How to Collect First-Party Data in a Cookieless World

Laura Caveney
13th May 2022

With the death of the third-party cookie, marketers need to pivot and start collecting first-party data so they can continue to track and report on their performance. 

Cookies have been around since 1995. The death of the third-party cookie is due to happen in 2023. So how are marketers meant to adjust? 

For nearly 20 years they’ve relied on cookies to track users to their websites. Especially when 40% of marketers say that having better, more accurate data, would improve their outputs, how can they fill the gap that third-party cookie removal causes? 

In this blog, we’ll go through: 

Let’s get stuck in. 

What is first-party data?

First-party data is information that a company collects directly from its customers and users. 

This term is frequently used when talking about cookies and tracking data, but it basically means data created without any reliance on third parties like Google Analytics or Facebook. 

Related: What are first and third-party cookies 

While third-party cookies are due to disappear from the digital world, first-party data isn’t going anywhere.

Remember, first-party cookies and first-party data are not one and the same. First-party cookies are tracking devices used to monitor and record information on your website users. First-party data includes first-party cookie data but can also include data users fill out in a form on your website for example. It’s any information that a user gives to you. 

Why is first-party data important in a cookieless world?

As privacy fears mount and tech giants shift to a more privacy-driven focus, businesses and marketers in particular need to keep up. 

Since its inception, marketers have relied on third-party cookies from tools like Google. 

But as we saw from the iOS 14.5 privacy update, marketers rely on data from these apps more than they realise. 

Facebook reported the changes would cost them £10B in 2022. Just goes to show how much money marketers invest into advertising on paid channels and the impact changes in tracking can have. 

Related: How to adapt to changes post-iOS 14.5

So why is first-party data so important? 

Well, you own it. It’s your data that users share directly with you and it doesn’t rely on third data collection. If you’re using first-party data to track your website visitors, then it means you won’t be affected at all by any cookie changes. 

In fact, it means you can continue to effectively track and monitor the impact of your marketing campaigns to make data-driven decisions on what works, and what doesn’t. 

What’s the difference between first-party data and other data types? 

Before we get into how to get first-party data so you can avoid issues with tracking and reporting, let’s quickly break down the difference between first, second and third-party data. 

First-party data collection 

First-party data collection is the method of directly collecting data from your own sources, meaning you own it completely. This is valuable as it removes any likelihood of error and it means you’re only ever reliant on yourself. So, no matter what changes in the market, you can continue to rely on first-party data to come in. 

Some examples of sources of first-party data include: 

Second-party data collection 

Second-party data is a little ambiguous but we generally look at it as data bought from an external source. 

This data source isn’t used as widely in marketing but some examples could include: 

Third-party data collection

While first-party data is what you collect, third-party data is anything that you don’t personally collect, that isn’t your own. The information collected might be similar to what you collect but another tool did the work. 

Some examples of third-party data sources include: 

So, as we move away from third-party sources, how can we fill the data gap? 

How to get first-party data on your website

First-party data is a good model to employ to ensure you’re getting reliable data on the performance of your marketing and to get feedback from users and customers. 

But how can you actually obtain this data? 

Well, there are two parts to this. 

The first is understanding how to implement first-party cookie tracking. And the second is sourcing first-party data. 

So, let’s look at each part. 

How to implement first-party cookie tracking 

Marketers have been panicking about cookie changes. But actually, there’s no need. 

If you can’t attribute your ads, how are you going to keep an eye on your ad spend? 

Well, there’s an easier solution. 

You can implement javascript and first-party cookies within your own website to track all inbound traffic and their referring sources. 

🚀 Pro Tip 

What we’re describing here is actually marketing attribution. Learn more about what that is and how it works with our complete guide to marketing attribution. You’ll learn more about key models and how they can support your business goals. 

Ruler Analytics is one such tool that allows you to implement first-party tracking data right on your website. 

One little bit of code and you’re set up to track forms, calls and live chat, plus every marketing touchpoint

Ruler allows you to attribute revenue back to your marketing, without any need for third-party cookies. 

And you know what that means? No need for tracking from advertising channels like Google and Facebook. So, no matter what changes they make to their privacy and tracking, you can rest assured that you can still track referring sources and marketing details of your leads and sales. 

Related: How Ruler affects your paid advertising strategy 

How to get first-party data 

Getting first-party data is pretty easy. There are several ways you can start tracking data from your users. 

There are four main ways to generate first-party data from your website: 

They include: 

Logins and registration 

One easy way to obtain information is to implement a registration process when buying a product or service. 

You can ask for key information that will help you build customer profiles and insights into who is engaging with your content and product. 

It can be tricky to get people to register but if you make it a seamless part of the buying process, it can work nicely to generate more data for your business. 

Surveys and polls 

Sometimes the easiest way to generate data is by simply asking. Even if a user isn’t a customer yet, it can be very valuable to get data from them to build an idea of who is engaging with your content. 

Related: Does a ‘how did you hear about us’ field even work? 

Form fills and phone calls 

If you’re creating lead generation campaigns or sharing gated content, then this can be another opportunity to pull data from your website visitors. 

You can get a good insight into what types of people are interested in particular content which can help you with targeting for future marketing campaigns. 

The same is true for phone calls and even live chat. 

⚡️ Pro Tip

Do you struggle to track your conversion points? You’re not alone. We break down how to track:
Form fills
Phone calls
Live chat conversations and conversions 

Customer feedback and reviews 

If your customer success team is doing their job, they’ll be in constant contact with your customers. 

Allow them to share feedback and reviews. Not only will it illuminate opportunities to improve, but it also gives you more insight into what types of customers are struggling with what problems. 

And there you have it, four easy ways to get started with first-party cookies and data. 

Get started with first-party cookie tracking

Remember, the most important way to track first-party data is via cookies.  

Without it, you’re not going to get any data visibility on how users move along their customer journey, or how channels and campaigns that you’re working on are driving leads or sales. 

First-party cookies via tools like Ruler allow you to get to the heart of data tracking and measurement. 

👉 Book a demo to see how it works in practice, or learn more about how Ruler works and why you need it in your marketing stack with this handy guide.