How to Turn Your First-Party Data into a Strategic Business Asset

Since retailers have traditionally owned the relationship with consumers (and the data that comes with it), there’s been little investment by consumer goods companies in developing a direct relationship with consumers.

How to Turn Your First-Party Data into a Strategic Business Asset

But changing privacy laws and initiatives are disrupting the status quo and accelerating the need for real transformation in the way consumer goods companies engage with consumers and drive business growth.

In this article, you’ll learn 4 ways consumer goods companies are turning first-party data into a strategic business asset by creating a single customer view, ultimately transforming customer relationships and driving business growth.

A single customer view has long been deemed unattainable for consumer goods companies. Since retailers have traditionally owned the relationship with consumers (and the first-party data that comes with it), there’s been little investment by consumer goods companies in developing a direct relationship with consumers. But changing privacy laws and other privacy-first initiatives that restrict the use of third-party data are disrupting the status quo and accelerating the need to create a single customer view based on consented first-party data.

Read this article to discover why consumer goods companies are prioritizing a single customer view. You’ll also learn:

  • Why modernizing your tech stack for first-party data activation is critical for transforming customer relationships and driving business growth
  • How to operationally approach growth initiatives tied to a single customer view, including:
  • Direct-to-Consumer Relationships
  • Digital Experiences
  • Cross-Channel Customer Lifecycle Marketing
  • Analytics and Data Science Democratization
  • How other consumer goods companies are using BlueConic’s CDP to enable these growth initiatives

Content Summary

The Growing Importance of a Single Customer View
The Benefits of a Single Customer View
Modernizing Your Tech Stack for First-Party Data Activation
Driving Growth from a First-Party Data Strategy
Building Direct-to-Consumer Relationships
Offering Valuable Digital Experiences
Optimizing Customer Lifecycle Marketing
Democratizing Analytics & Data Science

The Growing Importance of a Single Customer View

A single customer view has long been deemed unattainable for consumer goods companies. Since their products are traditionally sold through retailers, restaurants, and event venues, most of these businesses lack access to the individual-level behavioral and transactional data they need to better understand and interact with consumers.

Traditionally, retailers have owned the relationship with consumers (and the first-party data that comes with it). As a result, there has been little investment by consumer goods companies in developing a direct relationship with consumers because they’ve historically lacked the first-party data to do so. However, several macro factors are disrupting the status quo and accelerating the need for real transformation in the way these companies engage with consumers and drive business growth, including:

  • The declining reliability of third-party data due to expanding consumer data privacy regulations (GDPR, CCPA)
  • The demise of third-party cookies due to privacy restrictions set forth by the dominant web browsers (Safari, Chrome)
  • Ongoing disruption to consumer behavior, which was accelerated due to the global pandemic

Just 35% of CMOs at consumer goods companies indicated they have a single, integrated view of their consumers.

The Benefits of a Single Customer View

As a result, consumer goods companies are shifting away from third-party data in favor of first-party data, prioritizing the need for greater business agility in the face of disruption, and adopting a direct-to-consumer (DTC) engagement model that is both privacy-compliant and creates value.

Executing on a strategic vision of a single customer view based on consented first-party data will fundamentally transform how businesses understand and interact with consumers. The outcome of this execution should be to:

  • Reduce the gap between having consumer data and acting on it
  • Get things done faster and in a more intuitive and/or automated way
  • Make new program testing smarter, less risky, and more scalable
  • Recognize and engage consumers across channels and touchpoints
  • Offer new, more relevant and personalized customer experiences
  • Mitigate consumer data risk and manage consent across channels

In addition to rethinking legacy organizational structures as part of the strategic vision for the future, consumer goods companies are also auditing their tech stacks and evaluating solutions to meet their business needs.

Modernizing Your Tech Stack for First-Party Data Activation

For consumer goods companies, the modernization of their tech stacks means reducing reliance on third-party data for activation, particularly in digital media channels. Today, advertising remains a core marketing activity for most consumer goods companies. But the changing adtech landscape presents a challenge — both for targeting the right audiences and optimizing the efficiency of their media spend. For instance, many consumer goods companies use data management platforms (DMP) to build anonymous, cookie-based segments for targeting and personalization across the web.

But ongoing browser privacy changes mean third-party cookies are a crumbling foundation that will soon be gone for good. That’s why successful consumer goods companies are moving away from third-party cookies (and legacy tech like DMPs) and embracing first-party data and solutions like a customer data platform (CDP).

A CDP not only creates persistent, unified customer profiles that store individual consent along with other consumer attributes, but also serves as the lynchpin to making the single customer view accessible to growth-focused teams (e.g., marketing, customer experience, analytics, digital product) and their tools in a format they can use to improve how they engage customers, build segments, conduct modeling and analytics, and more.

Moreover, a CDP that offers a data clean room solution can help consumer goods companies make use of and build upon their valuable, consented first-party data. By sharing pseudonymized second-party data with trusted retailer partners in a privacy-safe environment, consumer goods companies can glean richer audience insights, improve targeting and personalization, and better understand the effectiveness of their advertising spend.

Driving Growth from a First-Party Data Strategy

While building a single customer view is a strategic vision for many consumer goods companies today, there are several growth initiatives tied to that vision, including:

  • Building direct-to-consumer relationships
  • Offering valuable digital experiences
  • Optimizing customer lifecycle marketing
  • Democratizing analytics and data science

These growth initiatives are cross-functional by nature. In almost every case, there are multiple business teams involved in seeking new (or expanding existing) sources of revenue, data, and/or competitive advantage.

Building Direct-to-Consumer Relationships

The COVID-19 pandemic kicked online shopping and purchasing into high gear, and it looks like it’s here to stay. In fact, a recent study by McKinsey indicates that 15-30%2 of consumers who migrated to digital shopping due to the global pandemic will continue to do so moving forward.

While this trend pre-dates the pandemic, the pressure for consumer goods companies to build direct-to-consumer relationships has become all the more vital to maintain relevance and thrive in 2021 and beyond.

Companies like Nike have been investing in DTC for quite some time. The athletic-apparel business has been a leader in offering valuable branded experiences and selling their products directly to consumers via their own brick-and-mortar store locations and ecommerce channels. Not all consumer goods companies can develop a direct, transactional relationship with consumers in the way that Nike can. But that isn’t stopping them from breaking new ground to form direct relationships in other ways.

For instance, in the case of alcoholic beverage companies, selling directly to consumers is prohibited by U.S. law. Since sales can only occur through grocery chains, restaurants, and event venues, these companies need to get creative in how they create value in exchange for consumer data — whether that’s through online touchpoints, like sweepstakes and virtual events, or offline touchpoints, such as sponsored sporting events and music festivals.

Spotlight: Heineken USA

HEINEKEN USA recognized it needed to make the inevitable shift away from utilizing third-party data and start building its own first-party data set to develop direct relationships with consumers. So, the company launched a strategic effort to build ‘golden consumer records’ that would enable it to gain new insights and engage consumers in ways that are both privacy-compliant and offer value.

HEINEKEN USA uses BlueConic to collect consented first-party data from online and offline sources and then unify that data into individual-level profiles. These profiles are then tiered into bronze, silver, and gold. ‘Golden records’ represent consumers HEINEKEN USA can build a direct relationship with via marketing. The unified profile data comes from the company’s interactions with consumers through both online touchpoints (e.g., sweepstakes, virtual events, site visits), partner retailers (e.g., delivery apps), and offline touchpoints (e.g., live events).

For example, HEINEKEN USA uses wristband data collected from those who visit its sponsored tent at one of the nation’s largest music festivals to reengage them by offering tickets to other events of interest, in turn creating a value exchange.

In a single year, HEINEKEN USA created millions of golden consumer records in BlueConic, enabling it to eliminate its use of DMP segments based on third-party data in favor of building segments based on first-party data. By activating these segments in digital ad campaigns, the company improved its media efficiency when comparing key performance metrics before and after BlueConic was implemented.

Additionally, the business added new channels and programs to its marketing mix that weren’t possible before. For instance, HEINEKEN USA launched its first email marketing pilot in 2021 using first-party data, segments, and insights available in BlueConic to continue to develop more direct relationships with its target audience.

Offering Valuable Digital Experiences

In many ways, growth initiatives that focus on offering valuable digital experiences are an extension of broader efforts to build DTC relationships.

Take Tecate, one of the beer brands under HEINEKEN USA. The company launched a series of virtual events in 2020 called ‘El Patio,’ which brought several live music acts together for an engaging consumer experience. Despite being the smallest HEINEKEN brand, compelling digital experiences like this have helped Tecate generate the highest number of web visits.

In turn, Tecate has been able to build unified profiles for each attendee — data it can now use to both build new audience segments and activate in new and existing consumer engagement programs (e.g., promote similar digital products and/or experiences of interest to relevant segments).

But before consumer goods companies can design new digital experiences like this, they must first address their core operational challenges. This starts with asking key questions — notably, how can the business:

  • Power data to and collection from digital consumer experiences?
  • Build experiences using first-party data no competitor can replicate?
  • Use high-quality data to improve the relevance of interactions at scale?
  • Drive dynamic, highly personalized interactions across channels?

Spotlight: Belgian Cycling Factory (BCF)

Belgian Cycling Factory (BCF), home to iconic cycling brands like Ridley and Eddy Merckx, sells most of its bikes through a network of dealers and bike shops across Europe. When COVID-19 hit, dealers across Europe closed their doors, prompting the company to accelerate its digital transformation and transform its relationships with consumers and dealers alike.

With BlueConic, BCF was able to launch a new ecommerce store in just one week to help its dealers drive sales online – an entirely new sales channel for the dealers. Equally important, the company can now collect and unify customer data from the new webshop into BlueConic profiles and use this data in its dealer marketing programs to drive revenue and minimize the negative impact of COVID on bike sales.

For example, BCF is able to use the rich profile data to build multi-dimensional segments based on location, browsing behaviors, color preferences, price point, and more, then send those segments directly to other marketing platforms for immediate activation across channels.

“We saw positive ROI from BlueConic in one month. Not only does it help us better understand our customers and improve marketing, but it also provides the insights we need to show dealers how to sell more bikes.” — Michel Lenaerts, Senior Marketing Advisor

Optimizing Customer Lifecycle Marketing

One of the benefits of giving growth-focused business teams access to a single customer view is reduced ad waste with refined audience targeting and suppression efforts. However, there is an even greater growth opportunity to be realized when a single customer view is in the hands of business users. And that is true, end-to-end customer lifecycle marketing.

Lifecycle marketing is the use of data and insights to identify priority consumer segments, then execute cross-functional programs to move those consumers through their journeys and drive better business outcomes. Unlike outbound, channel-centric campaigns that attempt to move consumers down a predetermined path, lifecycle marketing is designed to ‘meet’ individuals where they are on their unique customer journey.

Successful customer lifecycle marketing starts with transforming the underlying marketing operations and processes to make them more efficient. Before your marketing team can begin to design innovative programs for all customer lifecycle stages, you must first address operational challenges by:

  • Eliminating steps in current processes to get to desired outcomes faster
  • Enabling marketers to rely less on their IT team and external agencies
  • Maintaining a state of timely and personalized consumer interaction

Spotlight: Franklin Sports

Franklin Sports is a leading sporting-goods manufacturer that sells its products both direct-to-consumer via its ecommerce website as well as through retailers.

With BlueConic, Franklin Sports has been able to categorize its consumers in a variety of ways. One of its most valuable segmentation techniques is to distinguish individuals based on interest in and purchases of its top-three selling products.

Using BlueConic’s Segment Overlap Insight for each of these products, Franklin Sports looked at the overlap between consumers that were ‘Cold’ (have not visited its website or purchased in the last 60 days), ‘Hot’ (visited the site in the past 30 days, but haven’t bought), and ‘Very Hot’ (visited the site in the last seven days and haven’t purchased, but their session quality was five-plus pages per visit).

With this segmentation approach, Franklin Sports has been able to easily map audiences to corresponding Lifecycles and send data to Google AdWords, its ESP, Facebook, and other activation tools and channels, which enhances its effectiveness in targeting consumers with one-to-one messaging that drives engagement.

To close the loop, Franklin Sports also exported Lifecycle data to Google Analytics through Google Tag Manager. The company could then see whether or not a ‘Cold’ audience targeted with Lifecycle messaging actually ended up purchasing.

What’s more, Franklin Sports can now compare the conversions of members of that segment who weren’t included in the Lifecycle in question to ones who were — insights that help the business better optimize its lifecycle orchestration efforts.

“For Franklin, BlueConic is the nucleus for everything we do from a marketing standpoint.” — Aaron Seitz, Digital Marketing Manager

Democratizing Analytics & Data Science

For many consumer goods companies, one of the most important growth initiatives is to democratize analytics and data science across the business to both uncover meaningful customer insights and quickly act on those insights in new ways.

Analytics and data science democratization doesn’t mean training marketers and other non-technical functions of the business to learn Python and build predictive models to act more like data scientists.

Rather, it means finding operational solutions that will help bridge the gap between the output of data science and analytics efforts and other nontechnical parts of the business responsible for engaging customers and driving growth. And the best way to accomplish this is by:

  • Eliminating external costs, manual steps, and/or redundant technologies to make the end-to-end process more efficient
  • Enriching data in web analytics, journey analytics, and business intelligence tools
  • Enabling teams to act on the output of customer analytics tools in a way that allows them to iterate more quickly as well as test and learn in a non-cost-prohibitive manner
  • Empowering business technology users without robust analytics or data science skills to use these capabilities in a scalable, streamlined way
  • Utilizing segmentation as a form of insight by coupling multiple attributes such as age, previous purchases, interests, and location with what customers are doing right now

Spotlight: VF Corp.

VF Corp. and its iconic family of lifestyle brands, including The North Face, Vans, and Timberland, sell their products via ecommerce and brick-and-mortar store locations, resulting in a diverse set of customer data across channels and brands. As such, the company adopted BlueConic as its CDP in support of its digital transformation. More specifically, VF Corp. chose BlueConic for the platform’s ability to align with its strategic consumer-centricity objectives and enable activation of data in marketing.

Ownership and implementation of BlueConic across individual brand teams is led by a centralized analytics team. This team uses BlueConic to enable use cases related to the company’s digital consumer roadmap — starting with a focus on consumer data quality, but also to better understand who their consumers are and how they prefer to be contacted and engaged with while also respecting their data privacy.

It was critical to VF Corp. that its CDP not only offer multi-dimensional segmentation and advanced analytics capabilities, but also addressed its data-privacy needs.

“From a [CDP] vendor selection perspective, it was a combination of things … how modern the technology stack is, advanced analytics capabilities, ease of use, as well as company culture. These, at a high level, are things that we took into consideration when selecting a CDP vendor, and specifically the reason why we went with BlueConic.” — Reem Seghairoun, VP, Global Digital Consumer 360 & Advanced Analytics