How to Become a Well-Oiled Data Machine in the Complex Cookieless World

6 steps to an effective first-party data strategy

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If data is the new oil, then first-party data is a crypto farm sitting atop an oil field. Like all valuable commodities, though, first-party data is not evenly distributed.

There are the “haves,” like publishers requiring authentication, onboarding data entities and walled garden platforms. There are the “have-nots,” like most brands, third-party data providers, publishers without authentication requirements and other demand-side entities connecting dollars to supply.

When there was a shared ID currency in the online advertising ecosystem, none of this was a problem. Pseudonymization via third-party cookies created competitive fairness, allowing strategy to reside at the center of failure or success.

Now, after years of tech debt and inaction, the industry has gotten serious about moving away from the strategies that propelled behavioral surveillance for the last decade and a half. Unfortunately, brands are not moving fast enough to get ready for the oncoming wave of disruption.

This is serious

As stated in the IAB State of Data Report, released Feb. 8, 2022, about marketers:

  • 69% are not increasing their use of AI.
  • 66% are not adjusting measurement strategies.
  • 59% are not increasing investment in first-party data.

The magnitude of what is coming has not hit some marketers, causing a false sense of security. To compound the issue, the complexity of readiness implementation options has caused industry paralysis. Regardless, the train is coming down the track—fast—so we must put our cars in drive and move.

Here are six easy steps to get any advertiser to become a well-oiled marketing data machine.

Boost your site visitor authentication

Brands need to collect emails and names. However, the strategy should be conducive to capability.

In some instances, brands need help with the authentication technology itself. In other instances, authentication means connecting the data once it’s captured. Regardless, marketers need to collect data, first-party cookie the user and connect this data to an Addressable Media Identifier (AMI).

Clean up taxonomy

Too many marketers and their agencies get sloppy with taxonomy. This is no longer acceptable.

Data collection requires harmonization, from website to creative to analytics with like fields that express the audiences and data variables appropriately. This maintains data alignment across disparate channel granulation, so AI/ML models ingest enough like fields to be effective.

Audit site data collection

The data layer of a website is a powerful tool that is used to inform what data variables can be collected, measured and optimized.

Auditing site data can mean adding new data variables, triggering new events, removing old code or deduplicating conversion counting to maintain accuracy. This is a must to ensure the events collected are driving the right KPIs and connect to the analytics learning agenda.

Define the first-party strategy

Now that the site and data are clean, a first-party data strategy can be established with full confidence that the behaviors and event triggers tied to the consumer are accurate.

This data needs to be populated with new behavioral signals. Clean rooms and data platforms should be employed to inform this data with additive information.

Augment first-party data

With a greater understanding of a first-party audience, behavioral modeling can grow qualified prospecting lists. Connect information to supply partners to reach potential buyers not included in the first-party data set.

Utilize a data platform

Data platforms are useful when they are properly maintained and collect solid data.

This will allow a brand to centrally store, enrich and connect marketing data to the ecosystem without it leaving the brand data environment, reducing the chance of data leakage while still enabling use of the data for insights.

If this appears to be a lot to do, that is a correct assessment. Thus, inaction is unacceptable. Brands need to take these steps to keep their marketing flywheel of communication to information lubricated to ensure a solid investment of marketing dollars.