The third-party data conundrum

These days, marketers find themselves caught between a rock and a hard place, as the pursuit of more detailed intent data comes up against GDPR rules and the impending demise of cookies. Buying third-party data offers a way out of that bind – if marketers choose wisely.

There can be no doubt that the playing field has tilted against marketers when it comes to audience data acquisition in recent years. For instance, since it was rolled out in 2018, the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) has handed consumers far more control over their data, including the right to withdraw their data from marketing campagins. And now that there’s talk of the UK developing its own post-Brexit data protection law, getting clear and consistent access to audience intent data could soon become even trickier.

Add to that Google’s plans to eliminate cookies over the next 12 months, and marketers might be forgiven for scratching their heads when weighing up how they’re going to run their campaigns in future.

With all these changes afoot, then, it’s understandable that there’s a fair amount of nervousness out there.

The problem, of course, is that there’s no single straightforward solution out there. To put it simply, consistently sourcing detailed audience data is far harder than it once was.

But even so, marketers don’t seem to be scaling back their data ambitions, as they continue in pursuit of ever greater personalisation and more accurate targeting.

For example, while interest and intent data remain marketers’ priority, sought by as many as 89% of those surveyed, attention is still being devoted to a range of other categories, including location and lifestyle. And marketers are willing to tap a huge range of different data sources in order to get that information.

As we can see, one way that marketers are filling the gaps in their data strategies in the post-GDPR and post-cookie era is buying up audience data from trusted third parties. It’s a move which more and more marketers seem to be favouring, with half of campaigns (53%) now relying upon it, and three-quarters of marketers (75%) using it regularly.

However, selecting the right third-party data provider to partner with can be something of a minefield. The data provided by sources which know relatively little about their audience can sometimes end up being patchy, poor-quality or insufficiently detailed to be of use in a campaign, often prompting marketers to prioritise quantity above all else as they trawl for useful insights. That can be a risky strategy, as the leads you get may not actually have any real interest in the end product being promoted.

Marketers using third-party data will undoubtedly need to think carefully about how any data they buy fits into their overall strategy. Otherwise, they risk trapping themselves in a cycle of simply adding more and more low-quality data to their campaigns, costing themselves vast sums, and gaining precious little audience insight.

Choosing the right provider of third-party data will be essential, then. Only those partners capable of providing precisely the right kinds of audience data and, ultimately, top-quality leads will be worthwhile marketers’ time and hard-won budgets.

That might mean choosing a well-known, familiar name – perhaps a publisher, research company or technology provider – with a proven track record of connecting with the right kind of leads. Only then will marketers be able to shift away from low-quality, high-volume lead generation and towards the more targeted strategy of demand generation.