Why You Should Leverage Your First-Party Data...First

20.07.21 01:31 PM By Layton Judd

If modern marketing was a car, data would be its fuel. There doesn't seem to be a shortage of it in the post-big-data world in which we live; however, just like fuel, there are different grades, so to speak. There’s data flowing from your website and other digital properties. There’s known customer data and anonymous visitor data. There’s data you can borrow, share, buy, and data you can leverage, but not actually see or own. There's data you thought was yours but has gotten tied up in contracts and data security challenges that have recently shaken the automotive industry.  

So how do dealers keep up? It really comes down to this: the most important data is your own. You are missing the opportunity to take advantage of the goldmine right at your fingertips if you're not investing in your first-party customer data first, and you risk underperforming in today's digital landscape as well.

"Investing in your own data is never a mistake." 

~ Kristen Judd, CEO & Co-Founder, 3 Birds Marketing

There is a lot of data to choose from today and it all has its own benefits and uses. According to Merkle's 2021 Customer Engagement Report, 88% of marketers say collecting first-party data is a 2021 priority. So what is it and why is it so important?


As, arguably, the biggest drivers of successful marketing today, it's important to understand the different types of data. Which kinds of data will benefit your dealership the most will depend on your current situation, consumer and market changes, and your goals. 

First-party data is the information that your dealerships collects directly from your customers. This is your brand's data; your customers, your visitors, with invaluable insights from behavior, interactions, interests, and intent demonstrated across your digital and onsite properties. It can be from anything from website activity, form submissions, product views, purchase history, customer feedback or reviews, and more. This type of information is typically housed in your CRM (Customer Relationship Management), your DMS (Dealership Management System), and ultimately integrated and activated within your CDP (Customer Data Platform). You own it. It's most relevant, exclusive, and includes less liability and restrictions for use.  

To better understand the difference, it is helpful to know what second- and third-party data is and how it is obtained.

Think of second-party data as someone else’s first-party data. It can be purchased or shared directly from the company or brand that owns it. One great example where this might make sense, other than outright purchase of the data from the source, is a luxury automotive brand were to share their data with a high-end jewelry brand for a co-branded partnership and marketing campaign. They potentially share similar affluent consumer audience that could each could benefit mutually with expansion. Legally, customers must have opted-in with source for their information to be shared. 

The largest category of data is third-party data. It's owned by a company who often has no direct, ongoing relationship to the customer, collected from multiple sources, and then aggregated together for the purpose of selling for profit, often to multiple buyers. While this kind of data is typically segmented into industries, general demographics, and any number of other identifiers,  it's certainly more ambiguous than first- or even second-party data. Third-party data is typically sold programmatically, meaning that it all dumps fairly rapidly and at a large volumes. This is the most restrictive type of data, especially given the growing concerns with data privacy and third-party data tracking; withApple and Google leading the most recent changes respectively. 

"The first step to combating third-party cookie loss is shifting to a first-party data strategy."

~ Kurt Smith, CTO, 3 Birds Marketing


According to the recent Forrester study, 48% of marketers across industries say they are not leveraging first-party data sources in their decision-making. Likewise, even though 70% of those same leaders identify the value of first-party data and analytics platforms, only 44% are currently investing in first-party data platforms. This disconnect has significant implications on not only how companies engage with their existing customers in a cookieless world, but also on how they expand their market opportunities for continued growth.


It may seem quite obvious, and successful marketers both inside and outside the automotive industry have been saying it for years, but first-party data has several advantages over the other two. First thing's first: you don't pay for it. It's the most cost-effective and efficient for your dealership. First-party data stays in the hands of who collected it...yours. This allows your dealership more control and transparency over the data and are less risk when using it.

Does it take time to collect and process? Yes. And it's well worth it. Your dealership can augment and enhance existing data while also building quantity and rich quality by obtaining it directly with a deeper relationship to prospects and customers. This data is extremely fresh, relevant, accurate, and most of all...resilient.

In the past, 'big data' was siloed into separate systems that never really worked together for the greater good. Thankfully, Customer Data Platform (CDP) technology is designed to help dealers blend both consumer and car data from all sources in order to activate the complete customer journey and vehicle lifecycle. 

Sound familiar? (Psssst...stay tuned for more from 3 Birds here.)

By consolidating every piece of information about your users in one centralized location, you get a powerful overview of every action they performed merged into a unified record. This single customer view provides better insight into their path to purchase, preferences, and more and translates to more effective and profitable marketing campaigns.

With this more relevant data, your dealership can take personalized marketing with your prospects and customers to a whole new level. Think Spotify, Amazon, and Netflix, each leverage their first-party data to create personalized and targeted recommendations in dynamic ways. Your dealership can do that, too.