First-party data: what is it and why is it important for marketers?
First-party data, zero-party data, third-party cookies, … so many data parties!
But what is actually going on behind these trending marketing terms?
And why are they so important in the current digital landscape?
Why all this talk about data?
With the disappearance of third-party cookies being announced in the past few years, brands and media groups have increasingly recognised the need to collect first-and zero-party data. Back in 2017, The Economist already wrote:
The world’s most valuable resource is no longer oil, but data.
From 2019, it has become clear that collecting first-party data was fast becoming a must-have for marketers as third-party cookies were slowly shown the door.
On a consumer level, a study from Verizon Media and IPG stated that 87% of consumers were concerned about how their personal data is being used. Furthermore, and as we’ve seen during the pandemic, these concerns have increased. Businesses and individuals have shifted their behaviours from offline to online in order to stay connected.
With the GDPR and and other data privacy laws and regulations coming into force since 2018, marketers have realised how important it is to be collecting data directly from the source: their audience. Opt-ins and first-party data are now playing a key role in helping marketers to better understand and connect with their consumers.
What are the differences between first-, third- and zero-party data? Why is first-party data so important? And why is it useful to marketers? In this article, we’ll be answering your questions about all these types of data and how they can be used to engage your audience in a cookieless world.
Talk data to me
What is first-party data?
First-party data is the data directly collected by businesses from their audience, customers and prospects. A simple form with opt-ins allows you to collect and process their data. This data is only available to the owners of the website visited by the user.
There are two types of first-party data:
- 🗣️ Declarative data is your audience’s personal data, such as their name, first name, email address, country of origin, etc. So any information that the visitor will provide you with through a form or an interactive marketing campaign, for example.
- 💻 Behavioural data is collected about the actions and activities of a visitor on your website or other digital channels. You can collect this type of data through a pixel or a cookie, installed on your website to track what the user is doing while browsing. The most common tool to analyse this type of data is Google Analytics.
Well, then what is zero-party data?
The difference between the two types of data is really quite blurry, and most of the time they’re both collected together but then used in slightly different ways. First-party data and zero-party data go hand in hand and are the perfect companions when trying to get to know an online audience better.
Zero-party data is data that is voluntarily shared by a user and that is hard to infer or buy from a user. So whereas first-party data is generally required information that a customer will need to supply in order to make a purchase or to access a service, zero-party data is optional information that the consumer chooses to willingly provide to a company.
Let’s illustrate the difference with the example of a hotel booking:
- When booking your hotel online, you’ll share information like your name, email address and date of birth. The hotel may also add an opt-in to their form, allowing you to sign up for their newsletter. This is your first-party data, it’s the minimum information required to make the purchase.
- The following information may also be asked of you: are you travelling for business or leisure? Would you prefer a sea view or a mountain view? What are your dietary requirements? This is your zero-party data, that you’re willing to share with the hotel and that they can’t infer or buy, to improve your customer experience.
⚠️ Curious to find out more about zero-party data and how it is helping brands and media groups to better engage with their audience? ⚠️
Check out THIS ARTICLE that tells you everything you need to know
Purina’s use of zero-party data
A perfect example of the use of zero-party data in a campaign? Check out marketing agency Dogofriends‘ photo contest for the dog and cat food brand, Purina. The objective was to promote the brand’s new product, Purina Dentalife, a chewing stick for dogs, whilst collecting zero-party data for further marketing actions.
For twelve weeks, dog owners could enter the photo contest by posting a photo of their dog with one of the brand’s sticks and answering a short questionnaire. A question about the dog’s name was asked in the form, in which two opt-ins were also present to collect consents for future communication. One opt-in to receive Purina’s newsletter, and another opt-in to receive Dogofriends’ newsletter.
This interactive campaign was promoted across both Purina’s digital channels (Facebook ads, newsletters, influencers,…) and offline channels (flyers, samples, internal promotions), ensuring greater visibility with consumers.
The zero-party data collected in the photo contest was used to personalise the commercial messages. Each email sent to the participants thereafter was personalised with the name of the dog in the subject line, previously collected via a form. The brand found that, thanks to this customisation, the opening rate increased by 10% on average.
And last but not least, what is third-party data?
Hubspot defines third-party data as:
any data that’s collected by a business or other entity that doesn’t have any direct link to the visitor or customer.”
Third-party data is mostly aggregated data, cut into segments and anonymised, purchased from larger, specialised companies that are not the original collectors of that data. Marketers are usually using this type of data for advertising and retargeting purposes. However, third-party data isn’t collected on your usual or similar audience, and is also available to your competitors.
Third-party data is usually used to enhance your own first-party data in order to expand the reach of your messaging, discover new audiences or increase the precision of your targeting. But with the demise of third-party cookies, used by aggregators to collect data on companies and media websites, it will be more and more difficult to use third-party data within your advertising strategy.
First-party data boom – but why?
The cookie has crumbled
When Google announced back in January 2020 that they would no longer be supporting third-party cookies on their browsers, the digital world collectively gasped in shock, at the prospect of the impact this decision would have on the future of marketing and advertising online.
The dust has since settled, the deadline has been pushed back a couple of times so we’re currently looking at the end of 2024, and the general feeling within the digital ecosphere is that this demise of the much used cookies should actually be seen as a golden opportunity. Rather than buckle under the fear of what they’re going to do without third-party cookies, brands should be concentrating their efforts on creating a more sustainable and safe data collection strategy, where they are the sole owners of their data.
Looking forward, what does the cookieless world look like and what does it actually mean for marketers? For starters, advertisers won’t be able to collect customer and prospect data via third-party cookies anymore. Brands will therefore no longer be able to target and segment their audience as they would have done previously.
Curious to find out more about how the media groups that use Qualifio are collecting first-party data from their audience to boost their audience engagement and loyalty ? Then make sure you check out our media ebook!
So the main change is that brands and media groups are going to have to connect or reconnect with their audience directly in order to collect data from them. First-party and zero-party data isn’t going anywhere, and in most cases brands already possess a lot of it, so with well-thought out and structured data collection strategies in place, brands will be able to harness the power of these types of data and create meaningful relations with their audience.
Businesses are increasingly looking to use their existing customer relationships and the information they agree to share, in other words their first-party data, to provide improved customer experiences. To further facilitate this, Google announced in October 2022 that they’re launching PAIR: “Publisher Advertiser Identity Reconciliation”. This new solution is a new way for advertisers to power their advertising using first-party data and is the next step towards the cookieless world.
The process will allow advertisers and publishers to activate the first-party data of users who have visited both the advertiser and the publisher’s site. Both parties will be able to aggregate this encrypted first-party data that is unique to their sites. Thanks to PAIR, advertisers will be able to more closely connect with their audience without tracking users across the internet.
With this new solution, Google is meeting the users’ privacy expectations and protecting the trust users have in their favourite brands, as they will only be seeing ads from the advertisers and publishers with whom they have a direct relationship, giving them more control of the ads they see.
Qualifio’s co-founder, Olivier Simonis, wrote in our cookieless world ebook:
Your brand is strong, attractive and in possession of a lot of data. Stop relying on complex, non-transparent AdTech ecosystems and be creative. Content and context are kings. You don’t need tons of data, start by making the best of the data you already have access to. Understanding the consumer who is tired of not knowing where their data is stored and used is the best strategic and long-term option you have.
According to a survey conducted by Campaignlive, 96% of advertisers say they are ready for a world without third-party cookies. However, most respondents report using less than half the potential of the first-party data they own.
⚠️ A small amount of qualitative data will always be worth more than a large amount of imprecise data. ⚠️
Enter stage left: GDPR
Another element to take into consideration when examining the importance that first-party data will be playing in the coming years, is GDPR and the other data regulations that have been introduced in the past 5 years. The European Union introduced a data protection regulation in May 2018, famously called the GDPR, and other countries have launched similar legal frameworks in its wake.
The expectations and needs of consumers in terms of data protection have changed drastically in recent years, with consumers expecting to be known and understood by the brands they love. For a long time third-party cookies enabled brands to track their website visitors, collect data from them and use that data to target and segment them. But in a post-GDPR era, data privacy compliance has become a vital asset for any brand who wants to conduct business online.
The end of third-party cookies and the introduction of data privacy laws are therefore the perfect opportunity to make digital advertising and data collection better, with a new approach – and that’s where our friends first- and zero-party data come into play.
First-party data at your service!
Why is first-party data so important?
First-party data is valuable because it has been collected directly from the audience that marketers want to reach. It’s qualitative and accurate, and brands know it’s also relevant to them. More than that: they already own a significant amount of first-party data.
According to a study by Quantcast and Iligo, 65% of the respondents say first-party data is the most reliable type of data. So the advantages of focusing on this type of data are pretty obvious:
- ✅ It’s directly collected from the source, which allows you to know it’s accurate, qualitative and relevant to your business;
- 🔑 Privacy and data protection are easier to ensure;
- 👥 Marketers own the data they’re collecting directly from their audience;
- 💰 Money-saving, whereas purchasing databases from third-party companies can have a considerably higher cost;
- 😄 It allows marketers to get insights directly from their audience so getting to know them is easier.
When is first-party data useful?
✅ GDPR compliance
As marketers are the owners of the data they’re collecting, they can make sure they’re GDPR compliant. By adding an opt-in to your forms, you will be able to collect all necessary consents. Don’t forget to consult your company’s DPO and follow your company’s guidelines on the topic.
→ Read more about how Qualifio can help you to be GDPR compliant.
⬇️ Retargeting in advertising
First-party data can be used for retargeting and nurturing during the sales process. Marketers can create new retargeting strategies based on their improved customer knowledge. They learn more about their ideal customer, are able to reach out to new audiences through different channels using their first-party data list.
By collecting first-party data, marketers can segment their audience and send them personalised emails and promotions. They can use the gathered data to engage with their audience about what really matters and interests them. Not only will they improve the open rate of their emails, but they will also convert more than if they’d sent a generic newsletter.
First-party data is the type of data that every marketer needs to be collecting and has the potential to increase their marketing results in the long term. Not only will they own that data but it’s also accurate and relevant to their business. However, marketers should be reminded that consent is trickier than it seems and that there are still many questions to answer on the GDPR front and how to collect first-party data in a compliant way
How can you collect first-party data?
It’s all very well collecting first-party data and having a lot of it – but what are you going to do with it? The power of first-party data is after all only fully harnessed if it’s then used to further your marketing efforts.
Once you’ve collected first-party data from your audience via interactive campaigns, it can then be sent to a CRM where it can be split accordingly with however you need to use it: between brands and countries for example. You’ll then be able to set up automated reports that will allow you to run specific and personalised marketing actions like emailing or social media campaigns.
The first-party data you’ve collected is consented so you’ll be able to send consistent and personalised communication via emails. Our customer, Royal Swinkels Family Brewers, find that this type of highly personalised email reaches an average open rate of over 30%.
Belgian retail brand LolaLiza have achieved an opt-in rate of 67% to their newsletter thanks to their continuous communication strategy – they release a game or interactive campaign every month with rewards tailored to their audience. They use 2 types of campaigns to collect first-party data: new collections or products and seasonal events. These campaigns are then shared on their different channels: promotional emails, newsletters, their website, their social media platforms and their e-commerce platform.
From a social media point of view, you’ll be able to target new consumers that are similar to your core audience by creating lookalike audiences on Facebook for example. The data will also allow you to launch relevant ad campaigns, on both a global and local level.
Behavioural data is the easiest to capture. When you’re setting up your analytics, you may have been asked to add a pixel or a cookie on your website. This pixel will then send data about your visitor’s activity on your website to your analytics platform. Depending on the tool you’re using, the most common ones being Google Analytics and Adobe Analytics, you will be able to collect:
- 🧑🤝🧑 Demographic data;
- 🌍 Geographic data;
- 📱 The device they’ve been using to browse your website;
- ⏱️ The time they spend on your website on average;
But marketers will have to be creative when it comes to collecting declarative data. As consumers have changed their behaviours regarding whom they’re willing to give their personal data to, so brands and media groups are going to have to prove that they are trustworthy. There are many ways to motivate an audience to share their personal data:
- 🔄 Make it a value exchange, give your audience something in return for them sharing their data.
- 🥳 Include interactive content in your marketing strategy. Engaging with and collecting data from your audience work hand-in-hand when you include interactive marketing formats in your strategy. Most consumers are more likely to share their data in exchange for a prize or an entertaining format. It’s then up to the brand to add a newsletter opt-in to their campaigns to be able to follow-up and send them personalised emails afterwards.
Harnessing the power of first-party data with interactive content
To round off this article on the importance of first-party data, let’s take a closer look at how interactive marketing formats can help brands and media groups to collect first-party data.
💅🏻Worldwide leading cosmetics brand L’Oréal have been using Qualifio for the past few years and have established a global data collection strategy that focuses on making sure that all of their brands are aligned and collecting data in the same way.
With the loss of third-party cookies, the company wanted to get closer to their audience, so they’ve launched their ‘Database Requalification Project’ that involves updating and enriching their customer data. In just over a year they’ve created over 700 campaigns and reached 5,5 million users. Thanks to these campaigns, they’re engaging their customers and prospects, with a large number of new accounts being created as their users consent to share their first-party and zero-party data.
Curious to find out more about this data collection strategy that’s worth it? It’s right this way!
⚽️ Spanish La Liga club, Valencia CF, use Qualifio Engage to collect first-party data by combining interactive formats (such as polls, surveys, quizzes, …) with powerful forms and opt-ins. They were struggling to get new newsletter subscribers, so at the beginning of the season, when fans were ready to be whipped into a frenzy, they launched a poll between the new home and away shirts, asking their fans to choose their favourite one, with a chance of winning it. Participants had to validate their choice by filling out a form that contained a newsletter opt-in. And as a result they managed to collect a total of over 2900 new newsletter subscribers in just 15 days! So not only did they gather new subscribers but they also gathered precious feedback from their audience that they were able to use in their fan-store and beyond.
Read their success story to find out more about their use of interactive marketing and first-party data!
🍻Independent Dutch family brewery, Royal Swinkels Family brewers, have placed first-party data at the heart of their marketing strategy, as explained by Koen Baltussen, their CRM and Website Marketeer:
We’re making first-party data our first priority moving forward, to better know and address our consumers. And gamification definitely plays a big part in it.
The brand has recognised the fact that today’s consumers want personalisation but not at the cost of their privacy, and with over 300 different beers to market, they started using Qualifio Engage with 2 objectives in mind:
- Collect first-party data to get to know their customers better and find new ones.
- Interact and engage their consumers regularly with interactive content.
Today, 75% of the data they collect comes from Qualifio campaigns and they’re collecting data across 8 different countries and 6 brands. They have an average newsletter opt-in rate per campaign of around 45%. Their ultimate goal is to create a highly personalised consumer journey based on personal and behavioural data and have set 3 clear objectives:
- Grow their database with 44% of new customer profiles
- Enrich 75% of their current customer profiles with 5 data points or more
- Achieve a newsletter opt-in rate of 50% per campaign
Make sure you check out our success story with them!
🤩 Mr Wonderful are on a mission: spread joy and happiness across Europe with their cute and colourful products! How are they going to achieve this? By placing first-party data at the heart of their marketing and data collection strategies.
Their main way of connecting with their audience is their social media channels, where they have a community of over 2 million people who all share in their friendly and positive way of looking at life. The aime of their marketing and data collection strategies is to get closer to this audience and build meaningful relationships with them. They’ve chosen to do so thanks to interactive marketing and first-party data.
Their use of both of these elements has meant that they’ve also seen a significant increase in their web traffic and of the number of consented contacts in their database. According to Oriol Ristol, Mr Wonderful’s Head of Digital Marketing:
We immediately see the impact on our traffic when we launch an action with Qualifio, reaching up to 50% increase. And we see the same trend with our newsletter. Our email click-through rate, including Qualifio campaigns, is around 20%, compared to the usual 4%.
In the past 2 years they’ve had over 1,6 million participants take part in their campaigns and have acquired nearly 400,000 new contacts in the database.
Take a look at their range of colourful and cheerful campaigns in their success story!
Want to discover other inspiring campaigns created by our users?
Take a look at our catalogue of all-time favourite campaigns!
How Qualifio can help
Qualifio has been working with Europe’s top brands and media groups for over a decade, and has helped them to face some of their biggest challenges:
- 📲 Implementing secure and compliant first- and zero-party data collection strategies.
- 🥳 Bringing more interactivity and virality to their content.
- 👋 Getting to know their audience better and segmenting their database.
- 💵 Finding new revenue streams by offering new and innovative formats to their advertisers, across all their channels.
- 🔈 Generating more leads for their conversion funnel.
- 🫂 Increasing their engagement with their audience and building more meaningful relationships with them.
The big brands and media companies that we work with, like L’Oréal, Unilever, Valencia CF, Nestlé, RTL, Vocento, Pepsico, Pathé, and many more, choose Qualifio for their interactive marketing and data collection for the over 50 innovative interactive formats that our catalogue boasts, and the capacity of our modules to integrate with their existing marketing and data stack.
In the past ten years, we’ve seen so many highly innovative and creative ways that brands and media groups have used our interactive formats in Qualifio Engage, to achieve a wide range of their marketing goals.
Some have wanted to spice up their content by adding polls and votes about their products; others have wanted to entertain and engage with their customers in new and innovative ways, with competitions and quizzes with amazing prizes to be won; some have wanted to increase their social media following with games and user generated content; and others have wanted to increase their number of newsletter opt-ins, with forms and personalised messaging.
And of course we can’t forget those who have increased their advertising revenues by teaming up with advertisers to create awareness and opt-ins for them with all sorts of interactive formats. You can read about more of these inspiring examples here.
One of the other advantages of using Qualifio is that our modules can save you a huge amount of time and money. With our turnkey solutions, that require little to no development or coding knowledge, you can easily and quickly set up campaigns without needing a whole team of people on it. Your marketing team can put together a great campaign in a matter of minutes, with over 50 formats to choose from, and include it in their content.
Meanwhile, your data team can oversee and manage the first- and zero-party data you’re collecting and leverage it to make sure you’re providing your fans with the best possible experience. No data silos either as Qualifio can be integrated with all the marketing tools you’re already using.
Over 50 interactive formats to choose from for your marketing campaigns!
⚠️ TIP: To ensure the proper use of the data you’re collecting thanks to interactive marketing, we recommend that you integrate Qualifio into your data management stack, your CRM or CDP for example. ⚠️
Find out how you can do that with Qualifio’s Integrations.
In a nutshell
As with any technology, the advances made in digital marketing are fast-paced and never ending. But if the changes and evolutions seen over the past couple of years are anything to go on, the future of digital marketing will be more than ever based around one central element: the consumer.
Brands and media groups are going to have to adapt and improve their marketing and data collection strategies in order to place their audience at the heart of everything that they do.
Luckily for them, first- and zero-party data are here to save the day! In an ecosystem where consumers are increasingly concerned about their data privacy and picky about who they share their data with, brands are going to have to prove that they are trustworthy in order to encourage their users to share actionable data with them. Here are 3 tips for achieving this:
- ♻️ True value exchange: an audience is much more likely to share their data with a brand who offers something worthy in return. It could be discounts, promotions, attractive prizes, rewards, loyalty points, premium content, … Curious to find out more about the data behind this topic? Make sure you check out THIS article! Spoiler alert: all data points to value exchange being a worth while strategy!
- 🥳 Interactive content: as explained in the previous chapter of this article, collecting first- and zero-party data thanks to interactive marketing campaigns is one of the easiest and most compliant ways of collecting data, as consumers are much more likely to share their data in exchange for an entertaining and fun campaign.
There are of course challenges ahead, as implementing data collection strategies that harness the both of the first- and zero-party data doesn’t happen overnight, but when done correctly, they are perfect for establishing long-term and meaningful relationships with online and offline audiences.
Are you interested in having a demo of our interactive marketing and data collection module?