Step-by-Step Guide to Using First-Party Data

Step-by-Step Guide to Using First-Party Data
Table of Contents

    Using first-party data will help you continue to reach your online audience after the deprecation of cookies. But how do you use first-party data? We’re going to walk you though exactly how to use the data on popular ad platforms and a few other use cases.

    What is First Party Data?

    First-party data is data you collect directly from your customers. It includes identifiers such as name, email, physical address, phone number. As well as behavioral data which is gathered from the interactions a customer has with your brand, such as interactions on social media, on your website, mobile app, email, customer service calls, CRM data, and in store behavior. 

    How do other forms of customer data compare to first-party data?

    Customer data comes in four forms: zero-party, first-party, second-party, and third-party data. Are they all the same? No. As the number increases, you get farther away from the customer and accuracy and privacy issues come into play. 

    What is Zero-Party Data?

    Zero-party data is data you collect which is directly inputted by the customer. The customer willing gives you the data, usually in exchange for something they view as valuable, such as a discount, a better experience, or more personalized recommendations. 

    What is Second-Party Data?

    Second-party data is another business’s first-party data about their customers. You may swap customer lists with a similar but non-competing business or run a joint promotion allowing you to access the other’s audience. While second-party data is still valuable, you can’t be 100% certain of how the data was collected or if the business has the customer’s permission to share the data.

    What is Third-Party Data?

    Third-party data is data collected by a company that has no direct tie to the customer. They aggregate data from several sources to make a customer profile. The data has a high chance of being inaccurate and may be decayed.

    Third-party data does have value, though, marketers often use it to segment their first-party data before uploading to ad platforms. As an example, a marketer might use third-party data to find out which of their customers have children, so they can segment those people into an audience. Using third-party data to segment your first-party data in this way is privacy compliant.

    Is Third-Party Data Going Away?

    No, third-party data and third-party cookies are different things. Third-party cookies are how advertising platforms have tracked your activity across the internet to make their ad targeting more efficient. The problem is it’s creepy and consumers are demanding more privacy. Most browsers have blocked third-party cookies, and Google plans to have them phased out by late 2024. 

    7 Advantages of Using First-Party Data in Your Marketing

    With third-party cookies gone, what’s a marketer to do. Is first-party data the next best option? No, first-party data is actually the best option. Why?

    First-Party Data is Privacy Compliant

    Consumers want privacy, and international, federal, and state laws are changing to match the desire. Should businesses know as much about you as they do? Consumers and governing bodies are saying no. First-party data is compliant, and you can use it to reach your customer and expand your audience.  

    First-Party Data has Higher Accuracy

    Data beyond zero- and first-party has a lower degree of accuracy because it’s farther away from the source, the customer. Since the point of using data is to make the customer experience better, you should use data that comes either directly from the customer or from your interactions from the customer. Zero and first-party data has the highest accuracy.

    You have Control/Ownership of Your First-Party Data

    There’s a saying that if you don’t have a person’s email, they’re not really a part of your audience. Unless you have a direct line of communication to a person, a way you can contact them outside a platform owned by someone else, they are not part of your audience. If social media ceased to exist tomorrow, how many people would be in your audience? With zero- and first-party data, you own the access to your audience.

    First-Party Data Builds Trust

    First-party data creates a value exchange between the customer and the business. When you collect data and then use it in the way you said you would, usually for marketing purposes or to improve the customer experience, it builds trust. Consumers like to do business where there is trust. Trust builds relationships and long term customers. 

    Using First-Party Data for Personalization

    Consumers expect personalization these days. Spoiled? Not really, consumers are aware the technology to make shopping experiences better exists, and they’re turned off by brands who don’t make the effort. Consumers are busy. What they really want from personalization is for you to know who they are, recommendations for products they’ll love, to make their lives easier, and shopping more convenient. First-party data gives you the information to meet these wants. 

    Using First-Party Data to Create Stronger Campaigns

    First-party data gives you the information you need to improve accuracy and relevancy of your marketing campaigns and improve targeting. Ultimately lowering advertising costs and increasing ROI. 

    Using First-Party Data Decreases Costs Across The Customer Lifecycle

    Not only does first-party data cost less to obtain, it helps save you money on your advertising campaign. It allows you to reach more of the right people online and reduce ad waste. Increased competition has significantly raised the cost of paid advertising. With first-party data, you can retarget consumers through more cost-effective channels and ensure your paid ads are reaching the people you want them to reach. 

    How to Use First Party Data

    The answer to how to use first-party data is both easy (anywhere and everywhere) and overwhelming (anywhere and everywhere). To keep yourself from getting overwhelmed, take a look at the use cases below, set a goal, make a plan to reach the goal, and then decide what data you’ll need to do it. What data is essential for you to meet your goal, and what data would simply be a nice to have? Not having a plan and collecting everything, can leave you buried under mountains of data and unable to make sense of it. 

    The steps you are going to follow to use your first-party data for any of the use cases below and through any marketing channel are the same.

    Step #1 – Know Who People Are and Build Customer Profiles

    The first step in any first-party data strategy is identity. You have to know who people are. What made third-party cookies, pixels, and cross app tracking valuable — is ad platforms knew who the people visiting your website were, their internet and mobile app activity, the social media pages they followed, etc. This made knowing who to show your ads to pretty simple.

    If you want to effectively retarget website visitors using first-party data, or nurture people through email and build relationships — you have to know who they are.

    How do you do that?

    You need to increase the opportunities for website visitors to identify themselves on your website. You can use static email forms, pop-ups, chatbots, quizzes, etc. For those people who don’t identify themselves, having a software like RAEK, running on your website which tokenizes anonymous visitors for identification, will help capture as many additional visitors as possible for marketing purposes.

    Step #2 – Add Some Depth

    Once you have identity you want to add depth or context to the profile. Why was the person visiting your site? What product lines are they interested in? Are they shopping for themselves or for a gift? How do you get this information? Ask for it! Quizzes will give you this information, as will post purchase surveys or asking in a welcome sequence.

    If you’re a small business and don’t have the resources to add depth to your data, you can stop at identity. Retargeting website visitors with a high preforming general ad or adding them to your email list will get you results.

    Step #3 – Segment and Organize your Zero- and First-Party Data.

    Once you have your customer profiles, you’ll want to use the data you collected above to segment them into audiences. Below, you’ll see some example segments of both paying customers and website visitors to get you started. Segmentation isn’t required, but it’s how you make your message more relevant to the recipient, because of this segmented audiences typically perform better.

    You’ll also want to make sure your data is organized and in the right format for use through the intended marketing channel. Most ad platforms/networks or CRM require a .csv file. Below you’ll find data requirements for popular ad platforms and a link to the correct help center page on the platforms’ website detailing how it should be formatted.

    Step #4 – Plug Your First-Party Data into Your Intended Marketing Channel

    You’re all set! You can manually upload contacts into your CRM (if they’re not already there) or AD platform. Some, but not all, platforms allow you to automate the process as well.

    7 First-Party Data Use Cases

    Use First-Party Data to Reach Your Online Audience

    Continuing to achieve the same levels of performance with their digital advertising as they have with the use of third-party cookies is why most marketers are building first-party data strategies now. Starting now allows ample time for testing against your third-party data campaigns. When you get it right, cookies will no longer be a concern. 

    Use First-Party Data to Grow Your Audience 

    When you know exactly who your customer is, you can easily use the customers you do have to reach new ones on ad platforms. Whether the platform calls it a lookalike audience, similar audience, Actalike audience or something else, they all mean the same thing – an audience of people who are similar to the customers and/or website visitors you already have. You can have as little information as an email address to create these audiences, but usually the more information you have about a customer, the easier it is to match to users of the platform. 

    Example segments of customers you can create lookalike audiences from:

    • Top 50% of customers
    • Top 50% of full price customers 
    • Top 50% of markdown customers
    • Customers you don’t want – i.e. negative audiences
    • Based on recency of last purchase
    • Based on frequency of purchases

    Segments of website visitors you can create lookalike audiences from:

    • Website visitors based on pages viewed
    • Website visitors based on time onsite
    • Website visitors based on engagement
    • Website visitors segmented with 3rd party data identifying target customers

    Use First-Party Data to Retarget Website Visitors

    Retargeting audiences have shrunk since the iOS 14.5 update, making retargeting app and website visitors on ad platforms difficult. First-party data can help more effectively retarget website visitors.  You can create high performing ad audiences with first-party data, but you can also save your ad dollars and retarget through email. 

    Segments of website visitors you can retarget:

    • Website visitors based on pages viewed
    • Website visitors who visited a specific page
    • Website visitors based on time onsite
    • Website visitors based on engagement
    • Website visitors segmented with 3rd party data identifying target customers

    Use First-Party Data to Keep Customers Engaged

    Engaged customers spend more money and purchase more often than those who are unengaged. They also buy less from competitors. Keeping consumers engaged in 2022 and beyond requires a personalized customer experience. Personalization requires first-party data, and data collection requires thought around how your customers want to be spoken to, what they want to engage with, and ultimately how you will collect the data needed. Gradually asking for the data you need as you build a relationship with your consumer or creating a loyalty program are some of the best ways to capture data needed for personalization.

    For smaller brands without the resources for personalization. You can check the personalization box by sending out relevant content. Relevancy is how you keep customer engaged.  Know your customer, know what they want, and give it to them. 

    Use First Party to Increase Campaign Relevancy

    Irrelevant campaigns and communication is a big turn-off for consumers these days. First-party data gives you the information you need to fuel campaigns with content and products relevant to the consumer. 98% of B2C companies say that personalization (i.e. relevant content) increases customer loyalty. 

    Use First-Party Data to Personalize Customer Communications

    Personalization is the key to building long-lasting customer relationships. First-party data provides the information you need to make each communication feel personalized to the customer. Because the first-party data you use for personalization is collected directly from the customer and their interactions with your brand, you skip the creepy marketing vibe because the customer knows exactly where the data is coming from. 

    Use First-Party Data to Build Customer Profiles

    Customer profiles (and website-visitor profiles if you use RAEK) can and should include up-to-date contact information as well the interactions with your brand’s website. We’re not talking about 360° views, this is unattainable for small businesses and some experts even say it’s a myth. Customer profiles are valuable for two reasons:

    1.Having as many identifiers for a customer/website visitor as possible. The time left on the using third-party cookies to reach your audience is running out. When you upload first-party data lists to Google or Facebook, you want to have as many identifiers as possible. Multiple identifiers give you higher match rates. 

    2. Valuable for segmentation –  Knowing what a customer is interested in allows you to target the right people with the right campaigns. 

    Channels You Can Use First-Party Data to Reach People

    Once you have your audience segmented, you can upload the audience into the ad platform of your choice. The more people in an audience, the better.  

    Ad platforms providing first-party data audience solutions:


    Customer match audiences available on Search, the Shopping Tab, YouTube, Gmail, and Display.

    • A minimum of 1000 contacts is recommended.
    • Data needed: As many identifiers as you have for a contact, lists with at least 3 identifiers per contact have the highest match rate.
    • Can uploaded manually or updated automatically with Zapier.
    • More Info in Google Ads


    Reach customers and more people like them across Microsoft Search Network and Audience Networks using first-party data.

    Meta (Facebook/Instagram) 

    Reach customers and more people like them on Facebook and Instagram using first-party data.


    Reach customers and more people like them on SnapChat using first-party data.

    • Minimum 1000 matched contacts.
    • Data needed: Email or MAIDs or Phone Numbers (cannot mix identifiers within the same file).
    • More Info on SnapChat


    Reach customers and more people like them on Twitter using first-party data.


    Reach customers and more people like them on Pinterest using first-party data.

    • Minimum 100 matched contacts. 
    • Data needed – Email or Mobile Advertising IDs (MAIDs)
    • More Info on Pinterest


    Using first-party data to reach your customers and more people like them on TikTok.

    • Minimum is 1000 matched contacts. 
    • Data needed – Apple’s Identifier for Advertisers (IDFA) or Google’s Advertising ID (GAID)
    • Email & phone number matching are currently in testing and will hopefully be available in the near future.
    • More Info in TikTok’s Business Help Center

    Social Media

    There are two ways you can use first-party data on social media platforms.


    See above for specific information about using first-party data to target ads on social media platforms.


    First-party data provides the information you need to make your posts and campaigns more relevant to your audience. Relevancy build relationships and customer loyalty. 


    Podcast advertising has an average ROAS of 4.0.  And now it’s getting even better. You can now upload first-party data customer/website visitor lists to Acast, allowing you to create customer match audiences and find new similar customers. See the paid advertising section above for details. 


    An email address gives you a direct line of communication with your customer. Speak to everyone or only specific segments of email subscribers. Test retargeting customers through email and see if you get the same results as paid ads. With first-party data, you have the ability to get a customer to repurchase from you without spending ad dollars. 

    Direct Mail

    Direct mail isn’t dead. In fact, when it’s combined with email marketing, it’s highly effective. You can use your first-party data customer & website visitor lists in your direct mail campaigns.

    How to Get The Biggest Impact When Using First-Party Data

    Always Use Fresh Data

    Audiences decay quickly. People lose interest, they get new devices, their lifestyles and life stages change, email address change, etc. Fresh is always best. There are a few exceptions here, such as people who only shop at your store for holidays, but in general you want to keep your data as fresh as possible to have the biggest impact.

    Have a Plan

    What is the goal of using first-party data? Once you figure out what you are trying to achieve make a plan to get there. Important things to include in your plan.

    • What data do you need?
    • How are you going to collect it?
    • How do you plan to use it? – Start with one use case and expand from there.  
    • How are you going to organize & move the data from collection to use? 

    Use the Right Tech Stack

    The most common barrier to using first-party data is not collection or knowing how to use it, it’s not having the technology to move the data to where it can be leveraged. Make sure the tech stack you’re using has the ability to do this. Small businesses and enterprises face this problem. It’s often an easier barrier for small businesses to cross though, their data isn’t siloed, there is fewer data overall, and they don’t need buy in for multiple departments. Software like RAEK collects and organizes your customer and website visitors in one place, and then organizes it for easy use throughout your marketing channels. 

    Test, Test, and Test Again

    Right now, you have a unique opportunity to test your first-party strategy and audiences against your current audiences using third party cookies for targeting. Test, refine, and test again. You can build complex audiences with first-party data and use them on any platform. Once you get it dialed in, you’re not even going to think about third-party cookies because first-party audiences preform incrementally better.

    Ready to start collecting and organizing your first-party data? Get started today, for free at

    The newsletter for marketers who want to make better use of their data.

    Sign up for our newsletter to get first-party data marketing tips and strategies, delivered straight to your inbox.

    New to RAEK? Sign up to start collecting first-party data on your website visitors. 100% free.

    Posted in ,

    The RAEK Team

    RAEK was built by a group of digital marketers on a mission to help small businesses grow and easily utilize their first-party customer data.