Does your data deliver?

May 23, 2022

First, second, third, zero – we look at the upsides and drawbacks  


Data is just information, right? Unfortunately, it’s not quite that simple. And as the data environment changes, it’s increasingly important that businesses understand the different types of data out there.  

In the past, many businesses kept it simple and used third-party cookies to drive their digital advertising. This delivered valuable insights at scale, without too much effort. But that system is on the way out – third-party cookies are being retired as a result of changing privacy laws and regulations.  

It’s forcing marketers to reconfigure their digital strategies – but it’s also an opportunity for deeper, more accurate targeting.  

The first step? Understanding the benefits and downsides of different data types.

Here’s our simplified breakdown:    


First-party: your data, your rules  

First-party data is anything that your organisation collects directly from your customers – browsing data from your website, CRM data, information about visitors to your website or social media profiles, email subscriber information, phone calls and sales records.  


  • First-party data belongs to your organisation.  
  • You control the collection, storage, management and security.  
  • It’s about your customers, so it’s directly relevant to your business.  


  • First-party data can be limited in scope, as it only relates to your existing customers or browsers – not prospective customers  


Second-party: sharing data between orgs  

Second-party data comes directly from another company – not a middleman. A business with a related customer base puts its data up for sale and your company buys it.  


  • Second-party data can help you discover prospective leads and expand your marketing reach.  
  • By avoiding brokers, you don’t use the same datasets as hundreds of other companies. 


  • Buying direct from another company can be technically difficult, compared with going through a broker – you may run into migration or integration issues.  
  • Linking with another business willing to trust you with their data may not be straightforward – particularly as privacy laws tighten.  


Third-party: buying data from the pros  

Third-party data is purchased from a central broker. These brokers aggregate large-scale datasets from a range of sources, create consumer profiles and then sell them on.   


  • Third-party data is accessible and affordable – or it was in the past.   
  • This type of data offers in-depth insight into a huge number of consumers, way beyond what any single business can collect.  
  • Some analytics work is done already – many brokers will break data down into audience segments for ease of use.  


  • Privacy laws are beginning to restrict the collection and use of third-party data.  
  • Changing privacy expectations are making customers less willing to accept the use of this type of data – particularly if the collection isn’t made clear.  
  • Third-party cookies, which were used to track browsing activity, are being phased out – and are already blocked by many browsers.  
  • Data may be unreliable – low-quality, poorly aggregated or collected without meeting privacy rules.  


Zero-party: freely given, highly valuable  

At the other end of the scale is zero-party data. This is information that a customer willingly and knowingly shares with your company. Sources include surveys, sign-up forms, polls or quizzes, prize draws and more. 


  • Because zero-party data is willingly provided, there’s no concern about privacy or deceptive collection methods.  
  • Insights are not just connected to your business, they’re tied to specific customers, allowing you to deliver extremely personalised experiences.  


  • Zero-party data is more limited than other forms – your dataset is limited to the number of customers willing to put in the effort.  
  • You may need to invest in prize offers or giveaways to incentivise zero-party sharing.  


Developing your data strategy  

As third-party sources decline in value, businesses are searching for seams of data in other mines. There’s no single data strategy for everyone, it’s about finding sources that work for you and your customers. Most businesses will use a range of data types to develop in-depth customer insights and super-specific targeting. Of course, it’s also about how you use it – even if you have all the data in the world, it offers little value if you can’t use it to develop real insights, connect with your customers or drive conversions.  

Wringing the most value from your data takes energy and expertise – so working with an expert agency is the first step.  

Struggling to unravel your data?  Get in touch for a strategy that fits your business.