, and the brand is seeking to provide a better customer experience. 

Elevating first-party data to a strategic asset is within reach for most organizations, setting the stage for improved marketing and customer engagement. While initial steps towards change management can be managed internally, collaboration with external subject matter experts in end-to-end data collection, governance, technology, analytics, customer experience strategy, and marketing activations can significantly fast-track this process. As a leader in precision marketing, RAPP stands at the forefront, specializing in first-party data optimization to propel businesses into the next era of digital marketing. 

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