4 ways to productively use first party data

The process of collecting and analysing data can be long and frustrating – and made worse by the fact that it’s not always rewarding for your business. Information is a valuable resource, but you can have too much of a good thing. In the search for big data, it’s easy to neglect good data.

In marketing departments across the globe, money is pumped into acquiring more and more information about customers and their behaviours. This information isn’t always relevant, and sometimes doesn’t highlight anything useful.

This is a dangerous approach for many reasons, not least the fact that amassing data you don’t need can be legally questionable: legislation including the Data Protection Act 1998 and the European General Data Protection Regulation contain strict provisions about the ways companies can use their customers’ information.

>See also: 8 predictions for digital marketing in 2017

But beyond legality, it’s simply not efficient or effective to hoard this much detail about individuals. You can’t create a profitable strategy from irrelevant information. Great customer experiences, especially in 2017, are focused and personal.

When customers or prospects are treated like your only customer, instead of one face in a vast, bland crowd, they are more inclined to engage with your brands over your competitors.

Sidestepping the data crater

Part of this is to do with the type of data that businesses are using. Second-party data – essentially, another brand’s first-party data that you’ve purchased from them – can fill in some gaps in the information your brand collects, but integrating two data sets can be a difficult and time-consuming task.

Third-party data, which amounts to purchasing ‘off-the-shelf’ data sets, can be accessed by anyone, is more likely to breach regulations, and is generally of poorer quality: there is no assurance that the information you receive will be relevant or useful.

>See also: Will poor data quality jeopardise GDPR compliance?

A lack of focus on first-party data – the relevant information that your company accumulates from its customers and prospects – can punish businesses. Renewing this focus is a good start: a study from Econsultancy found that two-thirds of marketers consider this data the best way to achieve true insight into customers.

So how can you make the most of first-party data? These four tips illustrate some key ways to take advantage of it.

Keep it clean

No company needs the inactive address details or phone numbers of ex-clients. If a customer has lapsed and plainly isn’t coming back, it’s worth accepting this and moving on.

That old landline number from 2004 isn’t going to come in handy any time soon. Besides being slightly intrusive, keeping this information on hand is a waste of storage.

Good data strategies require you to be attentive, not omniscient. Eliminate data that you’ve plainly got no use for and your teams will work from the best, most current information available. If it’s not directly relevant to your goals, don’t keep it.

Set your objectives

Of course, that last point is complicated somewhat by the fact that businesses aren’t always sure what their goals for their data strategies actually are. Consequently, they hold on to information in case it might be useful. It often isn’t.

>See also: What is customer identity access management?

Figure out what you’re actually trying to achieve with your information-gathering strategy. This doesn’t have to be a complex proposition, it just needs to be simple and specific. Do you want to nurture a longer-term relationship with a key client? Are you intent on broadening your product portfolio and selling it to existing customers? Then keep track of information such as purchasing behaviours to do so.

Move from segments to one-to-one experiences

Second-party and third-party data, when matched correctly, enables brands to segment customers and prospects into relevant groups, before testing content and products to learn what is effective and what isn’t.

By comparison, first-party data enables brands to clearly identify individual customers and deliver highly relevant experiences. This is obviously a clear benefit, as brands can learn at customer-level what they want, what they don’t, and how best to deliver an individual experience, not a segmented one.

Let your team access all areas

Finally, ensure that everyone in the company has access to the first party data they need. When information is unnecessarily siloed, it’s very difficult to make the most of it.

>See also: Royal Mail’s data journey

Delivering a consistent customer experience is the responsibility of everyone within a brand, and the only way to do this successfully is to have a consistent strategy and decision-making process internally. Data needs to run horizontally across your vertical departments.

The above advice represents a good start for those looking to build a first-party data strategy, but it’s just a start. Effective long-term data strategies require initiative, iteration, and vigilance. Stay on top of it – great things can happen when you use the right information in the right way.


Sourced by Jason Lark, managing director, Celerity


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Nick Ismail

Nick Ismail is a former editor for Information Age (from 2018 to 2022) before moving on to become Global Head of Brand Journalism at HCLTech. He has a particular interest in smart technologies, AI and...

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