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Many marketers are aware that first-party data will be a critical differentiator as privacy continues to transform digital advertising as we know it. But unlocking the value of this data takes work. Companies must make an intentional investment in their customer relationships, including how they form those connections and the technologies and partners they use to do so.

One way they’re achieving this is through the creation of data-privacy teams. Nine out of 10 brands are setting up such teams to support their first-party data initiatives and uphold consumer trust, according to research from Boston Consulting Group.

In light of their growing popularity, let’s take a closer look at how these teams can deliver value by facilitating organizational transformation and supporting the adoption of data solutions that align with your objectives.

What is a data-privacy team?

A data-privacy team is a cross-functional group within your organization that can represent legal, privacy, information technology, product, and marketing teams. While spinning one up may seem daunting, keep in mind that such teams can take many forms and don’t always need to be formalized. The important thing is that your team is empowered to create internal alignment on what privacy means for your customers and how you handle the data they share with you. As long as you hold onto that remit, the structure and processes followed by your team can take different forms.

A data-privacy team can represent legal, privacy, information technology, product, and marketing teams.

A key focus of this kind of team is to ensure your organization receives and uses your customers’ data in a privacy-preserving way. While upholding consumer trust, a data-privacy team can also evaluate privacy-preserving technology solutions and advise on the appropriate uses of customer data in marketing campaigns. While 9 out of 10 companies say that first-party data is important to their digital marketing programs, less than a third of marketers consistently and effectively access and integrate first-party data across channels.1 This shows the need to prioritize the right solutions for your business.

As mentioned, teams of this kind should represent your business priorities, objectives, and resources. For example, although data-privacy teams are not responsible for compliance with privacy laws, they can provide critical, connective support between legal and product teams. So, while the makeup and operating styles of this team may vary for you, they can create essential alignment and set standards across your organization. Doing so encourages a privacy-first mindset that can be a lodestar for your first-party data strategy.

Supporting organizational transformation

“There’s no decision we make here that doesn’t start with an exploration of the data,” says Mitch Daniels, president at Purdue University, in a conversation explaining why leveraging data and building a resilient first-party data strategy is critical.

Data-privacy teams can set the standards for your organization to become more data literate, both during and after technological implementation. What’s the best way to achieve this? It may be helpful to think about your data-privacy objectives through the lens of McKinsey’s prescribed steps for business transformation initiatives.

Icons like a check mark, a calendar with a clock, and a search magnifying glass over a document represent 3 steps for business transformation: Make transformation business as usual. Align incentives for the long term. Assess and refine regularly.
  1. Make transformation business as usual: Incorporate technology transformation into your everyday processes. This could include daily or weekly reports distributed to cross-functional teams or making use of new data sources in a way that adheres to privacy standards. In other words, ensure that all your business decisions are informed by data and that your marketing partnerships meet or exceed the privacy expectations you put in place to protect your customers.
  2. Align incentives for the long term: Identify metrics that incentivize future-looking and aspirational goals. Every touchpoint you have with a customer provides an opportunity to learn. Establish goals that will nurture the relationship beyond that initial interaction.
  3. Assess and refine regularly: Develop feedback loops solely designed for your business, aligned to your specific resources and business strategy. This process should assess the data you have collected and use those learnings to inform future goal setting, all while keeping these new data sources in line with your key business objectives. Also consider including a cadence for ongoing review and evaluation of the marketing technologies you decide to employ, and how they adapt to evolving privacy expectations.

Defining your organization’s structure, habits, and objectives is just one move a data-privacy team can make. Your next move is to identify the technologies that can help you cultivate and implement your first-party data assets.

Implement data solutions to meet your objectives

Investment in first-party data can represent a broad range of activities, from implementing a tagging infrastructure on your site to onboarding a new customer relationship management platform. These investments have a greater shot at success when data solutions tie back to marketing objectives — something a data-privacy team can be empowered to support.

For example, implementing the Google tag is a seamless and impactful way to build your own first-party framework as part of a privacy-centric measurement strategy. Our Media Lab team, which manages all media strategy for Google’s own marketing efforts, has implemented a robust tagging infrastructure that strengthens our first-party data foundation.

By improving communication with engineering and IT, we’ve successfully developed a central process for activating first-party data.

With the goal of reaching and engaging more people, a tagging infrastructure gives us the ability to respond quickly to changing customer preferences and interests, and unlock accurate measurement insights. Critically, this strategy could not have come to life without strong collaboration between the Media Lab team and other departments and skill areas.

“By improving communication with engineering and IT, we’ve successfully developed a central process for activating first-party data,” according to Michael Bailey, senior director of Media Lab.

Other companies, like Pandora, incorporate solutions like Google Cloud to store user data in ways that strengthen data privacy and security, while also supporting important business objectives. Pandora built its own data management platform and segmentation strategy, enabling custom audience creation for its own advertisers. This allows its sales and client services teams to compare a client’s audience segments to the broader Pandora audience using user attributes, such as age, family status, and artist preferences, along with contextual music attributes, like mindset.

Setting up a data-privacy team has become a critical step in developing a first-party data strategy.

The above examples represent the range of actions that any company can take to protect its customer data, while still allowing that data to power strong marketing performance. Importantly, these use cases are conducted within the context of each business’s objectives and available resources.

For many companies, setting up a data-privacy team, and thinking carefully about its makeup and workflow, has become a step in developing a first-party data strategy. Nailing this part of your process will help you better elevate the direct relationships you create with your customers, improve your ability to use your first-party data in privacy-preserving ways, and ultimately help you deliver on your business objectives.