Four Simple Steps to Utilize Your Company Data for Digital Marketing

Why our own data is such an important asset

by Uwe Scheid
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In this article, I will show you four simple steps to help you get started using your company data for your digital marketing campaigns. Before we dive into the details of these steps, it’s important to understand why you should be looking at your own data in the first place.

Why your own data is so important

If you are active in online marketing, you have probably heard of terms such as “cookie exit” or “cookie deprecation”. Browser manufacturers are increasingly restricting the ability to set third-party cookies, which has a significant impact on the tracking of user behavior on the Internet. But what exactly is behind this? Cookies are small text files in which web browsers store information that can be used for various purposes, such as measuring page views or click events, assigning browser requests to a website visit or tracking website visits by a specific visitor. Here we differentiate between 1st party cookies and 3rd party cookies. 1st-party cookies can only be recognized by the original website from which they originate. Examples of this are shopping cart data in an online store or settings such as language, color scheme or login data set by website visitors. These types of cookies should not normally be blocked as they are often essential for the smooth operation of the website and improve the user experience, in most cases without compromising privacy integrity. 3rd party cookies are mainly used to track the surfing behavior of users across different websites. They enable the creation of comprehensive user profiles and the delivery of targeted, interest-based advertising. They are also used to control and limit advertising contacts (e.g. frequency capping) and to measure the overall success of advertising campaigns. This type of cookie is therefore mainly of interest to advertisers, agencies and online advertising marketers. As early as 2019, Apple began integrating its own data protection technology called “Intelligent Tracking Prevention” into its operating systems and activating it by default. Other browser manufacturers followed suit, either with similar approaches (such as Firefox) or with announcements (such as Google) that they would block third-party cookies in future. We currently assume that Google Chrome will also block third-party cookies from 2024. For advertisers and marketers, this means that current technologies and processes for tracking user behavior will soon no longer work. It is therefore crucial to prepare for these profound changes now to avoid facing digital challenges in two years’ time.

1st party data: A valuable asset

I m personally a proponent of a privacy-oriented internet without 3rd party cookies. This not only promotes the well-being of users, but also forces marketers to develop smarter and more user-friendly strategies. Most companies have extensive 1st-party data that they generate themselves. This data is generated through people’s interactions with the company, be it through website visits, newsletter registrations, downloads, store visits, product purchases or complaints. It is recorded in server log files, analytics systems, CRM systems and POS systems, and can be found on competition postcards, at trade fairs or events. Company turnover, stock levels and marketing expenditure are also included. The two most important advantages of 1st party data are for me:

  • It’s based on information that customers voluntarily provide, which makes it more trustworthy than data that comes from a marketer platform, for example. Remember: Marketers always want more money to be spent on their platforms. That’s why their analytics systems are mainly geared towards this goal and will always tend to make their own platform look good.
  • Owning your own data gives you more control. You are in control of how you work with this data and you know how it was generated. With technical support, you can use this data to optimize your business processes.

If these are the advantages, what are the challenges? In most companies, this data is either unorganized, difficult to access or both. Marketing departments in particular often don’t know how to effectively integrate 1st party data into a holistic marketing strategy.

Strategy for 1st party data: Four steps to success

Here are four concrete steps with examples to help you get started with activating your own data for your marketing campaigns.

  1. Identify the systems with valuable 1st party data
    Before you can talk about personalization, you need to create an overview of all the systems in which data about your customers is collected. Examples include your website, your app, your CRM, your CDP, emails, call centers, VoC platforms, sales and MarTech stacks. Make a list of these systems and the data points they collect before you even begin to seek technical advice.

    To better understand this step, let’s look at a concrete example. Let’s say you run an online retail business that sells clothing. You want to create an effective marketing campaign that focuses on personalized targeting of customers. For example, you want to target customers who have shown interest in certain product categories in the past and encourage them to shop again. Your goal is to identify the 1st-party data that you collect about your customers in various systems. Then you need to figure out which of this data you need to set up and run personalized campaigns.

    Here are some of the potentially relevant systems:

    a.) Your Website:Your website is an important source of data. You collect data about your customers’ behavior, such as page views, product views, shopping cart activity and transactions.

    b.) Your CRM-System: In your customer relationship management system, you have information about customer accounts, contact information, purchase histories and customer segments.

    c.) Your E-Mail-Marketing-Plattform: This is where you store email subscriber lists and data about your customers’ email behavior, such as opened emails and clicks on links.

    d.) Your branch network: If you have physical stores, you can collect data on store visits, purchases and customer interactions on site.

    e.) Your App: If you have a mobile app, collect data on app usage, product views and purchases from app users.

    f.) Social media: If you are active on social media, you can receive data about interactions, comments and messages from customers.

    g.) Customer surveys: Customer surveys, whether online or offline, provide you with direct feedback from customers.

    h.) Analytics tools: Web analytics tools such as Matomo or Google Analytics provide comprehensive information about the behavior of your website visitors.

    i.) Sales data: Your sales team has information on sales figures, customer inquiries and customer feedback. To identify the 1st party data in these systems, create a list of the above systems and their respective data points.


    – Page views
    – Product views
    – Shopping cart activities
    – Transactions

    – Customer accounts
    – Contact information
    – Purchase histories
    – Customer segments

    – Subscriber lists
    – Opened mails
    – Clicks on links

    Branch network:
    – Store visits
    – Purchases on site
    – Customer interactions

    – App usage frequency
    – Product views in the app
    – Purchases in the app

    Social media:
    – Comments
    – Interactions
    – Messages from customers

    Customer surveys:
    – Feedback on individual topics

    Analytics tools:
    – Website usage

    Sales data:
    – Customer inquiries
    – Sales figures
    – Sales territories

  2. Develop your ideal plan for the use of your data
    Once you have identified the data and systems you need, you should create a plan for how you want to use this data. This requires a clear idea of the tactics and strategies you want to employ using these data points.

    Let’s continue with the example of an online retailer selling fashion items. You want to personalize your website for visitors to improve the customer experience and increase the likelihood of purchase. First, you need to identify which of your 1st party data is relevant for this personalization:

    Visitor profiles: Information about website visitors, such as their preferences, past purchases and behavior patterns on your website.
    Product categories: Categorize your products and analyze which categories a visitor has viewed on your website.
    Purchase history: Analyze information about past purchases, including products purchased and date of purchase.
    Shopping cart data: Track which products are in a visitor’s cart and whether a purchase has been completed.

    Now develop your ideal plan to personalize the website experience:

    Product recommendations: Based on the product categories a visitor has viewed, display personalized product recommendations on the website.
    Shopping cart reminders: If a visitor has products in their cart but has not completed the purchase, automatically send them a reminder email with the pending products.
    Purchase history display: Show the visitor an overview of their past purchases on the website to remind them of their previous interactions with your business.
    Offer personalization: Offer personalized special offers or discounts based on the visitor’s interests and purchasing behavior.

  3. Implementation of the tactics
    Once the ideal plan has been developed, it’s time to plan the necessary technical and organizational steps to implement these personalization tactics. This may include integrating a content management system, implementing email marketing tools for shopping cart reminders, and customizing the website interface to display the personalized content.

    Let’s say your ideal plan is to create a personalized email campaign for customers who have viewed products from a certain category in the past to encourage them to complete a purchase.

    Data integration
    First, you need to make sure that your 1st-party data from various sources is correctly integrated into your email marketing system. This includes data such as customer IDs, product categories, timestamps for product views and customer contact information. Implement a system that can make the connection between the different data points to uniquely identify customers. To do this, you need a unique customer ID that makes it possible to identify a customer across different channels.

    Target group segmentation
    Use your 1st party data to clearly segment your target group. Identify customers who have viewed products from the desired category but have not yet made a purchase.

    Create personalized email content
    Create texts that are tailored to the interests of your target groups. Use the product information from your data to make recommendations for similar products or special offers.

    Automation Set up a marketing automation campaign in your email marketing system now to send the personalized emails automatically. Make sure the emails are sent at the right times, based on customer behavior and timestamps

  4.   Monitoring and optimization
    Once the campaign has started, monitor the results and adjust your tactics regularly. Analyze how customers react to the personalized emails and which products work best.

    Continuously optimize your campaign to achieve the best possible results. Track open rates, clicks, conversions and sales generated by the email campaign. Based on the collected data and insights, continuously optimize your email campaign. Adjust the content, sending times or segmentation to increase performance and achieve better results.

    In the example above, the personalized email campaign tactic was successfully implemented to target customers who viewed specific products and persuade them to make a purchase. Automation allows you to deliver personalized communications at scale while increasing relevance to customers. Continuous monitoring and optimization ensures that your marketing efforts remain effective and evolve to meet the needs of your customers.

Identify and close technological gaps

Once you have completed the first two steps, you are usually well prepared to evaluate the technology you need. Unfortunately, many companies skip these steps and immediately look for MarTech companies to solve their problems, or have them solved. This often leads to disappointment, as most tools make all sorts of promises but can’t always deliver in practice. In order to select service providers or technology providers, it is essential that you as a company have a clear overview in advance of what systems you already have in place and what data is generated in these systems. You should also have a basic idea of what marketing goals you want to achieve. This idea should be formulated in more detail than just making more sales. In reality, you not only need different tools and systems to achieve your goals, but also a way to link these systems together and share data seamlessly. The variety of technologies available can be challenging, but it’s essential to ensure you can operate effectively in a cookie-free world.

Staying one step ahead

To summarize: What marketing teams are doing today will no longer work in a year’s time. It’s critical to prepare for the future and to view and utilize your own data as a valuable asset. By following these four basic steps – identify, plan, implement and optimize – you can successfully make the transition to a data-driven marketing strategy. Stay flexible and ready to learn to meet the ever-changing demands of digital marketing.

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