How to develop a first-party data strategy in 4 steps

29 novembre 2022

The digital landscape is in constant motion. We’re in the midst of one of the biggest shifts of the last couple of years. The days of third-party cookies are numbered, consumer expectations keep changing, and data collection and privacy regulations are becoming more strict by the day. Some parts of the industry are sitting idly by, for now, but we believe that now is the best time for organisations to act. Start developing a strong first-party data strategy now, and get a head-start on your competition.

iO Rotterdam

When the third-party cookie leaves us for good, first-party data will be the foundation for marketing success. It will quickly become the most valuable currency in the entire digital marketing landscape.

What is first-party data?

First-party data is data you get from your users and customers. More importantly, it’s unique to your business. As a brand, you own this data, and it isn’t shared with third parties. It’s owned by organisations and collected only with the consumers direct permission. It’s data that's gathered through app and website interactions or as a response to marketing initiatives like email and loyalty programmes.

This data comes from your own systems. It’s data on your customers, prospects, and website visitors that you’ve collected yourself. This data can take many forms:

  • Name, address and location

  • Email addresses

  • Information on customer orders

  • Website visitors online behaviour

A first-party strategy, a new mindset

There is no obvious, simple or pre-defined solution that you can use to run marketing operations without third-party cookies. You can’t cover it with a single project and/or the implementation of one tracking solution. It requires a shift in mindset: brands that focus on privacy, make an effort to truly understand their customers and have faith in their own strengths will be the ones who can make the transition to a marketing and advertising ecosystem without third-party cookies successfully – with first-party data.

Developing a first-party data strategy in 4 steps

Developing a first-party data strategy is, as opposed to the more short-term technical implementations, a sustainable and future-proof solution. And it’s one of the largest and most impactful changes that you can make that will elevate your (digital) marketing maturity.

Step 1. Data collection

The first step is data collection: gathering (customer) data. Ideally, you would analyse the available data thoroughly. This means you need to map out the available data, recording where and how it’s collected, and how it’s used:

  • Consent: make sure that your cookie banner is compliant with the GDPR. Website users can give their consent and decide to what extent and for which purposes they want their data to be used and processed.

  • Data points: map out the data points you’re collecting data from, and which data you’re collecting.

  • Data collection: develop a strategy to collect first-party data. But be transparent – show people what you will do with their data.

  • Visitor identification: consider incentives to encourage prospects or customers to share their data. What is the value you’re offering them for the information they share?

Step 2. Data storage

Data storage: where and in which systems is (personal) data stored and managed?

Marketing stack: create an overview of the tools, platforms or systems you have in place, and to what extent they are integrated – what data can you use where, and how can you combine different data?

Central database: Ideally, all data sources are pooled, deduplicated and enriched in one central place.

360° customer profiles: Build 360° customer profiles by linking different data sources. The more (data) sources that are linked together, the richer the customer profiles become. You can create them with, for instance, a Customer Data Platform (CDP) or Data Warehouse.

Get started: this is how you develop a first-party data strategy

Are you going to leave your competition behind? Our whitepaper offers concrete advice and clear examples to help you develop a strong first-party data strategy.


Step 3. Data analysis

You can start creating specific target audiences or segments from the available data in your 360° customer profiles – from purchasing behaviour and product preferences, to demographic characteristics. For example, you can perform an RFM analysis when segmenting target groups.

  • RFM Analysis: an RFM analysis (reach, frequency, monetary) is a way to analyse data. It gives insight into your most valuable customers – the ones who deserve the most attention. This analysis is already used by many organisations, but there are other options, as well.

Step 4. Data activation

When it comes to data activation, your main goal is to find out how to activate first-party data in your website, but also a call centre, an app or your shop. In short: how do you use your first-party data to activate your target audiences and optimise the customer journey?

  • Linking data sources: the central data storage should be linked to the platforms and/or channels you want to add data to. With a Customer Data Platform, you can use the built-in integrations and synchronise your data and target audiences effortlessly with different channels.

  • Use cases: A use case is a detailed description of what you’re going to do to optimise specific moments of the customer journey.


Digital marketing has always been one of the most dynamic and exhilarating fields – and we’re convinced the best is yet to come. A greater focus on user privacy is, after all, a positive development. Do you want to know more about how to make the most of this shift? Discover more about the four steps of your first-party data strategy by downloading our whitepaper ‘How to develop an optimal first-party data strategy in 4 steps’.

Michael Hardeman
About the author
Michael Hardeman
Marketing strategist - iO

Michael Hardeman is a marketing strategist at iO and has been working in (digital) marketing for years, both from the agency and client side. As co-founder and agency owner, he has spent years helping an expanding group of clients and inspiring brands to grow. The common thread? Innovation and smart use of data. Today, he helps businesses offer their customers a seamless, integrated digital experience on all marketing channels, by combining (first-party) data, creation and media.

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