There’s no question that today’s marketers are inundated with data. Despite this, many still struggle to understand the full customer journey – especially all the marketing interactions a consumer may have before they take a conversion-type action like making a purchase, fill out a form or download an app. 

Getting insights into the end-to-end customer journey is a challenge for a number of reasons, especially because marketers are not always sure about what type of information is most important or how to capture and most effectively analyse what they need.

A key thing to remember is that not all data is the same. Different types of facts and figures have different uses, depending on the occasion and a marketer’s objective. Marketers not only need to know what data they are dealing with but also equip themselves to transform the information they are capturing into accurate, useful insights that drive better decisions and more successful campaigns. 

Here are a few tips:

1. Collect as much first-party data as possible

First-party data are facts that marketers collect through their own platforms, including details about what consumers have clicked on and purchased on their e-commerce sites, information collected through surveys and loyalty programs, data from CRM (Customer Relationship Management) systems and more. This information is extremely valuable to marketers because it’s accurate, relevant and can be used to personalise offers and communication. But many marketers are missing out on its full potential because they mistakenly think that first-party data can only be obtained after a consumer visits their website, fills out a form or purchases a product. Not so – thanks to marketing attribution strategies and more advanced tracking technologies, there’s a wealth of first-party information that can now be collected about the consumer’s path to a conversion.

2. Use advanced tracking technology

Tracking technology originated in the affiliate marketing world, and for good reason. Because affiliate marketers pay their publishing partners a commission for the advertising traffic they drive on their behalf, they needed a way to accurately track the performance of various marketing approaches. For example, how many consumers clicked on the coupon that Publisher A ran vs. Publisher B? Which review site funnelled more prospects to a discount promotion? Marketers can capture this information using technology that supports a tracking link or pixel directly into coupons, videos, paid search terms and other offers. Applying this advanced tracking technology to all types of marketing campaigns (beyond just affiliate) allows businesses to collect more first-party data about the customer journey prior to a conversion, including things like which device users are more likely to respond to a particular offer, how offers resonate according to location and more.  

3. Add third-party data to broaden insight

First-party data really helps marketers get to know their audience because it comes directly from their audience – they are the source. Third-party data, on the other hand, is more generic and comes from a variety of outside sources to be sliced and diced to identify trends. For instance, it might be used to look at the demographics and media habits of modern furniture buyers or pet owners. Usually collected and sold by data aggregators, this information can help marketers fill in the gaps missing from first-party data and expand the reach of their targeting beyond the audiences they already know. Additionally, third-party data might possibly be combined and analysed in conjunction with first-party data to help marketers better understand cross-device behaviours. This is necessary for getting an expanded view of your audience because it is extremely difficult to track unknown users across devices without data aggregators.

Bringing It all together

Conventional wisdom has elevated first-party data to the top spot, and rightly so, but it does have some blind spots. Marketers who want to capture new audiences or markets beyond those they are already targeting will also require third-party data. 

At the end of the day, whether first-, third- or something in-between, data needs to be transformed into actionable insights to be of any use. That means applying advanced tracking and analytic technologies so that decision makers can see what’s working and what’s not, then refine their strategies. And, as data technologies continue to advance, we might even see a future where campaigns are automatically optimised based on what marketing data sources reveal.