First Party Data Cannot be Overrated

This year two factors will change the way advertisers will use first party data. The long and short of it is they will grow to depend on it more. Of course they will continue to use the data of partners and data they buy, but those will become less important as first party data gets better and more available, coming in from more channels.

One reason it is getting better is that the Internet of Things is happening faster than you think. Customer information is now flowing back to brands through cars,  smart watches, fitness trackers, light bulbs, doorbells, and other connected devices and appliances. Much of this information is already being used for product development of course, and is also sold to fine tune insurance offerings, credit, and employment.

Some brands are way ahead of others in collecting and using this information. For example, Amazon has a “sleeper” data collector in the Echo. The Echo is a voice controlled robot that sits in your home and can do many things: it can reorder products you have bought on Amazon (all you have to do is say “Alexa, order me some Tide” and Alexa will tell you she’s ordering it); it can stream Amazon Music and now Spotify, picking up where you left off listening in your car; and it order you an Uber. Because the Echo is unobtrusive and provides useful services, people are beginning to order it in numbers that will allow it to become another channel for first party data.

Admittedly Amazon stands to gain most from Alexa’s efforts; it has an incredible amount of information on its customers already. But all Alexa’s partners can gain as well, because Alexa is a connected device that creates a two-way conversation between brand and consumer . The connectedness of all things will generate accurate first party data and give signals to advertisers.

And that’s just in time, too, because it will allow advertisers to target and tailor ads more specifically just as consumers are giving up hope that ads are worth watching. The Holy Grail is the personally targeted  relevant ad, and we are going to get closer to that with more first party data.  This will fix that age-old complaint that half of all marketing spend is wasted. Take Betabrand for example. It crowd funds designs, and then advertises a new funding opportunity to people who have already funded one design or have bought a pair of its yoga pants. It is using the first party data to target better ads to people more likely to buy. Betabrand does not just throw money at media and hope it will get a result.

A third issue that will make first party data more important, is “the Facebook effect.”  With so many people in the world spending time on Facebook, the site is collecting tons of data on its visitors, but because it is a walled garden, only aggregated data comes out.  The same, of course, will be true of Instagram and Snapchat, which are only beginning to monetize through advertising. It will be a challenge for advertisers to use that data in the most profitable way, but we’re all going to have to learn.