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  • Jeff Jones

The future of data and analytics. What to do with your first party data

While some brands have been able to earn positive ROI from their first-party data, others have been challenged in developing an effective first-party data strategy.

Within the transformation sphere, one of the topics that we commonly come across is data. Organisations are at very different places in their journey when using first-party consumer data efficiently. Most companies are moving away from third-party data but some don’t have ready access to first-party data because they lack direct consumer touch points. Others fear breaking privacy laws, others simply lack the structure and capabilities to collect and utilize it.

The one clear thing is that excelling at this practice will generate new insights and unlock tremendous value, therefore an efficient first-party data strategy has become a must.

At RITEC our Alliance across our consultants globally and RITEC Analytics have focused on their experiences and challenges with first-party data and where they are in their journey to use it effectively. We came away from the discussion with four key takeaways.

A clear strategy is needed to effectively utilise first-party data to generate value.

Between their cash registers, their e-commerce sites, and their apps, business-to-consumer (B2C) companies can capture a vast amount of POS data from their customers.

Businesses can use this first-party data to learn about customer preferences and behaviours to develop customer-specific models as input to promotional offers and campaigns that grow the top line. But this new focus on the value of consumer data is changing the company–consumer relationship, as companies must develop sharper value propositions and commit to security in exchange for access to first-party data.

Care has to be taken to collect only data that has been deemed essential for both cost and risk reasons. The potential for data breaches that could expose personally identifiable information (PII) is a risk no business should assume. “If you don’t have a use for it, don’t store it” has become a good rule of thumb.

The test/learn/measure approach is imperative when trying to decipher which data is needed to make offerings more relevant to consumers. For example, should offers be highly personalized, or is contextual targeting to broader groups of consumers a better approach? The overall data strategy will help determine what data and tech are needed, as well as what sort of security can be utilized.

One B2C company notes that while it is behind some competitors in the United States in terms of how well it’s using first-party data, it expects to achieve parity with the leaders within a few years. The company believes that the relatively deep knowledge it has of the 20 percent of its consumers who use its apps to order, allows it to correctly infer what its remaining customers want.

Second- and third-party data may be useful but overhyped at least for B2C businesses that have ready access to so much rich first-party customer data. However, consumer brands that do not engage in a significant amount of direct sales and businesses that are still making the transition to digital have to rely on externally generated data.

While third-party data is becoming less relevant, third-party service providers continue to bring value in other ways. It’s important to consider which functions to outsource and which to keep in-house. Privacy issues mean care has to be taken around data access and storage, but external service providers are invaluable for developing data-driven advertising strategies and other data-related non-core competencies.

Our discussion on first-party data strategies revealed the following insights:

  • Companies must evaluate their relationship with their customers and understand what business value can be generated from first-party data.

  • It’s best to validate exactly what data needs to be collected and how it will be used before asking for anything.

  • For some, generating and employing first-party data is still on the “to-do” list.

An effective first-party data strategy is a crucial initial step toward unlocking data’s value. But it’s also important to carefully consider exactly which data is needed.

One of our consultants at one of the largest retailers in the world brought up the concern that many organisations are facing which is migration. The inconsistency of ways of working within organizations that are transforming can create the first hurdle. Secondly, the underestimation of manpower required for the migration process is something that is very common. This is where RITEC Consulting has managed to come in and assist many of our clients during the migration process. We also have a dedicated function in RITEC Analytics to work on the nitty-gritty of data migration.

Not all data is "must-have" data

One of the biggest challenges of living and working in the information age can be figuring out which information really matters. What is genuine and what is simply noise?

This question looms large around data; around the world, more than a trillion megabytes of data are produced daily. Only a fraction of the data a business generates or obtains has real value, and some of it brings privacy risks. Careful consideration should be given to which data should be stored and which should be utilized.

First-party data is valued highly because it provides insight into what’s going on within the business, making it crucial input for establishing and tracking known performance indicators (KPIs) that provide real-time awareness of consumer behavior.

Expensive third-party data is increasingly falling out of favour as businesses improve at collecting and using first-party data. Also, more attention is being paid to the ethics of third-party data collection. Increasingly, web users can block third-party cookies and imple­ment other anti-tracking techniques. The lack of exclusivity, too, reduces the value of third-party data—in most instances, the same data is available to multiple buyers, so two rival companies may both purchase it. The reliability of this data is also another concern; verifying where data came from, and how timely or accurate it is, can be all but impossible.

Our discussion emphasized several key points about “must-have” data, including:

  • A few good, structured data points are much more valuable than a broad collection of inputs.

  • Risks with PII can be very costly and dissuade consumer data collection for non-crucial activities.

  • The cost of acquisition of new third-party data may not be justifiable.

Determining which data to store and use can be challenging. For many businesses, the next challenge is to overcome getting business users to demonstrate their willingness to put new technology to work by investing the time and resources needed for data projects to succeed.

Business users should have some skin in the game before pursuing new technologies and solutions

It sounds rather basic, but if a business unit is given a new capability for free or has a mandate for change forced upon, the desired results are unlikely to be achieved and significant time and effort can be wasted. Our objective at RITECConsulting is the help clients that are even just starting out from point zero.

We as the solution providers need to ensure that the business is currently engaged in data projects to verify that the technology will be used. Step by step we help build your data capabilities. It starts with a clear business case that demonstrates how value creation and new revenues will be tracked, along with a strategy for funding. Our embedded leaders can help you calculate P&Ls for their digital efforts to help avoid losses on projects and increase buy-in to data efforts.

At companies that are in the early days of their digital journey, there may be resistance to adding new capabilities. Starting small and demonstrating initial successes can help to overcome this resistance, but some salesmanship will be needed. Internal champions should emerge as new capabilities unlock new value for the business, setting up a potential snowball effect as success helps to beget success.

Companies that have embedded digital into their operations pride themselves on their ability to deliver practical applications and the fact that their code gets used rather than shelved. Strong program management discipline helps them achieve results, as they stay within budget and follow timelines. Employing the principles of the agile software development process and dividing projects into manageable portions helps teams to stay on track while also keeping the data group fresh due to the variety of projects they get to work on.

Our discussion on the need for business users to have skin in the game on data projects highlighted several insights:

  • If a solution is built for free but requires some change management effort, there’s a real risk that the solution will not be adopted by the business user. Business engagement and investment help to ensure that the solution will be used.

  • Success with initial data projects can get the ball rolling and accelerate progress.

  • It’s crucial to have strong business discipline and stick to the timeline and budget.

Obtaining buy-in from the business sets it on the path to new data-powered successes. But due to legacy issues, some businesses are challenged to gather their own data in the first place.

Analog and product-oriented businesses are behind in the quest to take advantage of growth opportunities in an increasingly digital world

While it is commonplace to talk about the digital divide in society, there appears to be one in the business world as well. While factors such as wealth and geography can pose barriers in society, in business it’s often a matter of what a company does that may leave it lagging in the race to digitize, as many analogue and product-oriented businesses have fallen behind.

However, the move toward digital continues in all industries, and companies are advancing in their capabilities. In the realm of first-party data, companies that lack traditional customer touch points at POS are cognizant of data’s value finding ways to use it to grow revenue by, for example, building digital into products such as tools and appliances that are connected to the Internet of Things (IoT).

Consumers crave exciting new features, and connecting their purchases to the Internet has the added benefit of providing new insights into how they use them.

Analog and product-oriented businesses have to innovate to craft a first-party data strategy as they make the move to digital. They need to prepare the business for the transformation journey before developing the required organization, governance structure, and processes, along with the architecture to store, process, and consume data. This part is key and often overlooked as organizations try to run before they can walk. New KPIs may be needed to determine the degree to which these new capabilities are benefiting the company. Starting small and scaling up over time as successes accumulate is a proven strategy to advance digital and data capabilities. Going too big too fast can actually be counterproductive as a company can get caught in the trap of developing capabilities before it has a realistic business or use cases for them.

Our discussion highlighted several key points related to how traditional businesses can catch up in the quest to become digital:

  • Finding creative ways to digitize products and understand user behaviours can provide new insights and information.

  • Developing the proper operating model structure (data tech stack, governance, organizational structure, and so on) is key.

  • Just because something can be done doesn’t mean that it should be done—the business case is paramount for any technology project.

How RITEC Consulting can help

We’re helping companies future-proof their supply chain operations to be more resilient and agile in the face of disruption.

We offer deep experience and expertise that can be embedded into your organization to help you rethink your supply chain for a new era. We’ve worked with multiple global supply chains in various industries to improve supply chain insights and performance. Get in touch with us today to start your supply chain digital transformation journey.

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