As we move towards a cookieless future, first-party data is going to become brands’ and marketers’ most valuable asset. Most publishers and advertisers are already preparing and you can find more detailed information here, but here is a quick guide to some of the important issues.

First-party data explained

Not sure what we mean when we talk about first-party data?

First-party data is the information that companies collect directly from their customers and audience. It often includes: website activity, purchase history, sales interaction, email engagement, customer feedback and support requests, as well as profile information such as demographics, behaviors and interests.

Advertisers’ first-party data

Advertisers can collect first-party data through multiple sources:

  • Website, micro-sites, app analytics
  • CRM systems
  • Social media 
  • Purchase history
  • Point of purchase 
  • Physical experiences and D2G initiatives
  • Support and customer service interactions (email, phone, or in-person)
  • Emails and surveys
  • Pixel / beacon

While advertisers can only target users that have already engaged with them, this targeting is much more accurate than through third-party cookies. In fact, one of the biggest first-party data advantages for advertisers is the possibility to create audience segments using data enablement platforms that control, process and onboard data. This makes the data available for targeting purposes within the demand-side platform (DSP) to maximize campaign efficiency.

What advertisers can do with it

Although first-party data is mostly used for retargeting, advertisers can also build lookalike audiences and amplify their prospecting results. These are the most common ways to leverage first-party data, though not the only ones. When it comes to optimizing your creative strategy, this type of data offers valuable insights that can be applied to work on creative, retargeting users who have performed specific actions.

Also, brands and marketers can match the first-party data of the advertiser with:

  • Partners’ performance data
  • Publishers’ audience data
  • Other first-party data sets

This process provides granular information that can be used to work on more accurate campaign improvements.

Publishers’ first-party data

If advertisers have many different data sources, publishers also have a great advantage. They know their audience better than anyone else, which is why they can use web analytics and user behavior to refine audiences towards particular topics and subtopics.

The type of information we are talking about includes: browsing habits, devices, email addresses, interests, age, location, and income, among others. 

As in the demand side, the sources can be many on the supply side:

  • User registrations
  • Newsletter metrics
  • Offline data
  • On-site analytics
  • Searches: inbound and on-site
  • Content consumption (particularly gated content)

What publishers can do with it

In terms of what publishers can do with first-party data in programmatic, they can:

  • Leverage audience extensions that allow publishers to create audiences they can later make available to advertisers, increasing the chances of reaching new potential buyers. 
  • Sell data through PMPs where they can select the buyers and overlay their first-party audience segments, improving campaign results and increasing revenue.
  • Offer blended audiences on curated marketplaces.
  • Leverage programmatic guaranteed deals.

The challenges of first-party data

While collecting first-party data is not always a difficult task, activating it can become quite challenging. Privacy-driven changes and the phasing out of third-party cookies will change the way we collect, process and use first-party data. 

However, there are some challenges related to both collection and activation that we can start addressing now or in the near future. 

For instance, how can advertisers without a direct relationship with their customers access first-party data? What happens when companies don’t have consent-granted data? 

There are also potential issues with storing and aggregation. Although consolidating data in a single silo would make it easier to leverage in programmatic campaigns, this could be difficult when data comes from multiple sources. Also, resolving identity could become very complicated in this situation.

All in all and despite the many current and upcoming challenges, first-party data is the future of advertising in a data-privacy-respecting world – and a great asset for programmatic sellers and buyers.