First-party data 101: How self-declared data boosts performance, quality, and targeting

There’s a revolution taking place in digital marketing. For all its virtues, digital has largely been a discipline based on probabilistic targeting. Marketers track cookies, drop pixels, and craft segments in an inexact effort to target the consumers they want to reach. But thanks to the great duopoly of Facebook and Google, segments are out, deterministically targeting verified individuals is in.

This revolution has allowed both to roll out new products–Facebook Custom Audiences and Google Customer Match—that are changing the way marketers target messages to consumers. No longer must marketers rely solely on third-party data, the bits and pieces of ourselves picked up by tracking pixels and cookies. These tools rely on first party data, the self-declared facts that we share with platforms via social profiles, platforms and logins.

It’s a brave new world with lots of benefits for digital marketers. But before you set out, take advantage of a few lessons from first-party data 101.

First party data powers performance

Leave contextual buying to your brand planners. Whether you’re undertaking a newsletter subscription campaign, pushing enrollment in a loyalty program, or motivating app installs, reaching consumers through a people based marketing campaign rooted in first party data is  more effective. Why? They’ve told you they’re in the market.

“If you want to get someone to do something complicated, like fill out a lengthy form on an insurer’s website to get a car insurance quote, you’re better off talking to people that you know own cars rather than people who just likely to own cars,” said Sean Cullen, evp of product & technology at Fluent.

According to Cullen, first-party data helps marketers to avoid wasting time and money on people whom they merely suspect will be interested in their message. These people based marketing campaigns, driven by self-declared data reach people that marketers know are interested, making it easier not just to drive one-off actions but to engender long term customers.

Quality over quantity

We’re living in the aging of  targeting in digital advertising, but there’s still an element of guesswork at play. Digital marketers narrow down the field of fire by selecting segments that closely conform to the type of customer they want, but at the end of the day they are still throwing significant spend at pixels and tracking cookies rather than people.

“First-party campaigns allow marketers to target a smaller sample with greater results” according to Stephanie Benson, a member of the IAB’s programmatic council. “These campaigns diminish overspend ad-waste because we can reach actual individuals who are engaged rather than theoretical ones.”

Probabilistic targeting over, anonymous cookies and pixels

The days of internet anonymity are long gone. The rise of massive audience platforms means many consumers are spending the bulk of their time online in a logged-in state as they interact with content, tools, and services. There’s an element of efficiency for users in unifying the digital experience under a single identity A single login on Facebook connects all the disparate elements of a consumer’s web journey sparing them the hassle of multiple log-ins in favor of a personalized experience.   There’s also utility for marketers in the ability to find and reach them.

In this environment, ads don’t follow consumers around the web like a lost puppy. With first-party data, advertisers can create ads and serve them to users who have said they’re interested on platforms they enjoy using. A native ad personalized based on an individual’s tastes and needs is a boon to both the advertiser, who knows they’re speaking to the right person, and the consumer, who isn’t wasting their time reading irrelevant messages.

By connecting with multiple vendors, marketers can learn more about these potential customers than ever before “We’re connecting with 700,000 of these logged in, validated people every single day” said Cullen. “Generating between five and six million unique survey responses attached to each of those people, and in turn driving usually between 1.2 to 1.5 million actions in response to their advertisements.”

The Bottom Line

Since the dawn of mass-media marketers have been looking for ways to reach customers directly. First-party campaigns allow marketers to reach that once far away goal by talking directly to a verified person. By owning first-party data, either through their own CRM databases or by licensing it from a provider, marketers have the opportunity to drive results without relying on guesswork.    

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