First-party data is incredibly valuable – why are you wasting yours?


Pete Whitmarsh


Analytics and Data Science

First-party data refers to any data which a company has collated directly from its own audience; this could be through web analytics, newsletter subscriptions, app downloads, satisfaction surveys or customer accounts.

It’s considered to be more valuable than third-party data for multiple reasons: it comes from a single source, so is more likely to be accurate; insights come directly from the customer, so campaigns and strategies created using these insights should yield better results; there are minimal concerns around data misuse and privacy, as you are in control of how it is collected and stored.

Many brands do not make the most of their first-party data – this may be due to a lack of sufficient data, or because the data is spread over multiple CRMs and databases. However, including first-party data can both improve return on ad spend (ROAS) and conversion rate of our remarketing campaigns for both ecommerce and lead generation websites.

Ecommerce sites

Not all customers are the same. Adjusting your bidding strategy depending on who you are advertising to, is a more efficient way of utilizing your marketing budget.

In order to make informed adjustments, you can use first-party CRM data to build a user matrix of your customers. You might want to include things like purchasing frequency, average order, percentage of orders returned, whether or not the customer has installed your app or subscribed to your newsletter, etc.

Once you have created a user matrix, you can segment customers and adjust your paid media campaigns accordingly.

High-value customers (VIPs)

Customers who make frequent purchases, have a high average order and a low returns rate are high value to ecommerce businesses, and focusing your media spend on this audience can yield a high return. There are several tactics you can adopt to encourage these visitors to spend more:

  • Target with ads for new product launches
  • Set a loose frequency cap
  • Target with ads detailing refer a friend scheme.

It may also be beneficial to exclude this audience from brand ads, as high value customers are already familiar with the brand and can be just as likely to click and convert through an organic listing.

Another way to use this data is to create lookalike audiences to be used in paid media campaigns. By targeting individuals who have a similar profile to your high value customers, you may develop VIPs of the future. We can do this by pushing customer data in BigQuery and using this data to create audiences into Analytics 360. These audiences can then be targeted in Google Ads, Search Ads 360, and Display & Video 360. You can also use these insights in paid social, as you are able to create audiences in Facebook and LinkedIn.

Lapsed VIPs

You can use your user matrix to identify lapsed VIPs; customers who used to frequently purchase with a high average order and low return rate, but no longer buy your brand frequently.

Getting these customers back to the site to make a purchase can encourage them to become current VIPs, so ads you serve should be focused on that goal:

  • Offering a huge one-time discount
  • Encouraging them to install your app or sign up to the newsletter.

For this audience, we would recommend setting a tight frequency cap; we want to remind them about the brand, but we don’t want to use up huge amounts of budget.

Low-value customers (regular returners)

Customers who buy often bu regularly return, or have a low average  order, can cost brands money. To combat this, we might want to exclude them from paid media campaigns or restrict the marketing budget.

Lead generation websites

We can also use first-party data to improve remarketing campaigns for lead generation websites. There is typically a longer period between a user first visiting a website, and the subsequent sale, which means remarketing is extremely important in keeping the prospect’s interest.

The first step you should take is to map out your sales cycle:

Remarketing is mostly associated with targeting ads at someone who has left the website without converting; in the case of lead generation websites, this tends to mean leaving without filling in a form to request more information or a call back.

However, there are actually multiple additional opportunities to target users in the lead gen sales cycle. One opportunity that is often missed is when a user fills in the form with fake details. We find that those who go as far as to fill the form out, even with fake details, are usually very motivated and interested in the product or service. For these users, we might use Optimize 360 to present them with an alternative page (one that offers fewer barriers in the form fill, or a higher reward for filling in) to encourage them to leave their real details.

We can use remarketing campaigns to nurture relationships with those who have been identified as a qualified lead – for example, by displaying ads which highlight your credentials. Another tactic would be to exclude any negative leads from our targeting, as well as any prospects which have bought from a competitor (although in these instances, we might want to add them to targeting after their contract period is up).

We run through detailed examples of how to use first-party data to improve remarketing campaigns for both ecommerce and lead generation websites in this webinar.

How to start using your first-party data

The first step is to ensure you have a sufficient amount of first-party data. Traditional marketing can be a great way of getting more data; event sign ups, fliers with online activated discounts and competitions are all effective ways of getting data. Downloadable resources, such as whitepapers and webinars, are also useful tools in data collection. Any data collection and storage will need to be compliant with GDPR.

Centralizing your data is also important if you are to build up in-depth audiences. Integrating offline data in analytics, through Measurement Protocol, Salesforce link, or even manual input, can develop a more holistic view of your customers and their value.

Once you have set up your data and created audiences, you can push them out to ad platforms like Search Ads 360 and Display & Video 360 and use them in your remarketing campaigns, using new data to continuously refine your audiences and improve your digital marketing.

Our paid media team has proven experience using first-party data to improve paid results. If you’d like to discuss how we can utilize your data to create an effective paid media strategy, get in touch.

Watch this video if you want to hear:

  • How third-party cookie data is now much more limited than it used to be
  • What this means for your online advertising
  • Some of the ways you can utilize first-party data across the Google Marketing Platform to maximize ROI on your digital spend
  • Real use cases of this in action

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