Feb 29 2024
Clare McKinley

Everything You Need to Know About Collecting and Storing First-Party Data for Cookieless Targeting and Attribution


As advertisers continue to grapple with signal loss, the pressure is on for organizations to up their first-party data game.

Factors like Apple’s App Tracking Transparency, privacy-minded digital advertising regulation, and Google’s plan to fully deprecate third-party cookies in Chrome by the end of 2024 have led to new interest in first-party data, with advertisers eager to substitute their reliance on third-party cookies with privacy-first forms of targeting and attribution. And first-party data is perhaps the heaviest hitter on that list.

Because first-party data is provided directly by consumers, it allows advertisers to learn about their audience, craft personalized messages, and understand what tactics are most impactful in their path to purchase—all with a high degree of precision. Unfortunately, because of the advertising industry’s historic reliance on third-party cookies, many businesses haven’t prioritized first-party data to the extent they’ll need to in a privacy-first world.

Looking for some guidance on where to begin this process? You’ve come to the right place. Read on to learn everything advertisers need to know about collecting and storing first-party data for cookieless targeting and attribution.

Ensuring Privacy Compliance

To maximize their first-party data, advertisers must collect, store, and leverage it in ways that honor consumer privacy and comply with digital advertising regulations.

To do this effectively means not just compliance with data privacy regulations like GDPR and CCPA/CPRA, but also prioritizing the larger demand behand these regulations: Namely, that consumers want more control over whether or not businesses have access to their data, and more transparency into how their data is used and stored.

Studies have found that 68% of global consumers feel either somewhat or very concerned about their online data privacy, and nearly half of consumers say that websites and apps don’t provide enough information about how their data is used. However, 78% of consumers say they are more likely to share their data with a company they trust, indicating that companies can bolster their first-party data collection efforts by demonstrating they are committed to handling that data with integrity and care.

To do this, marketers should start by conducting a holistic analysis to account for the business goals that consumer data empowers, getting specific about what data is needed to reach those goals. Tapping legal counsel will help ensure data processing practices are airtight from the start—a close collaboration between legal and marketing teams will ensure that businesses are able to collect the most impactful first-party data available to them while honoring consumer privacy and adhering to regulations.

Additionally, marketers should seek out technology partners that share their commitment to honoring consumer privacy—for example, those that have achieved SOC 2 compliance. Failing to vet partners’ data protection practices can open companies up to both legal consequences and consumer backlash.

How to Collect First-Party Data

Once a business has set up the appropriate systems to ensure privacy compliance, they’ll want to maximize their collection of first-party data. There are a variety of ways to go about this, including:

  • Creating content that’s valuable to a brand’s target audience, such as a newsletter or guide, and requiring users to share their information in order to access it.
  • Asking consumers or prospective consumers to share some information in exchange for a deal or offer.
  • Implementing a loyalty program, where a brand offers exclusive (and often personalized) deals and incentives in exchange for their customers’ first-party data.
  • Using first-party cookies on a brand’s website to collect information about site visitors’ behavior.

These approaches will vary by industry, as different sectors present different opportunities for data collection. For example, a B2B software company might prioritize collecting first-party data by offering whitepapers relevant to their target audience and requiring them to fill out a form to access them. A financial services brand could take a similar approach with gated site-based tools, such as loan calculators, that provide value to their target audiences. A retail business, on the other hand, is well-positioned to collect data through its point-of-sale system or a loyalty program.

With any approach to asking consumers for their data, marketers should be clear about what they’re offering in return—whether it’s a resource their target audience will find valuable, an exclusive coupon, or simply personalized marketing designed to meet their needs. This ensures that consumers are informed about how their data is being used, and serves to build brand trust as well.

How to Store First-Party Data

Beyond collecting first-party data and using it for targeting and attribution, it’s important to store this data in an organized, privacy-compliant, and easily accessible way. Currently, many organizations store first-party data across a variety of third-party vendors who collect and activate that data for a variety of functions. This means marketers only have access to very fragmented views of their consumers and their paths to purchase and, as a result, can’t leverage that data’s full potential. These data silos also make it difficult to track when and how consumers gave consent for the collection and use of their data.

To more effectively store and activate this information, business typically turn to two main technologies: customer relationship management systems (CRMs) and customer data platforms (CDPs).

CRMs were originally created to help salespeople track their interactions with current and prospective customers and optimize how they approach forming and maintaining those relationships. These tools have since grown to support marketing teams as well, pulling in data through integrations with touchpoints like a brand’s website, landing pages, and social media accounts and subsequently allowing marketers to create and segment audiences using that data. Some CRMs can also assist with other functions, such as workflow automation and consent management.

CDPs cover many of the same functions as CRMs, but they offer the added benefit of being built specifically for the collection, storage, and activation of first-party data. They can gather data from even more sources than CRMs can, process and standardize that data, and segment it in real-time, allowing advertisers to activate it more quickly. The depth of first-party data CDPs can capture gives advertisers a more holistic view of the customer journey across many touchpoints and a single source of truth when it comes to consumer data. Lastly, some CDPs can assist with data compliance by setting data governance standards.

While CRMs are widely adopted among digital advertisers, CDPs are a newer offering. For brands that really want to prioritize first-party data for privacy-first marketing amidst signal loss, CDPs can offer enhanced functionality for that specific purpose.

How to Leverage First-Party Data for Cookieless Targeting and Cookieless Attribution

CRMs and CDPs can organize large amounts of first-party data, which advertisers can use to create consumer personas and targetable audiences. Some advertising platforms allow marketers to create these targetable audiences via the direct upload of their CRM data, while others require the use of external partners to first process that data. CDPs, on the other hand, can automate the segmentation of audiences in real-time for use in targeting and measurement.

With the right platforms and partners, advertisers can also extend their first-party data via strategies such as lookalike modeling and layering first-party data with contextual targeting.

Once a campaign is live, there are a variety of ways advertisers can use first-party data for measurement and attribution. For example, they can integrate their first-party data sources with a single-touch attribution tool like Google Analytics. Some advertising platforms provide analytics dashboards that measure the impact of campaigns on users identified via uploaded CRM data. CDPs, meanwhile, can be used in the same way, and by offering a holistic view of the customer journey, they help advertisers understand how different interactions and touchpoints contribute to conversions.

Wrapping Up: Collecting and Storing First-Party Data for Cookieless Targeting and Attribution

By baking in privacy compliance from the outset, optimizing their methods for first-party data collection, and storing that data in a way that allows them to get the most out of it, advertisers will be well positioned to use first-party data for targeting and attribution in their campaigns. As the industry pivots towards practices that honor consumer privacy, organizations that invest in and refine their first-party data systems early will have a competitive advantage over teams that drag their feet on adopting privacy-first solutions.

Curious as to how your peers are approaching privacy-first advertising? Basis surveyed over 200 marketing and advertising professionals across agencies, brands, non-profits, and publishers to find out how they are grappling with signal loss. Check out the findings in our report, Identity vs. Privacy: Digital Advertising in a Cookieless World.

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