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Commentary & Analysis

Where Are Marketers Getting Their Data?

According to new research, marketers are increasingly investing in second- and third-party data to create 360-degree views of their customers. Are your customers doing the same? Are they prepared to compete? Read more. 

By Heidi Tolliver-Walker
Published: May 14, 2018

With marketing increasingly data-driven, marketers are increasingly investing in second-party and third-party data to create 360-degree views of their customers. This is impacting not only their own marketing, but the larger competitive environment. Your clients can choose not to invest in additional data for targeting and profiling, but they can’t choose not to be impacted when their competitors do.

Where are marketers getting the data? In the online world, it’s coming from three places:

  • First-party anonymous data (devices and cookies collected from marketers’ own digital content)
  • Second-party data (devices and cookies from a direct relationship with another marketer or publisher)
  • Third-party data (devices and cookies from an aggregator or data broker such as Acxiom, Nielsen, or Neusta)

In a global survey conducted by Salesforce Research, 90% of marketers surveyed are already using their own first-party data, up 5% from last year. However, the really interesting numbers come from second- and third-party data. The percentage planning to invest in second-party data is up 26% from last year and the percentage planning to use third-party data is up 30%. Among marketers in North America, investment in third-party data is up 47%.

These data show just how serious marketers are becoming about getting a full 360-degree view of their customers. How does this compare to what your clients are doing? How does it compare to what you are prepared to help them do?

Here’s a more in-depth look at the numbers:

According to “Digital Advertising 2020,” 90% of the 3,500 marketers surveyed are tapping online data sources in their targeting. This is up 5% from the year before.

  • 71% are using first-party anonymous data. This is up from 67% last year.
  • 63% are using second-party data. This is up from 50% last year.
  • 52% are using third-party data. This is up from 45% from last year.
  • Within the next two years, the percentage using second-party data is expected to rise from 63% to 64%.
  • The percentage using third-party data is expected to rise from 52% to 58%.

The trend here is clearly in investment in third-party data (devices and cookies from an aggregator or data broker) and suggests the depth of investment in psychographic and behavioral profiling.

Where are your clients along the curve? Are they investing in the abundance of data that are now available? Are they moving in the direction of psychographic and behavioral targeting? Or are they still doing demographic targeting only?

As the volume of data grows and the number of resources available to sell this data explodes, targeting is going well beyond demographics. This trend impacts everyone, not just the marketers who are doing the targeting. Where are how are you positioned to help your clients keep pace?


Heidi Tolliver-Walker Heidi is an industry analyst specializing in digital, one-to-one, personalized URL, and Web-to-print applications. Her Marketer’s Primer Series, availalbe through Digital Printing Reports, includes “Digital Printing: Transforming Business and Marketing Models,” 1:1 (Personalized) Printing: Boosting Profits Through Relevance,” “Personalized URLs: Beyond the Hype,” and “Web-to-Print: Transforming Document Management and Marketing.”


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