How Marketers Can Best Harness Their First-Party Assets for Personalization

For many decades, marketers have understood the value of first-party data. First prevalent in offline marketing efforts, we’re now seeing offline-to-online conversion of first-party assets in recent years.

At SXM Media, we’ve also seen a steady increase in marketers’ use of their own data for the last five years, and activation across our portfolio has been growing significantly. While marketer sophistication and operational readiness around first-party strategy have been improving, other factors are contributing to this momentum. Cookie deprecation, the declining supply of mobile ad IDs (MAIDs), anticipated third-party data constraints, and increased availability of new and diversified signals, like ecommerce, have all fueled marketers to accelerate their first-party strategy.

Financial services and automotive brands were among the trailblazers, with clear-cut use cases and strong supplies of first-party data, but we now see this strategy being implemented across all verticals: retail, financial services, DTC, tech, telecommunications, automotive, entertainment and more. Verticals that have historically not prioritized gathering their own data to the same extent, such as CPG and quick service restaurants (QSR), are even getting in the game. No matter how nascent or mature your first-party strategy is, here are four things to keep in mind for your first-party data strategy so that you’re set up for success.

Personalization should be mapped to core business challenges

Take a step back and consider your audience challenges. What are your business obstacles and who is it that you truly need to reach? Is your first-party data set up and segmented in a way in which you can actually delineate your intended audience?

Brands have had to move toward sub-segmenting their first-party audiences due to the increased buying streams now available post-pandemic to consumers (like buy online pick-up in store, curbside pick up or online only). While this enables the ability to determine consumers more granularly by evolved buying behaviors, brands should still consider the trade-off between scale and precision, because targeting that’s too refined could limit your opportunity to reach relevant ears.

Make your first-party segmentation clear to your activation partners

As you’re at the point of campaign activation, be sure to share with your publisher partners who your first-party audience represents. This will promote better chances of success in campaign setup. If audiences are not labeled clearly and accurately, activation partners may not have visibility into who the audience represents, limiting best practices and potentially increasing the possibility of error.

You want to avoid any instance where your activation partner assumes a first-party data set represents your entire “customer base” when in fact it’s actually a sub-segment customer. We know first-party data can mean a variety of things. For example, a high value customer (HVA) can be a customer who shops with certain frequency or recency or a customer who shops often but with a smaller-than-basket size. Other examples include: the new user, the lapsed user or the user you might have identified as high risk of loss. Mitigate activation errors by staying close and partnering together with respect to whom the audience represents.

Maximize personalization with tailored messaging

Reaching your audience is only half the battle. Are you also employing a creative strategy that best shows your audience you know them? When executing this in terms of targeting, don’t miss the opportunity to make the experience highly impactful.

Tailor your creative to align with your own first-party opportunity, instead of repurposing something intended for the general market or in new customer acquisition. With powerful data behind this form of activation, you’ll want to find the right balance of speaking to your audience in a way that acknowledges you know them, but not to the extent where it feels creepy.

Go beyond activation with insights

As you seek partners who meet your standards for a quality partnership, keep in mind more than just campaign activation of your first-party assets. Are there also audience insights you could leverage as part of your relationship? You might understand the purchased-based signals of your customer data, what they buy and how often, but does your publisher partner also sit on signals which could help you fill in the gaps?

One of the most exciting ways we work with marketers around first-party data is helping them with audience enrichment. We can help brands reach their audiences within our portfolio of content, but we also help them understand attributes of their first-party audience they didn’t know before. Examples of attributes include demographics, music and podcast listening behaviors, multicultural affinity, parenthood, device usage and much more. We know marketers spend extensive time and resources capturing, maintaining and managing their first-party signals and are eager to make these consumer profiles as robust as possible. 

As the complexity of our identity landscape continues to evolve, I believe we’ll see continued growth of marketer first-party data. We’re excited to expand upon the experience and learnings we already have in this space. And as always, consumer privacy remains paramount while we offer the ability for marketers to reach their most valuable consumers with their own data as the core.