5 Ways to Capture and Use First-Party Data

Maia Wells
Automation Technology and Strategy

Using your own data is the best way to combat the loss of third-party cookies in all three of the world’s major browsers (Safari, Firefox and most recently, Chrome). This article is a practical guide to navigating first-party data – the data you collect on your own website(s) and/or digital products. As we move into an era of heightened expectations for both privacy and personalization, one of the most important mentality shifts will be away from reliance on  third-party cookies, toward capturing and using first-party data more effectively.

capture and use first-party data

How to Personalize in the Age of Internet Privacy 

The world’s major browsers have taken steps to protect their user’s data, and in doing so, set themselves up to be in control of such data when intent-based campaigns need to continue somehow. Since there is big money to be made in advertising to ready-to-buy consumers, the idea of tracking behavior isn’t going to go away entirely, but it will shift. And, access to such data may come at a premium. Right now, the best way to react is to investigate how to connect with your customers first-hand. 

With 80% of consumers preferring companies that offer a personalized experience, first-party data can help you combat fears around the death of third-party cookies. Creating personalized experiences starts with understanding who your customers are and what they need. 

The Role of Segmentation in Personalization

In order to personalize your communication with leads and customers, you first have to have the right data. Then, you can segment people into specific categories based on factors including:

  • Behavioral segmentation. Identifying behavior patterns and then segmenting visitors helps you serve relevant and targeted content to keep customers engaged. This can include product recommendations, promotions, marketing messages, and more. 
  • Demographic segmentation. Factors like age, income, and background can help you serve content depending on each website visitor’s individual demographics. One downside of demographic segmentation is that it’s generally based on broad assumptions, so it can’t be used for specific content. 
  • Psychographic segmentation. Drilling down into the beliefs and values of your website visitors can help you create tailored marketing messages and promotions that speak to your customer as an individual. This kind of data is more challenging to collect than others, but it’s worth doing. 
  • Geographic segmentation. Depending on a visitor’s geographic location, you can redirect them to a regional site, show them relevant products, and engage them with offers tailored to their specific needs.     

The most effective strategy is to combine all four segmentation categories to provide high-value, relevant content to your leads and customers. For example, targeted ads based on keywords and website behavior can increase engagement by up to 45%. 

In this article, we’ve looked at five of the most effective ways to capture and use your first-party data. Let’s start with tracking behaviors on your own website.    

Tracking Website Behavior

Adding tracking pixels to your website allows you to collect information about how people behave when they visit your website. Setting up your website correctly can help you collect data that can help you offer better experiences, and guide the right leads through the exact funnel they need to experience in order to be ready to buy. Even better, once that visitor has converted on any form, your marketing automation software can log that activity and connect it with their profile so you can start to build an accurate picture of their interests. 

Tracking website behavior allows you to see visits to each page, and other details, like how long someone stays on that page. You can also get data like geographic location and device type, as well as click and scroll patterns, all of which appear in aggregate in your website reporting. 

Using Aggregate Data to Improve Experiences 

A whole world of optimization opportunities opens up when you have website behavior data. Combine the data you get from Google Analytics (or other website reporting platform) with your marketing automation software, and you’ll be able to understand more about the paths people take through your content, and how well it performs. Tools like Hotjar and Lucky Orange provide visualizations of how visitors interact with your website, commonly called heatmaps. 

Let’s say your data shows, for example, that only 20% of your visitors scroll past the halfway point on your homepage, but of those who do, a great many watch your brand video, and nearly 80% of those viewers fill out your form to get more information. What should you do? Move that brand video up higher on the page, and see if more of your visitors will watch it, and then follow that proven conversion pattern. 

Incorporating Website Behavior Into Lead Scoring Programs

Collecting your own data on your website provides the foundation you need to build or optimize your lead scoring system. The scores will outline visits to specific pages, i,e: contact us, pricing page, or get a demo. Using a scoring system will help your integrated marketing team better qualify leads and guide customers down the funnel. 

While your assumptions may sometimes be correct, seeing a clearly defined customer behavior path can give you key insights into what will affect their intent in the future. These insights make way for a more personalized approach, connecting your product with your customers’ needs. 

Tracking Email Engagement

Email is a powerful tool for  B2B marketers who want to decrease their reliance on third-party data. Because users have to actively opt-in to receive your emails, you know they’re already interested in engaging with your brand. With email generating a return on investment (ROI) of $42 for every dollar spent, it’s worth taking the time to perfect this strategy. Remember that increased privacy around email marketing will affect your open rate data. 

A lot of information can be gathered from the links each user clicks within your email content. If they typically show more interest in links around a specific topic, you can use this information to serve increasingly tailored content. You may decide to recommend additional articles around the same topic or invite them to download a case study about their specific industry or attend an on-demand webinar. 

As your emails drive clicks back to your website, you can combine email engagement data with behavioral data collected by your website to further engage each customer. Use your marketing automation software to segment into users who prefer long-form versus infographic style posts and offer a curated experience that keeps readers coming back for more. 

Your emails should also be specific to a particular audience—what interests one segment won’t necessarily interest another. Targeted emails will be more effective at retaining interest and engagement. Using A/B testing to figure out which content resonates best with whom is a good way to gather additional data that can be used to refine future campaigns. 

Tracking Event Registration and Attendance

Events like live videos, on-demand webinars, and virtual summits are an excellent opportunity to collect event-based first-party data, which can be used to further refine your offers. Live videos are also becoming more popular than ever, with 96% of people using videos to learn more about a specific product or service before engaging with a sales team.  

Collecting email addresses when people register to watch on-demand webinars is the first step, but you can also include custom data fields that help you to gain a deeper understanding of your audience’s goals. Over time, this allows you to carry out progressive profiling so you can understand your customers even better.  

However, the way you register attendees for your events is important, as you’ll need to balance data collection with keeping the customer journey as seamless as possible. Lengthy registration forms for individual events may turn attendees off from the very first moment. Instead, one-click registration allows your audience to easily sign up for other events in the future without having to input their details again. Use your marketing automation platform’s progressive profiling capabilities to enable quick and easy registration.  

For in-person events, it’s also possible to use website behavior data to promote in-person events. Website visitors within the same geographic region visiting pages with similar content can be made aware of events via targeted ads, pop-ups, or emails if they’re already subscribed to your list.

When attendees RSVP to an event, you can segment your audience into who’s coming and who’s not. You can then apply further filters and create tailored emails designed to build excitement or to offer additional information to those who have already confirmed they’ll be attending.  

Tracking Interactions with Your Team

As prospects interact with your team, they provide a huge amount of first-party data that can be used to boost retention, upsell, and improve the customer journey at the same time. You’re likely already using customer relationship management (CRM) software, and these often come with a huge range of tools, some of which use first-party data. First-party data can also be linked to offline interactions including in-person events and sales calls, in which case it’s useful to log these on your CRM to gain deeper insights into customer behavior.  

The live touchpoints in your customer journey are normally very good indicators of buyer intent, and can make or break your B2B sales funnel. Use data about when and how people end up buying after these interactions to optimize the pathway and grow your business. 

Tracking Product Use or Purchases

Purchases and product use are the next layer of the customer journey. Gaining insight into what your customers purchase, how often they use your software, or how and when they purchase add ons or upgrades can be a key part of successful customer retention. To get the full benefit, it’s a good idea to integrate your CRM, ERP or other customer and order tracking system with your marketing automation platform.

To nurture long lasting and profitable relationships with your customers, start by collecting data on what they buy, and how they use your products and services. Then, analyze that data to uncover opportunities for optimization. One example is a community bank that signs up a new customer with a checking account, and uses customer data to understand when that person may be ready to hear about home loan options. 

Take Control with First-Party Data

Transitioning towards reliance on your own data gives you the freedom to create a truly sustainable marketing strategy that’s respectful of your customer’s data in addition to allowing you to meet expectations for a personalized user experience. From tracking website behavior, to understanding buying patterns, there is a lot your own team can do to combat the death of third-party cookies. The key is to have the right marketing tech stack in place to help you accomplish your data goals, because you need a way to capture and act upon your data. The most successful companies in the world combine a website CMS (like WordPress) with a marketing automation solution (like Act-On), and a CRM (like Salesforce) among other specialized tools. Gathering and analyzing firsthand data is the only way to ensure you are segmenting and personalizing your way to business growth, even in the age of increased privacy.