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In 2020, Google announced its third-party cookie phase-out plan, which will take effect at the end of 2024. Although Google’s phase-out of third-party cookies has been pushed back yet again, it is coming. The reprieve has done little to allay the fears of business leaders, publishers and marketers.

Even with the promised capabilities of Google’s Privacy Sandbox, many people are concerned about the impact of the cookieless future on business models and marketing tactics, especially when it comes to personalized digital experiences. But don’t be afraid of the inevitable changes, because there is a better solution to meet your needs.

First-party data isn’t going anywhere, and marketing trends were already heading in that direction. Now it’s just a matter of figuring out how best to capture and use all the consumer data at your disposal.

Purchase history, website activity, email engagement, consumer interests, mobile app behavior and more can tell you a lot about your consumers. But many marketing decision makers don’t know where to start, with 41% saying the biggest challenge will be the ability to track the right consumer data.

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Why first-party data is more valuable in the long run

First party data is your consumer data. Its collection, segmentation and use are entirely under your control, which means that its accuracy and integrity are never in question. Plus, you have sole ownership, which can provide a major competitive advantage.

When used correctly, first-party data also offers the unique opportunity to position your brand in a distinctive way, which can provide several benefits for you and your consumers, such as:

Significant experience

When consumers share data, they’re telling you exactly what they want, often directly. So use first-party data to personalize consumer experiences in meaningful and relevant ways. From the first discovery to the actual purchase, make the trip as smooth and pleasant as possible. Create useful content. Share it across all channels. Look for ways to continually add value to purchasing decisions.

In terms of meaningful experiences, the Disney Genie service does just that for theme park guests. The service, integrated into the My Disney Experience app, makes recommendations based on what Guests want to do. The app will continue to suggest new options throughout a person’s visit to ensure they have the best time possible in the park.

Greater customization

First-party data improves marketing initiatives by allowing you to personalize virtually every touchpoint throughout the consumer journey. Personalization can take many forms, but it often starts with dynamic audience segmentation and dynamic content. Then you can explore product recommendations and personalized messages. Sending personalized emails drives engagement, as does direct interaction with consumers across all channels.

Amazon is a company that understands personalization. The Company collects information about users’ past purchases, the TV shows and movies they watched, and the items they viewed while shopping. They take this information and give personalized recommendations on what to buy or watch in the future.

Brand Loyalty

As you deliver personalized and relevant consumer experiences to your target audiences, a level of trust begins to form. Trust is the foundation of all long-term relationships, including brand loyalty. It’s about meeting consumers where they are with the right messages at the right time on the right channels, and it’s made possible with first-party data.

Brands with loyalty programs can create personalized offers based on consumer data. Data is the holy grail of any personalization program, and a loyalty program is the starting point. But while a loyalty program can be used to enable personalization, it doesn’t automatically mean personalization. Personalization promotes brand loyalty as it allows consumers to develop deeper connections with brands and vice versa.

Where to start collecting consumer insights

Although it goes without saying, the collection of consumer information begins with consent. You are collecting information from real people, after all, and being transparent with your first-party data collection practices is key. How will you use consumer data? How will you protect their information?

It is also important to encourage data sharing. This is valuable information, and consumers know it. You have to give something to get something – and I’m not talking about a weekly email with a few coupons. The incentive must have real value for consumers.

At the same time, you’ll need a way to not only capture first-party data, but also analyze information at scale. Otherwise, it’s nearly impossible to extract actionable insights from consumer data to inform your marketing tactics.

Even then, however, different departments within organizations often “own” their data assets. When consumer data is siled in a company, it not only creates barriers to data accessibility. Data quality begins to suffer, as overlaps can cause inconsistencies and lead to poor decision-making. You might think you really know your consumers, but in reality, you only know part of their journey.

In other words, whatever data analytics solution you access should also offer the functionality to aggregate your first-party data from all your data sources. Only then can you identify where exactly you are collecting consumer information from and ensure that it is labeled correctly.

New ways to use first-party data for better results

Once you can trust the data you have, you can focus on optimizing customer experience in new ways across a myriad of channels.

Take something as simple as personalized product recommendations. Helping consumers quickly find the items they’re looking for through contextual marketing increases the chance of conversion. It also makes consumers more likely to return for additional purchases, allowing you to capture even more data and build a richer picture of your target audience.

Dynamic audience segmentation, on the other hand, offers the ability to automatically filter audiences based on behavior. Rather than organizing consumers into 10 or 15 segments that best match their personalities, Dynamic Audience Segmentation allows you to continuously segment your audience. This means consumers are consistently assigned to the most relevant segments based on their current activity, context, and historical data. This ultimately leads to the continuous optimization of the consumer experience, improving marketing ROI.

First-party data also helps you enable predictive personalization to deliver better consumer experiences. Artificial intelligence and machine learning tools can assign consumers to individual experiences based on unique characteristics and then deliver the content most relevant to their interests.

Suppose a consumer recently looked at kitten food, carrier bags for small pets, and kitten-safe cat toys. Chances are they are looking for a new kitten or have recently brought one home. The pet store that collected this data could then start providing content based on the different stages of kitten growth.

Third-party data may still be available, and you can certainly still use this information to create personalized digital experiences. Soon, however, this option will be gone. So get ready now for a world without cookies. With first-party data as the foundation for your marketing efforts going forward, you’ll be able to deliver more personalized and safer consumer experiences while continuing to drive business results.

Diane Keng is the CEO and co-founder of Breinify, an AI and predictive personalization engine that helps brands curate dynamic and meaningful experiences for their consumers at scale.

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