A coming of age for first-party data

The data revolution is coming full circle for CIOs and CMOs looking at their own customer behavior to direct better outcomes.

Since the advent of the Internet, companies have created their own websites and through these sites came a deluge of clickstream data. For years, marketers have relied on these outside insights, but they didn’t quite know what to do with them.

More recently, there has been a revolution – or coming of age – with companies increasingly looking inward and basing decisions on their own proprietary data. Brands are seeing how powerful their data is, how specific and reliable the numbers are, and how it lets them perform analysis and direct outcomes in real-time, rather than simply observing.

The premium companies place on first-party data is illustrated most outwardly through instances of bankruptcy and deals within the retail space, where dollar figures quantify each asset. In the bankruptcy auction of RadioShack, the most talked about asset was its treasure trove of customer data. With 2016 being an election year, we’ve also seen how precious proprietary data is in today’s politics, as evidenced by the spat between the Clinton and Sanders campaigns over a breach that occurred.

What is so valuable, exactly?

In the past, getting access to data for digital marketing always meant third-party cookies. Cookies help because they offer a strong snapshot of the market as a whole, but they have limitations.


Cookies aren’t specific. The data might represent each company’s customers somewhat, but it’s hard to know exactly what’s being looking at. Cookies also get cleared and people use multiple devices, making sessions difficult to cobble together.

So while cookies are always helpful, when used only exclusively, they leave the picture a bit foggy when it comes to making quick and informed decisions. Here are four benefits of first-party data:

  1. The limitations of cookies are removed. First-party data is highly-focused, pulling directly from customers who visit a brand’s website or use its apps. It also includes all kinds of valuable enterprise data, including customer relationship data, call center data, voice of customer data, and product data.
  2. In-house data pertains to the target audience only. It’s specific and free of the kind of possible privacy issues we often see associated with the gathering and sharing of third-party data.
  3. Highly customizable, first-party data enables all kinds of adjustments for perspectives to be made in real-time.
  4. And most simply, proprietary data doesn’t cost anything.

Bringing offline methods online

By using predictive models on their data, brands can understand their shoppers, perhaps better than the shoppers know their own habits. Insights can include how often customers shop, when they shop, how much time they spend shopping, and even what customers who have shopped for 20 minutes buy at certain times of day on their phones during the summer. These insights arrive in real-time as shoppers browse before making a purchases, when brands can monetize their knowledge the most.


Imagine the sharpest, most astute of managers in the brick-and-mortar setting, greeting the customer at the door and engaging, reading their interest and steering them toward the right purchase. Brands are realizing how critical this is for ecommerce, as they dedicate significant portions of their budgets to beefing up their online presences.

This results in more satisfied customers who can shop in an efficient and directed manner, and inventory that isn’t returned – all major areas of focus for any retailer.

First-party data as a game changer

After someone makes a purchase, they’re frequently bombarded with ads for the very same item. Obviously, the customer likely doesn’t need to buy the same item again, and may find some level of annoyance at the mere suggestion.

By using first-party, companies can target people in a smarter way. For example, if someone buys a pair of shoes, the logical next purchase could be socks or perhaps a belt.

In the past, first-party data was rarely more than proprietary information that was filed away, never to be seen again. Now, every brand with an online presence – large and small, from public giants to startups – is rapidly building mountains of customer data that enables quicker, more evidence-based decisions than ever before.

And these brands are all realizing how they must seize this opportunity to maximize their business, making first-party data king in today’s world.

Jay Marwaha is president and CEO of SYNTASA.

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