January 19, 2022

Why Is First-Party Data Critical for Customer Journeys?

Lise Reddick

Today, relying on a customer data platform is essential to personalizing buyer journeys for potential customers. Gathering and analyzing data from leads, prospects, and buyers can help improve your product’s user experience and streamline your sales pipeline. 

Customers even expect to have a personalized interaction with your product that corresponds to their specific needs. At the same time, there is a growing push for more transparency around data practices, so it’s important to balance data acquisition tactics with privacy concerns and applicable privacy laws in your industry. 

We’ve already covered three common data sources of buyer intent data before: 

  • First-party data you collect yourself
  • Second-party data you commission someone else to collect for you
  • Third-party data you acquire from data aggregators

Traditionally, third-party data formed the foundation for most sales and marketing efforts. But with ad blockers getting more popular and Google Chrome phasing out third-party cookies next year, third-party data collection stands on much shakier ground than ever before. 

The solution here is to come up with robust first-party data strategies that can incorporate the best aspects of third-party data while allowing for more control over data sources. 

How First-Party Data Became More Important Over Time

First-party data refers to the information you’ve collected directly from your audience. For example, tracking the number of visitors to your website or where those visitors come from are both first-party data metrics. 

There are lots of benefits of working with first-party data:

  • It’s fresh. Since you control the timeframe for data collection, you can be sure you’re always using the latest data available. 
  • It’s relevant. You can get data primarily from customer profiles that you seek to serve. 
  • It’s accurate. You gather data directly from potential customer interactions, cutting out lots of intermediaries compared to data you get from third parties. 
  • It’s cost-effective. You can start collecting first-party data yourself and scale accordingly, without paying other companies to do it for you. 
  • It’s more private. You minimize data source risks and have greater control over compliance with privacy laws and regulations. 

Overall, first-party data is becoming more popular because it allows sales and marketing teams to personalize customer interactions and improve customer engagement through all the stages of the buyer journey. 

That doesn’t mean that second-party data and third-party data can be completely replaced. Using first-party data effectively requires you to know your ideal customer profiles, which second-party data can help find. Similarly, when you have no direct relationships, email addresses, or audience segments to leverage, relying on third-party data sources can help kickstart your marketing efforts. 

Changes to Privacy-First Data Collected With Emails and Google Ads

If you want to have a powerful customer data platform built on first-party data — start now. Just as customer relationships, first-party data strategies take time to gain traction and bring real value. 

Meanwhile, privacy laws like GDPR and CCPA limit the amount of data that can be collected without explicit consent. Third-party cookies are being eliminated; ad and tracking blockers are used by users globally. This means that customer identities will be more and more difficult to decipher over time, and digital advertising will become less effective. 

For sales teams worldwide this equals less available second-party data and third-party data, and more reliance on everything that first-party data can provide. 

What kind of first-party data can you actually collect? 

What Data You Can Get from Customers and Target Audiences

For the most part, first-party data is derived from customer experiences and customer feedback, although it also includes data points from potential customers (e.g. website visitors). 

Here are some common first-party data examples: 

  • Website data. You can track customer interactions and visitor behaviour on your website. How often do people visit? How long do they stay? What do they click on? What content are they interested in? 
  • Subscribers. People who’ve shared their email address or phone number with you represent an audience segment at the next stage of the customer journey. 
  • Social media. Your Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and YouTube audiences represent another set of customer profiles with distinct preferences and interests. 
  • Purchase data. You can accurately track all data related to purchases on your website and even physical retail to better understand specific customer engagement. 
  • Customer feedback. Surveys, polls, comments, customer support requests and direct messages on social media can be valuable sources of understanding real customer experiences with your product. 
  • Customer data. Information on customers stored in your CRM tends to be more in-depth and shows the history of customer relationships you can leverage to improve your marketing efforts. 

How Tracking First-Party Data with Third-Party Cookies Works

Now that you know different types of first-party data, how do you actually start collecting and aggregating it? 

Having tracking pixels installed on your website, email, and social media is essential to monitoring complete customer journeys across multiple mediums. With pixels, you get to see how potential customers behave and act while interacting with your product on the web. 

Customer relationship management (CRM) software is an invaluable source of customer identities with whom you have direct relationships. Most CRMs can be filled out manually but also allow you to connect to third-party data sources for additional profile enrichment. Customer profiles can include contact information, purchase history, and direct customer interactions. 

If you want to collect all first-party data in one place, you need a data management platform (DMP). You can configure various data sources in your DMP, such as cookies, IP addresses, and device IDs to target the right audience segments for specific actions, from clicks to downloads to purchases. Having a customer data platform centralizes your decision-making and helps you effectively implement your first-party data strategies. 

How to Implement First-Party Data Strategies

Once you have all the data management tools in place, you need a clear process for turning customer data into sales growth. 

1. Audit Existing Customer Data

It’s likely that you have a CRM, an analytics platform, as well as sales and marketing tools, all of which keep some customer data. Integrate them into a single DMP to have an accurate overview of your existing data and organize it efficiently. 

2. Find Missing Data Sources

Once you unite data from all the platforms you’re using, you’ll start to see the gaps in your customer profiles or some parts of the customer journey not covered. Think about how that data can be sourced. 

3. Collect New Data

To gather more useful customer data on a continuous basis, start integrating more precise data collection into your website. Offer discounts with newsletter signups, ask for more information before offering free demos, use automated post-purchase surveys, create an enhanced website user experience with more interactions to track clicks, and so on. 

4. Standardize CRM Processes

Since your CRM is one of the main sources for direct customer relationships data, make sure there are processes in place to update all the information on a regular basis. Connect third-party tools that will automatically add sales notes and keep customer profiles up to date, if needed. 

5. Leverage Data in Sales and Marketing

With more customer profiles and email addresses at your disposal, you can create more effective digital advertising, reach out to potential customers one on one, and even segment your target audience to improve conversions. For example, by using online chat. 

So, as you can see, there are a myriad of ways to capture and use first-party data for your customer journeys. The question becomes - where should you focus?

Our advice - follow the largest potential gains.

For example: by capturing first-party data on your website visitor’s “buyer intent”, you could be getting an average of 9x more conversions from your chat tool.

Lift AI works with your existing chat platform to determine buyer intent of every visitor on your website, so it can automatically rank them in terms of conversion potential. 

Leveraging a unique machine-learning model, Lift AI was trained on billions of data points and 14 million live sales interactions. It’s able to combine the learnings from this third-party data and apply them to the first-party data on your website in real time. 

Unlike most buyer intent tools, Lift AI works for every single visitor on your website (even anonymous ones) to successfully identify those with the highest buyer intent (about 9% of the overall traffic). 

After high-buyer-intent visitors are identified, Lift AI connects them directly to your BDRs through chat. Visitors with medium or low intent scores are directed to a nurturing bot or a self-help guide. 

The results speak for themselves. Drift customers convert 9 times more conversations to pipeline using Lift AI. Formstack grew its  pipeline by 88%, while PointClickCare saw a 4x increase, all in the first 90 days of operation. 

You too can benefit from increased pipeline conversions with Lift AI — for free — by signing up for a trial that includes a Revenue Opportunity Assessment for your website.

To get started, just paste a Lift AI JavaScript snippet to your website. That’s how first-party data and third-party data can work together to grow the metrics that matter. 

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