First-Party Data Becomes Top Priority For Marketers in 2021

by | Jan 15, 2021 | Blog, Digital Advertising, Digital Strategy, Smirk's Take

With growing concerns surrounding data restrictions, many major brands are turning their attention to first-party data sharing. Google plans to phase out the use of third-party cookies as early as 2022, a common way to track users’ online activity. In addition, Apple will eventually require opt-in consent for its Identifier for Advertisers (IDFA), making it harder for marketers to harvest valuable behavioral information about their customers.

Data Definitions and Applications

Not entirely sure what a cookie is or what type of customer data you’re currently collecting? We’ve got you covered. Here’s a quick breakdown:

  • Cookies: Data used to identify your computer and track your activity on a website. They’re often used in marketing tactics like retargeting.
  • First-party data: Information collected directly from your audience, like a user offering their email address to sign up for your newsletter or complete a purchase on your site.
  • Second-party data: This secondhand data is often collected by trusted partners that share your same goal. For example, if two brands collaborate on a giveaway, they’ll be explicit that your contact information used to enter the contest will be shared with both businesses.
  • Third-party data: Data not directly shared with your business by a consumer. This can include purchased email lists, passive visitor behavior on your website, and interest targeting that major social platforms like Facebook offer for their advertisers.

Adapting Your Approach

It’s important to start investing efforts now into a powerful first-party data collection strategy and cultivating meaningful second-party data resources. Consider what your business can offer in exchange for customer data — what value propositions are relevant to your brand? What lead magnets could help you build your email list?

Qualifying Your Data

There’s no guarantee that the third-party data you’re purchasing or utilizing for ad targeting is as accurate as it could be. While it might provide you with a larger pool of data overall, it’s giving you access to audiences that may not have any common goals with your target prospect outside of shared interests or industry. If you want your marketing to be as effective as possible, first-party data is the way to go.


Marketers don’t have to infer customer preferences or behavior through secondary behavior but are instead explicitly told, straight from the source. The best zero-party data is when the customers trust the brand and are willing to volunteer their data with the understanding that it will improve their experience

Merkle’s 2021 Customer Engagement Report

A Broad Impact

According to Merkle, web analytics (39%), digital media measurement (35%) and direct marketing activation (35%) are expected to be impacted by these incoming data restrictions. Need help navigating policy changes and aligning your marketing strategy moving forward? Schedule a quick 30-minute chat with a Smirk team member.