How COVID-19 fast-tracked the need for first-party data strategies

Lockdown created the perfect storm. Brands were forced to properly get to know their target audiences and those that succeeded are now better prepared for leveraging first-party data.

It’s safe to say that the coronavirus pandemic had an immense impact on how consumers behave and engage with brands across the globe. As consumers continue to maximise the benefits of the digital world, the future of consumption is going to be hybrid as we move towards a new normal. 

Many marketing teams are faced with outdated and legacy marketing tools or processes that limit their ability to rapidly adapt to changing consumer behaviours. Going forward, brands need to better understand the customer’s journey and keep abreast of the latest technology trends, to ensure they are able to provide personalised experiences for consumers across all touchpoints and throughout every stage of the life cycle. For companies, this can be solved by organising and leveraging first- and zero-party data. 

Digital interaction

In order to adapt to changing consumer behaviours during the pandemic, brands had to accelerate their digital transformation. As a result of lockdowns, the UK reached record levels for online activity over the course of the pandemic. According to Ofcom, adults were spending an average of 4 hours a day online at the start of the first lockdown. 

This uptick in digital activity inevitably created more contact with brands – be it through ads, online shopping or general surfing of the internet. Suddenly, a number of brands were being offered more interaction with consumers. This, in combination with the upcoming cookieless world – where brands will no longer be able to leverage cookies and third-party data to target audiences – created a perfect storm; a catalyst for brands to learn more about their target audiences and become closer to their communities. Those that succeeded were those that were quickest to adjust to this changing environment.

The question lay in figuring out how to best utilise this increased contact. A consumer that sees a brand isn’t necessarily one that interacts with it. Businesses needed to find a way to attract new audiences whilst engaging with them. As well as increased online activity, Ofcom also found that adults were turning to gaming during the pandemic – with 62 percent of them claiming that they relied on video games to help them get through lockdown.

Leveraging the right content

This boom in gaming opened a realm of possibilities to brands who were trying to grow their customer base, and for many, interactive content became the key to attracting – and engaging – new audiences. By hosting quizzes, polls or mini-games on their pages, brands were able to interact with consumers as soon as initial contact was made.

With initial engagement on the rise, they now needed to consider how to best utilise that interest. The answer was simple: create interactions through interactive content and offer rewards to those who enter very simple details – such as names, email addresses and marketing preferences.

Suddenly, an explosion of first- and zero-party data was being made available to brands. By using this information effectively, marketers were able to gain deeper insight into consumers and could deliver a more personalised user experience that translated into customer conversions and long-term success. 

Creating loyal customers

Loyalty today is not what it used to be. In fact, brands now need to begin developing loyalty with customers before they have ever made a purchase. This allows brands to grow the individual’s engagement, better understand and segment the consumer before converting them into a long-term purchasing customer. The consumer receives a better brand experience that promotes a long lasting relationship. They can also be rewarded by their favourite brands in a variety of ways for a wide range of interactions across multiple channels.

This is of course vital for the long-term sustainability and business success of any organisation. Loyalty isn’t simply a purchase relationship. Brands need to create trust with their audiences, building bonds before they are even customers. 

Continuing to thrive

The pandemic taught brands how to continue to build relationships with their customers even when they are stuck in lockdown. By combining interactive content with first- and zero-party data collection, not only can brands continue to better engage with consumers and prospective customers, but they can begin to develop early loyalty and promote long-term relationships that create a sustainable business.

By Quentin Paquot