It’s no secret that first-party data is more important to businesses than it’s ever been. Over the past several years, a growing number of brands have begun selling their products straight to consumers, cutting out the middleman and generating large quantities of customer information in the process.

Meanwhile, the implementation of the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) has placed meaningful restrictions on the sorts of information companies can collect, making the data they can use that much more valuable.

But despite the extraordinary importance of first-party data to the modern business, most firms still don’t have the infrastructure in place to capitalize on it. For some brands, first-party data is siloed away with their marketing agency and ad tech platforms. For others, the data is there, but they don’t have the right people and systems to execute on it.

In order for brands to keep up in our new first-party world, they’re going to need to adapt. This means they’ll have to hire the right people, take control of their data, implement robust, transparent processes, and importantly, choose the right technologies to automate personalized offers throughout the customers’ journey.

Taking the reins

One of the biggest challenges many brands face is that they don’t have easy access to their own first-party data. According to a recent report from the data management and research firm Unified, most advertisers don’t know the length of time needed to see their data after they switch agencies, and 86% are not fully confident in their ability to assess historical campaign performance.

Rather than allowing this to happen, brands must invest in their own infrastructure for taking control of their data. In addition to acquiring the right technology tools, firms that work with agencies must be careful to include written information in their contracts that gives them ownership of their data. When building new infrastructure, brands should be proactive in looping in their existing agencies and technology vendors to ensure that everyone stays on the same page and no data is lost.

Equally important, by allowing agencies and vendors to collect first-party data under the new GDPR regulation, brands would be exposed to risk if they don’t have a secure way to collect and use the data. So, if agencies inadvertently expose first-party data, brands need to take ownership of the exposure.

Already, we’re starting to see evidence that brands are taking action. According to an Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) report released in May, 35%  of brands are reducing the role of agencies by moving parts of their programmatic operation in-house.

Why in-house isn’t enough?
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