Acquia is the open source digital experience company that empowers the world’s most ambitious brands to embrace innovation and create customer moments that matter.

Reading, United Kingdom
Founded: 2008

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Third-party cookies have gone stale. First-party data is the new secret ingredient.

by Alex Leicester

March 23, 2021

First-party data is the secret ingredient for customer loyalty

With Google recently announcing it is getting rid of third party data cookies on its Chrome browser, it looks like cookies are now well and truly past their sell by date. For the consumer, this is good news, as it's the latest wave pushing us toward stronger privacy-focused open web standards. For the marketer, though, it means having to adopt a first-party data strategy to build trust and protect customer privacy.

Moving from customer acquisition to consent-driven personalisation

Third-party data has historically been used to compile massive amounts of information about new customers to inform their targeting and advertising. While third-party data was helpful for marketers to build up a large database of prospects to target quickly, the breadth of data was still very much lacking. Third-party cookies don’t incorporate data from a number of other devices and channels where customers are engaging, like voice or mobile. The result is a frustratingly incomplete outline of customer traits without a single source of truth. The biggest flaw in relying on third-party data for marketing is that it’s purely acquisition-focused and done without any direct engagement with the customer themselves. If you’re trying to build lasting customer relationships, shouldn’t the actual customer be represented?

First-party data is the data that your company owns and is collected directly from your customers as they interact across your website and various channels. This data relies on acquiring permission and consent from customers, such as when a customer fills out a form to download an asset, or agrees to have their browsing behaviour tracked when visiting a website. Owned data can also include declared or 'zero-party data', where customers willingly give brands more insight into their preferences and future needs in exchange for a better and more personalised experience. Brands can encourage customers to provide zero-party data through things like quizzes, interactive content or educational surveys and use this knowledge to improve what content they display to certain individuals. These consent-driven data exchanges are by far the most valuable and reliable data for brands to access because they show that a customer trusts you enough to share their personal information for the value your brand offers. Companies can earn this trust by taking control over how they collect and manage personal data by building a centralised and secure data infrastructure with a Customer Data Platform (CDP).

Unifying data across the customer journey

Nowadays, customers don’t want to be tracked and targeted; they want brands to speak to them like real human beings and offered personalised and nuanced options as they move across different touch-points in their journeys with brands. Using third-party cookies, marketers had a disconnected view of the customer journey. Third-party data could tell you if a customer viewed an item like a new toaster on one site, so you could then cross-target them across various other websites and platforms with ads for other toasters as well. However, this single data source cannot account for all the other actions your customers may have taken on other channels. Instead, marketers need an open data framework where information can flow between different systems, channels and departments: from their website to their CRM system to customer support portals. Only once all of the customer data is collected, organised, unified and activated can brands build a resilience first-party data strategy. Using a CDP to create 360-degree customer profiles drawing from data from all systems and sources, marketers can understand how, where and when their customers prefer to interact.

The result of having all these different systems talk together is that marketers can draw more accurate conclusions about customers’ preferences, meaning targeting efforts are improved and potential cross-selling or personalised offer opportunities are uncovered. For example, say an online-only shopper goes to buy an appliance on a brand’s website only to see that the model they wanted is out of stock in the online warehouse but still available in some physical stores. Rather than lose out on potential revenue, the company can use geolocation data within the CDP to help that customer find their closest store with their chosen item in stock. From there, they can use that customer’s existing data history to execute a personalised campaign to convert them to a regular in-store shopper. For example, the brand may later email information on upcoming regional events or text them exclusive in-person promotion offers.

Weaving together multiple first-party data points into a continuous data pipeline is the key for brands to create consistently relevant experiences and create lifetime value with their customers. No more wasting money on 'scattergun' advertising campaigns or static product recommendations. The new era of customer experience requires a unified content and data journey that succinctly delivers personalised customer experience without the middle man. By investing in first-party data and a customer data platform, marketers can create transparent, meaningful conversations with customers that persist beyond a single transaction and result in significant lifetime value.


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