Seven first-party data capturing opportunities your business is missing out on

30-second summary:

  • Third-party data is being phased out by big tech, making first-party data indispensable
  • First-party information is willingly provided by users, helping you build a consumer profile
  • Internet users are cautious about providing their data but will do if rewarded
  • Tracking pixels, CRM platforms, and surveys and encouraging interaction and registrations effectively capture first-party data.
  • First-party data must be used responsibly, repaying consumers’ trust in a business.

Data is arguably the most significant currency of all when doing business online. An effective and bespoke marketing plan can be devised by obtaining reliable data about your target audience. This will convince customers that you understand their unique needs, desires, and pain points. Alas, not all data is created equal. As the influence of the internet grows and the fallout of the Cambridge Analytica scandal continues to reverberate, consumer privacy is more important than ever. Any online business needs to build a consumer profile ethically and reliably. This makes the collection of first-party data critical.


What is first-party data?

First-party data is consumer information collated directly by your business based on user behavior. This data can be used to build a profile of your target audience, tailoring your marketing and user experience accordingly.

What is the difference between first-party, second-party, and third-party data?

As discussed, first-party data is user information collated directly from your website. We will discuss how you can obtain first-party data shortly. However, let’s clarify the difference between this approach and second or third-party data. Second-party data is essentially the first-party data collated by another business. This may be shared between two websites for an agreed common good. However, second-party data remains private. It will not be made available to the public and cannot be purchased.

Third-party data is that which you purchase, usually from a data management platform (DMP) or consumer data platform (CDP). These platforms harvest data from users based on their online habits. These are known as tracking cookies. It is important to note that third-party data is not gained through personal consumer relationships.

Internet users are growingly increasingly security-conscious and are looking to shape online privacy policies. The use of third-party data is slowly being phased out. Google has announced that they will remove third-party cookies from 2022, while the Firefox and Safari browsers have already done so. With Google Chrome accounting for some 65 percent of global web browser traffic, this impact will be keenly felt. In essence, third-party data is a dying art, and second-party data ultimately belongs to somebody else. This means that first-party data collation should be a priority for any online business, now and in the future.

How does first-party data help a business?

Think of this as market research straight from the horse’s mouth. As intimated previously, first-party data is used to build a consumer profile. By monitoring how users interact with your web presence, you can offer them more of what they want – and less of what will not interest or alienate them. After all, there is little to gain by marketing a steakhouse restaurant to somebody that exclusively shows interest in a vegan lifestyle.

Perhaps the most compelling example of marketing through first-party data is Amazon. We’ve likely all purchased something from Jeff Bezos’ empire at once or another. Even if a conversion was not completed, you might have browsed the products on offer. Amazon uses this data to build personalized recommendations on your next visit.

It’s not just a tool for direct interaction on a website, though. First-party data is also invaluable for advertising. By learning about the habits of a user, tailored marketing can reach them on social media. This is a powerful form of inbound marketing that piques consumer interest.

Consumers who have previously been interested in red circles may be tempted to experiment with a blue triangle but are likelier to stick to type. By embracing first-party data, you can meet customer needs before they ask. This is a cornerstone of success, especially in the competitive world of online commerce. After all, 63 percent of customers now expect at least some measure of personalization from any service provider.

Creative ways to capture first-party data

Capturing first-party data is a delicate art. This data may not be provided free, with consumers wary about how much the tech industry knows about them. 9 Ninety percent of consumers will willingly offer first-party data if you make it worth their while. You’ll need to provide something in return. Most importantly, you must be transparent about capturing and using first-party data. Consumers are wary by default, and you’ll need to earn their trust. An open acknowledgment of the information you collect and how it will be used is the first step to achieving this faith.

Seven great opportunities to capture first-party data

Let’s discuss some ways to help your business obtain first-party data that will help elevate your business to the next level.

1. Add tracking pixels to a website

Tracking pixels are tiny – usually no bigger than 1 x 1 – pixels users rarely notice. These are installed in websites through coding and collating first-party data about user habits.

This could include what pages are viewed, the adverts that garner interest, and personal information, such as whether the user browses through a mobile or desktop appliance.

This all sounds like cookies, but there is a crucial difference. Cookies can be disabled or cleared, as they are saved within the browser of the server. A tracking pixel is native to your website, so it will capture data from every visit, regardless of what settings the user enables.

2. Use a CRM platform

Customer relationship management (CRM) software is growing increasingly popular with online businesses. Chatbots are perhaps the best example of this. Chatbots are not for everybody – many consumers still prefer to interact with a human – but 90 percent of businesses claim that chatbots have enhanced the speed and efficiency of problem resolution.

What’s more, chatbots effortlessly capture first-party data. If a user has an issue or concern, they may grow weary of waiting on hold on the phone for 15 minutes and hang up. That lead is potentially lost forever, ; you’llever know what they were looking for. Even if a chatbot cannot encourage users to convert, you’ll know what they are interested in. This will aid in targeted marketing and user personalization in the future.

3. Reward users for sharing their data with you

As mentioned previously, customers want to be rewarded for their data exchange. Ideally, this will be an immediate, tangible reward such as a discount. At the very least, provide evidence that you are personalizing your service to unique consumer needs.

Not every business can offer immediate fiscal motivation to every user. There are other ways to reward consumers, though. Monthly giveaways are a good example, especially when advertised and managed through social media. Encourage people to like and share a post, promising to incentivize one lucky winner at the end of the month.

This is easily dismissed as a cynical marketing ploy, so you must follow your promise. More importantly, you’ll need to clarify that you have done so. If consumers believe that they are in with a shot of something for nothing, they are likelier to consider using their data as a fair exchange.

4. Encourage interaction

Buzzfeed may not be the first place many look for hard-hitting journalism, but it enjoyed stellar traffic for many years. Why? Because it encouraged interaction through goofy online quizzes that offered easy ways to harvest consumer data.

This isn’t necessarily a model for every website to follow. It would help if you protect your brand reputation. Inviting people to learn which pizza topping defines them best may do more harm than good. Similar exercises surrounding your business may encourage interaction, though. A quiz about your business sector, promising a reward for completion, will attract interest.

Any competent SEO services agency will tell you that quizzes and other interactive elements on a page can also have the bonus of helping with SEO. This is because an essential metric for Google when evaluating the quality of your website is “time spent on page”. If Google can see that your visitors are spending several minutes looking at a page, this is a positive signal that the page is engaging and interesting to visitors.

Another strategy could be unlockable social media posts. Consumers will be intrigued about what you are offering behind a shield. Paywalls are likely to deter, but promising content-centric rewards if people share their data can be effective – if the result is worth the sacrifice.

5. Conduct surveys

Never lose sight of the fact that consumers hold power in the 21st Century. The march of technology ensures that all consumers now have a voice. They expect this to be heard. Negative reviews of products and services can cost a business up to 80 percent of potential conversions.

The simplest way to achieve this is by issuing surveys to your existing customers and potential leads. Do not expect a 100% return rate, especially if you do not offer a reward for consumers time. Some will leap at the chance to express their opinions, though, providing you with valuable first-party insights.

6. Encourage registration

If you run an ecommerce website, conversions are the most important bottom line. This means that many businesses will, understandably, offer services that increase the likelihood of making a sale. This could include guest checkout, a policy that half of all online consumers prefer.

The issue with guest checkout is that it captures fewer data than signing a customer up. Many consumers choose guest checkout as it’s faster, provides more privacy (especially when paying with an e-wallet rather than a credit card), and – theoretically – protects their inbox from unwanted marketing communication.

We have established that many consumers will provide data if you offer something in return. The most popular example of this is a discount on the first purchase. Couple this with a promise of personalized offers and an enhanced shopping experience, and you’re likelier to see more sign-ups.

Just be careful about what data you are asking for. Be sure to explain why information is important. For example, many customers may be reluctant to share their date of birth unless a credit check is necessary. However, if you promise to offer exclusive offers around their birthday, your argument will be much more persuasive.

7. Host events

Younger consumers value experience over results. The days of gaining unstinting loyalty through providing goods or services at an affordable price are over. The rise of social media, and its omnipresence in the lives of Millennials and Generation Z, means that a personal connection is required.

Live events can provide this. Host an AMA, whereby a senior business figure answers questions about your practices. This can also be a great way to reassure consumers that you operate sustainably, and socially consciously – something hugely important to many modern consumers. A live product launch can be another way to attract users.

How does this benefit first-party data? Attending the event will require registration. Even if the eventual attendees do not mirror the number of sign-ups, you have gained valuable data. You will also capture insights from those that do attend the event, especially if you encourage interaction.

Mistakes to avoid when capturing first-party data

We have been at pains to point out that consumer data is sensitive. First-party data is invaluable but must be obtained without betraying consumers’ trust. Here are some key pitfalls to avoid in your data collection strategy.

  • Do not ask for something for anything. Data sharing needs to be a quid pro quo exchange.
  • Avoid getting too personal – only seek data relevant to your business model.
  • Be clear about how the data will be used, allowing consumers to opt-out if this is their preference.
  • Shout from the rooftops about your privacy policies. Users can never be made to feel too safe.
  • Use the data responsibly, offering value to consumers and not abusing the information you have gained. Trust is hard to achieve and easy to lose. As Google discovered, unethical use of data that breaches trust can also be very costly.

Is your website making the best use of first-party data? Do you have any additional creative suggestions on how this information can be ethically sourced? These questions will define the success of your business in the future. Be sure to hop onto the first-party data train now. It has already left the station and is rapidly picking up speed.

Tyson Houlding
I’m a lifestyle blogger with a passion for writing, photography, and exploring new places. I started this blog when I was 18 years old to share what I was learning about the world with family and friends. I’ve since grown into a freelance writer, blogger, and photographer with a growing audience. I hope you find inspiration and motivation while reading through my work!