Brand Strategy First Party Data Third Party Cookie

First-party data will help you get back in touch with customers

By Eben Esterhuizen, Vice-president, Data Science



The Drum Network article

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November 15, 2022 | 7 min read

It’s time to reconnect with customers, says Known’s Eben Esterhuizen. For The Drum’s Data & Privacy Deep Dive, he argues that first-party data is the best way to reach them.

Three faceless mannequins

Will first-party data help brands reconnect with customers? / Paul Zoetemeijer via Unsplash

Cookies have been a sweet treat for digital marketers for a long time now. With just a few clicks, it’s been relatively simple to target potential consumers, making sure that people who had a high probability of being interested in your brand saw your ads as they scrolled the web. But with Google phasing out third-party cookies by 2024 (plus Apple’s increased focus on privacy, allowing users to opt out of tracking), it’s no longer going to be so easy to reach your ideal customers.

Panicked about what this means for your business and brand? Don’t be. This can be an opportunity to develop deeper understanding of your customers, engage with them more meaningfully, and improve your advertising and marketing strategy.

Brands have become so accustomed to anonymized re-targeting that they’ve lost sight of what’s at the core of their success: their existing customer base and the data they generate. With third-party cookies on the way out, you can’t afford not to engage more deeply with your users to understand how your best customers behave. These learnings can unlock more opportunities for your business.

At Known, we’ve been doing this with clients who use first-party data (instead of relying on third-party cookies), but it’s a good practice for anyone preparing for the post-cookie reality.

First-party data will be the building blocks of your new strategy

When a user lands on your homepage, buys from your brand, or reads a blog post on your site, what do you know about them? Can you get any info from casual browsers v those who make a purchase?

What about repeat buyers: who comes back, and how often? These are data points that anyone can track without cookies, thanks to tools like Google Analytics. They can help you spot useful patterns. Do sales spike at certain times of the month or year? Do most people come to you on mobile or desktop? These are puzzle pieces that you can use to your advantage.

Use first-party data to find new targets

Once you’ve captured more first-party data on your customers, you’ll want to overlay or model your audiences onto one or more third-party datasets that maintain rich consumer profiles based on surveys and/or behavioral data, such as profiles of people who have opted in to have their web, mobile, and e-commerce tracked. These third-party datasets and tools enable brands to access more consumer profiles and create look-alike audiences to people in these datasets that match traits in your first-party dataset.

Say you run an organic pet food brand. Using your first-party data, you can create a look-alike audience for your customers using third-party data. Even if the third-party data doesn’t directly include consumer profiles of your brand’s customers, you might be able to use ‘proxy’ pet food brands in the third-party data.

You could also create a modeled look-alike audience using matched traits between your first-party customer data and similar data available in third-party datasets. Once you’ve created a proxy or look-alike audience, you can create rich consumer profiles to understand the ‘whole consumer’ (what’s common or distinct about your target customers?), and tailor marketing to target them.

Surveys can unlock future growth

Surveying your customers may feel old school, but in a post-cookie world, surveys may become more important than ever. Whether you can directly survey your customers (if you have their email addresses) or if you need to use a third-party survey panel company instead, why not ask them a few questions?

While cookies made this step feel unnecessary, it’s a practical business strategy to truly understand current and future customers. Asking questions like the ones included in third-party datasets can make later look-alike matching easier.

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Start with general queries (age, ethnicity, income, education level) to aid look-alike matching. Then dive deeper into questions around product category, use case, etc. Surveys can help home in on future customers; test and prioritize messaging themes; fill in gaps about your understanding of customers and prospects; test ads; or identify future customers who are persuaded by your ads. Responses will help you understand customers more intimately, build more targeted look-alike audiences, target and activate them in media, and unlock future growth.

First-party data is priceless because it leads you directly to consumers who have interacted with your brand. You know they’re interested in you. Now, it’s time to get more interested in them; to start engaging more with audiences. Don't be afraid of trying to understand them as much as possible. While we have some time until third-party cookies are gone, the earlier you stop relying on them, the further ahead you’ll be.

For more on how the world of data-driven advertising and marketing is evolving, check out our latest Deep Dive.

Brand Strategy First Party Data Third Party Cookie

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