The Brave New World of Measurement in the Era of First-Party Data

By Lauren Wetzel, COO, InfoSum

The demise of the third-party cookie heralds a new era for marketing and how it measures its success.

On the surface of it, some might think that without the connective tissue the cookie provides, marketers will struggle to gauge the effectiveness of campaigns. But current attribution models are already challenged by the plethora of channels and devices consumers use. And all too often, gaps in measurement methodology lead to inaccurate data and insights.

Brands that have relied on third-party cookies and overly-complex attribution methods in the past now have a chance to rebuild their entire approach to measurement to make it fit for purpose in the age of first-party data. Marketers should grab this opportunity with both hands.

Breaking down the barriers to accurate measurement

Getting a complete view of consumer behavior is a complicated challenge to solve. Many organizations suffer from internal data fragmentation, with valuable assets spread out across various internal legacy systems, sitting in silos that create hurdles when it comes to access and analysis.

On top of this, consumers are using an ever-increasing number of devices and platforms in their daily lives; a lack of common identifiers across TV, web and audio, and walled gardens add to the confusion. Models such as multi-touch attribution (MTA) and media mix modeling (MMM) that have been developed to try to fill in the gaps can be complex, leading to a lack of trust in these methods from stakeholders in the boardroom and across the business.

Without agreed standards about what the best metrics are, there will always be question marks about measurement techniques. And measurement isn’t just about attribution – it’s more complex than that. To truly gauge the success of a campaign, we must address both quantitative and qualitative aspects – not just the who and the what, but the why and the how as well.

Using customer data responsibly

Measurement challenges and the evolving privacy landscape are driving us into an age where first-party data is highly valued. Brands that have refocused their efforts on performance marketing strategies are collecting as much of this consented information as possible in order to drive planning, activation, and measurement.

It’s vital, however, that organizations take an ethical approach to data. Consumers are more aware of privacy issues and their rights than ever before, so responsible data collection and use is critical for businesses that wish to protect their reputation. As well as ensuring they seek consent, organizations must be clear about exactly what data they are collecting and why they are doing so.

There are other limitations when it comes to first-party data. The first is that not all brands have access to it. The other is that even when you have that direct relationship with the consumer, it will only ever get you so far, so effective collaboration is required to make the most of performance marketing strategies. Brands can’t just market to their existing customers; so they must look to develop partnerships with trusted organizations within media and retail that have a crossover in target audience to plan and activate truly measurable campaigns. Most importantly, protections must be in place to ensure that no customer data is exposed in any way in order to satisfy legislators and retain consumer trust.

Measurement that works

As we’ve already established, measurement is extremely complex. Understanding the bigger picture requires diving into the nuances of measurement, going beyond simple metrics. Instead of relying on measurement solutions that try – and fail – to capture the performance of the complete customer journey, marketers must shift their focus to methods that can consistently calculate the impact of their efforts on their bottom line using first-party data – such as incrementality.

Incrementality is a technique that measures a campaign’s impact on business goals by directly comparing media exposure to advertising outcomes. The performance lift is calculated by leveraging two audience groups – one that is exposed to the campaign and one that isn’t – similar to an A/B test. It’s a direct and transparent approach that produces a fast, accurate picture of campaign performance and doesn’t over-inflate results. Brands can pick which metrics they use, for example site visits, generated leads, or sales.

Marketers need to run experimental campaigns that enable them to measure accurately, and incrementality is one technique that can help them achieve this. In collaboration with trusted partners – and ensuring complete data protection from beginning to end – these experiments will allow them to prove the value of incrementality to all business stakeholders.

Prior to planning and activating these campaigns, they need to be clear on the metrics they will use. Defining the KPIs and having a benchmark for what success looks like will enable them to produce meaningful results that demonstrate ROI, as well as providing them with other insights such as cost per conversion. What’s more, the results will also be used to optimize subsequent campaigns, paving the way for future success.

Takeaway: Now is the time for brands to reinvent how they measure campaigns

Measurement has always been tricky to get right, but the transition into the first-party data era gives marketers an opportunity to completely change their strategy. It’s imperative that brands abandon outdated and overly-complex practices and experiment with new campaigns and methods of measurement that offer meaningful insights.

Key to these efforts will be establishing clear objectives and which metrics they should be using. With the right partnerships and a focus on responsible data practices, brands can get a clear picture of how their campaigns are really performing, giving them the insights they need to drive continuous, long-term success.