According to The Economist, the world’s most valuable resource is no longer oil — it’s data. In today’s hyperconnected world, brands need to collect consumer data from every touchpoint. Marketers, in turn, use these insights to serve consumers highly-targeted ads that are more likely to drive conversions.
Is your organization tapping into its full data potential? Do you have the right combination of data to achieve your marketing objectives? Below, we break down the differences between first-, second-, and third-party data, examine the pros and cons of each, and discuss how the right data mix can help your organization meet its goals.
First-party data is data that your organization has collected from your audience. This could include data from CRMs, website visitors, social media followers, email subscribers, transaction records, and phone calls.
Since first-party data is your own raw data, you can choose how it’s collected, stored, managed, and secured. By controlling these parameters, you can ensure its accuracy and integrity.
In addition, first-party data gives you a competitive advantage since your company maintains exclusive ownership of it.
It’s also more relevant and accurate than third-party data since it provides data that your existing prospects and customers have willingly given directly to you.
Finally, increased regulations on tracking cookies — and a growing list of big scary acronyms like GDPR, CCPA, IDFA — are making it harder to capture third-party data. First-party data, on the other hand, complies with all of these new privacy regulations, making it more valuable than ever.
The only drawback to first-party data is that it can be limited in scope. First-party data can help you retarget your existing prospects and customers with ads, but it doesn’t provide much insight into new audiences that haven’t engaged with you online, in person, or over the phone.
Second-party data is another company’s first-party data put up for sale. The seller collects this data directly from their audience and sells it to your organization, without a middleman.
For example, an auto parts chain could reach out to a car dealership or service network that has a significant target audience overlap. The car dealership could then arrange to sell its data to the auto parts dealer at an agreed-upon price.
Second-party data can help you gain more insights on your existing prospects and customers, allowing you to form more complete profiles for targeting.
Also, second-party data gives you insights into audiences similar to your own. This gives you a valuable opportunity to expand your marketing reach and target new consumers.
Since you’re going directly through a trusted partner and not a third-party data broker, you’ll still have the competitive advantage of being one of the few organizations with access to this data.
Companies using second-party data can face migration or integration issues. Every company is unique in how it collects, stores, and manages its data, and it can be difficult to combine data from an outside organization with different standards than your own.
Second-party data can also be limited in availability. Finding organizations willing to trust you with their data can be a challenge, especially in the wake of the Cambridge Analytica scandal, and in light of internet privacy regulations like GDPR and The California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA).
Third-party data is purchased from an outside broker that did not play a role in collecting the data. Third-party data brokers often aggregate large-scale datasets from a variety of websites to create comprehensive consumer profiles. Acxiom, Experian, and Quantium are among the largest and most commonly-used third-party data brokers.
Third-party data is readily available and provides a breadth of insights that cannot be matched by any individual organization.
Third-party data can help you build upon the profiles of your existing prospects and customers and gain intelligence on new audiences outside your own.
The data is often already distilled into audience segments, eliminating your need to sort and analyze it.
The primary drawback to third-party data is that its use is often restricted by data privacy laws and the methods used to collect it don’t align with consumers' increasing expectations for privacy. This is particularly true when it comes to third-party browser tracking cookies. Since most browsers now block them by default, even if their use is not restricted by privacy regulations, they’re not of much use now, anyway.
Additionally, there is no transparency into how third-party data has been collected. This can lead to several issues, including:
In addition, third-party data is not unique — your competitors are free to purchase the same datasets from the broker.
Zero-party data is information that a consumer willingly provides to a company. This could be from a survey, form fill, social media poll, quiz, or another similar format. In return, the consumer receives a better user experience that is tailored to their needs.
Collecting zero-party data is a transparent process — the user provides the exact information they’re comfortable disclosing. They don’t feel duped or deceived when you, in turn, use that data to improve their experience.
Zero-party data is also compliant with all the new privacy regulations that governments are enacting, since the information is willingly provided.
In addition, capturing zero-party data gives you richer customer insights than you can capture from other data sources. You can literally ask consumers the exact questions that will help you to personalize their experiences and more effectively market to them.
Zero-party data can be more difficult to capture than the other forms of data listed above, since it requires effort on the part of the consumer. If you’re asking them for their time, they often expect something in return — promising a better experience is sometimes enough, but consumers may want something more, such as a discount or special offer.
Another disadvantage is that consumers need to trust your brand before they will give you zero-party data. If you haven’t put in the time to build that trust with the consumer then, regardless of what your incentives are, they won’t disclose any information.
Organizations’ data needs differ depending on their industry, their marketing objectives, and the tech stack they have in place. However, as an increasing number of data privacy regulations go into effect, we’re seeing a concerted shift in how marketers use data. Rather than relying on third-party brokers who may be breaching data regulations, marketers are tapping into more of their first-party data. In fact, a recent survey found that 82% of marketers plan to increase their use of first-party data.
If you’re planning on tapping into more of your organization’s first-party data, don’t forget about this often-overlooked source of insights: consumer phone calls. In 2019, digital ads alone drove over 162 billion calls to businesses.
On inbound calls, consumers are literally telling you in their own voice a wealth of first-party data on their intent, their product/service interests, sentiments about your brand, and more that you could use to make smarter marketing decisions. When you turn phone conversations into structured first-party data with a conversation intelligence platform like Invoca, you can optimize your marketing across channels to drive more high-value sales calls, deliver more personalized online and offline experiences, and convert more callers to customers.
With over 300 locations, AutoNation is America’s largest and most admired auto retailer. In an average year, they sell over 500,000 new and pre-owned vehicles and service nearly five million customers. Their mission is to deliver the most customer-focused sales and service environment in automotive retail. AutoNation uses Invoca to capture first-party data from phone calls and create seamless digital-to-call experiences.
When the COVID-19 pandemic began to take hold in the U.S., the vehicle buyer journey changed dramatically. Buyers were shopping online and placing phone calls to dealerships, rather than visiting brick-and-mortar locations. It became more important than ever for AutoNation to understand each customer’s needs and create a unified omnichannel experience for them. To accomplish this, they used Invoca to capture first-party data from phone conversations. They then combined Invoca’s conversation intelligence data with data from their digital channels to get a 360-degree view of every customer.
“The car buyer journey is different for everyone — some people want safety features and others want performance. Invoca has helped us tap into phone conversations so we can understand each buyer’s unique needs,” said Marc Cannon, Executive Vice President and Chief Customer Experience Officer at AutoNation. “As a result, we can deliver a truly peerless car buying experience.”
With Invoca, AutoNation sends buyers personalized marketing campaigns touting the type of features they mentioned over the phone. AutoNation also gives its sales agents access to those insights, so they can tailor the conversation to win the sale. This creates a seamless omnichannel experience that makes every customer feel acknowledged and valued.
Invoca’s conversation intelligence platform helped AutoNation not only survive the COVID-19 pandemic, but truly thrive. AutoNation had its best quarter in company history in Q2 of 2021, and the company is poised for future growth as it continues to open new locations and increase its used car inventory.