Clarifying the Meaning of First-Party Data


We just posted some educational content on our site, and one of the most popular downloads is about understanding the difference between first- versus third-party cookies. Thousands of marketers use the term, and yet our downloads suggest that there’s still some confusion/questioning going on. With that in mind, we thought we’d put up a brief summary of what “first-party data” means, provide some examples, and outline its role in understanding your customers.



In the context of marketing, first-party data is information that a company, website or app collects itself. Much first-party data is information that you and your company alone have access to. It helps you understand the characteristics and behaviors of customers and prospects as they interact with your brand. First-party data is (or should be) the foundation for rich customer profiles and insights for your brand.


There are many types of information that companies collect about their customers. Here are just a few examples:

  • Past online purchase information and browsing for customers
  • PC web browsing and behavior data
  • Mobile web browsing and behavior data
  • In-app browsing and behavior data
  • Email CRM records of email interactions (opens, clicks, send to a friend, etc.)
  • Customer interactions with your social media presences

It’s easy to see how these varied sources of data can provide a foundation for understanding individual customer behavior via customer profiles, as well as aggregated audience characteristics. This views in-app actions as a starting point for those brands with their own apps because in-app now represents such a huge proportion of total connected time.

Why First-Party Data is Important/Valuable for Marketing

More and more brands are focusing on “data-driven marketing” — promotional approaches that tailor efforts based on customer profiles. Data-driven marketing programs can drive greater ROI and engagement because they are shaped to the specific needs of customers or customer segments.

First-party data is invaluable to creating robust consumer profiles. First, first-party data has consistently been shown to be the richest predictor future customer behavior. Second, most or all of it is exclusively available to you. Other brands cannot capitalize on the insights that can be derived from it. That means you have a real competitive advantage.

It’s YOUR Data! It’s critical to ensure that you capture it and fully leverage it for greater marketing effectiveness and maximum ROI!

Other Types of Data

You’re probably hearing about other kinds of data – specifically, second-party data and third-party data. Here are brief definitions for each:

  • Third-Party Data: This refers to data that is collected by someone else, and is made available for sale by a “third-party” data company. An example would be if you wanted to find individuals online who have an interest in camping and hiking. You would go to an exchange and purchase the data. The data vendor accepts payment and then makes the data available to you. They are the third-party.
  • Second-Party Data: Here the data is collected and owned by another company, which sells it directly to you. An example would be if you contracted directly with another brand for data on their customers, and used that in your own marketing efforts. Purchasing second-party data is becoming more common as brands/sites/app publishers seek new ways to monetize their assets.

First-, Second- and Third-Party Data and DMPs

A DMP, like Apsalar’s Mobile DMP, is designed to ingest and manage a brand’s first-party data and associate it with individual, anonymized consumer profiles. From there, a brand can choose to enrich its profiles with third-party data. Then, the brand can conduct customer analysis, formulate strategies, and create/export high-performing audiences to its choice of marketing solutions providers. Thereby driving customer-centric brand experiences and increased marketing effectiveness.

First-party data really is the most important part of the data equation for customer-driven marketing, for there is nothing better to help you understand and build client relationships than data on those relationships itself.

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