First-party data helps marketers understand what customers want

By Cathy Colliver

USA TODAY NETWORK

Louisville, Kentucky, USA

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Third-party cookies are going the way of the dodo bird. This change looms large. Marketers rely on third-party cookies for targeted digital advertising and analytics.

Adjusting to changing norms related to digital privacy is still a bit of a mess. Since there is not a global agreement, brands look to national regulations. In the absence of national regulations, brands in the United States are looking to the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA). Further developments will likely happen at both the state level and the federal level.

Consumer protections are forcing U.S. brands to accept user-authorised cookies and be more creative with how they collect data.
Consumer protections are forcing U.S. brands to accept user-authorised cookies and be more creative with how they collect data.

In the meantime, many U.S. brands transitioned to user-authorised cookies.

Things get even more interesting when you add in shifting trends in digital media habits.

The messy middle

Think with Google released a lovely interactive feature about “understanding what matters to people.” It basically threw a massive wrinkle in its own zero-moment-of-truth model. The company lays bare the reality of the consumer journey. It’s actually pretty messy in real life.

Google’s take follows changes in digital habits during the pandemic: “We’ve found ourselves spending more time online, using more digital resources, as we look for ways to meet our new needs … . As a result of all this planning, our decision making grew messier and more difficult to understand.”

The result is the “messy middle of the purchase journey.” And, seriously, it’s super messy. This shouldn’t actually come as a surprise. It’s an excellent reminder that behind all those engagements, views, clicks, and filled-out forms are actual human beings.

Yes, we all like to synthesise data into something understandable by identifying patterns. There’s a pretty wide spread in how people move through their own unique customer journey. As marketers, we need to remember that understanding what matters to people is our first job.

Improving customer experience

Two INMA members provide examples of how first-party data can deliver a better customer experience:

News media organisations are lucky to have access to huge amounts of first-party data. We know what content our news audiences are consuming and data on their visit frequency, articles per visit, time on article, video content views, and more. We already use that to analyse, optimise, and deliver content our readers want.

Some marketing teams are already starting to collaborate directly with product teams. The goal is to improve customer experience and nurture digital visitors into digital subscribers. This is a trend that will continue as marketing teams rely even more on first-party data.

It’s also good to keep in mind use of first-party data can mean a lot of things. Anonymised first-party visitor data leveraged by newsrooms is one thing. Analytics based on logged-in subscribers provides another layer. Asking users to accept first-party cookies to establish a known user ID is yet another layer. There’s a lot to test and learn along the way, and it’s going to be a transition for everyone.

What’s the upside? A focus on user-consent first-party data means we can better understand our readers. And that means we can provide more relevant messages and stellar customer experiences.

About Cathy Colliver

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