It’s been heading that way for a while now, and the process of eliminating third-party cookies is picking up pace. The tech giants are pushing hard towards it, and consumers are getting increasingly aware – and protective – about their digital privacy. It’s now time for the next digital evolution. The big question we face with the demise of the third-party cookie, is how will marketers and brands collect and apply data to increase the return on their marketing investment? To date, the third-party cookie has been at the center of targeting, measurement and optimization of advertising. What will replace it? The answer: first-party data.


First-party data can be analyzed, organized, and activated to make brands better, drive bottom-line results and do it in a privacy compliant way. We all – marketers, technologists, and everyone in-between – need to become more comfortable and proficient with collecting and fusing first-party data with technology to create inspiring brand journeys and experiences. A first step toward greater “comfort” and proficiency with first-party data is knowledge of the fundamentals:

  1. Storage – first-party data will become one of your greatest assets so, make sure you have a secure yet accessible location to store your data.
  2. Activation – first-party data is at the heart of activating audiences that value your brand, whether they are current customers or prospects that share similar characteristics, behaviors and motivations.
  3. Consent – probably the most important dimension of first-party data, privacy law dictates that customer data is captured, retained and used with full transparency and consent.

Consent is a vital topic and warrants its own article, so we won’t be going into any major detail about it in this piece. Instead, let’s take a closer look at storage and activation as core elements to effectively use first-party data in our marketing efforts.


Storage doesn’t need to add more strain to your already busy IT department. It could be as simple as leveraging a cloud-based infrastructure that can be spun up with limited effort. Our business uses Google Cloud Platform (GCP) due to its scaling, stability, and ease of use. Even an intermediate-level cloud engineer can learn and maintain GCP quite easily.

For those operating within the Google product ecosystem, storage has never been simpler. With Google Analytics 4 (GA4) and Big Query (a component of Google Cloud Platform) users can tap into an immense volume of behavioral and digital analytics that can be combined with first-party data to drive greater insights.

How? GA4 creates a constant stream of rich, real-time data that can be ingested and mined in Big Query. Just picture your data science teams tapping into Big Query and leveraging prepackaged algorithms and visualizations to support performance measurement and optimizations based on your marketing objectives.

When it comes to the deprecation of cookies, GA4 provides a “durable” and scalable solution that takes advantage of the most recent developments in audience creation and activation, including contextual and cohort analysis. In addition, GA4 is more user-friendly, easier to deploy (we have delivered hundreds of these deployments for our clients and can set it up within a week) and easier to understand by even the least technical of users.

Instead of solely focusing on the “what” (what happened?) you can now gain insights into the “why” (why did this happen? Why did the customer choose this path?) and “how” (how does this affect my audience and brand?).

By combining report groups (eg. acquisitions, engagement, monetization, retention, advertising) and the Explore feature, GA4 generates powerful, pre-built insights that can be customized to your specific needs.


GA4 uses Machine Learning to explore massive data sets, apply deep learning, and tease out statistically significant answers.

What Google has created goes one important step further: it offers a way to quickly find answers and, more importantly, provide a solution to the problem of cookie deprecation. GA4’s Machine Learning fills the gaps that are already appearing due to the blocking of first- and third-party cookies.

As cookies continue to be blocked or expire more quickly, GA4 can be a valuable tools for marketers and technologists tasked with finding answers to how we drive greater returns on marketing efforts whilst remaining privacy compliant.

A note of caution to marketers: your digital analytics solution was never designed to be the golden record – that’s what your Enterprise Data Warehouse or Point of Sale is for. These systems will work with your digital analytics solution to drive the insights that will help you answer the question of how to increase the rate of return on marketing investment.

Improving the quality and impact of first party data requires proper behavioral data capture, analysis and the ability to drive audience scale and reach. GA4 provides the behavioral data and analysis that help you identify what is – and isn’t – working for your users. From there, you can use that data to find and support the creation of lookalikes who will also react positively to the same experience and therefore intelligently extend the reach of the things that “work”.

In a recent project with a client that operates in the medical supply industry, we achieved a 15% improvement in digital paid media costs by leveraging the data within Big Query.

The problem the client faced was a lack of understanding as to which of its various channels performed best when it came to rebate redemption. To make matters worse, off-line channels were used as the “on-ramp” to online channels where rebate redemption took place.

Our team used Big Query to combine the behavioral analytic data produced by Google Analytics with online and offline media data to produce a data set on which to apply our attribution modelling. The model produced a clear understanding of which channels were performing best and how budgets could be adjusted to take advantage of short and long-term opportunities.

Activation of first-party data across multiple channels


Activation of first-party data across multiple channels is available natively “out-the-box” with GA4 and other Google Marketing Platform solutions.

However, there are other solutions that can enhance Storage and Activation of your first-party data.

Customer Data Platforms (CDPs) are the essential apps of the present and future. Deploying a CDP to harness the power of the first-party data your brand has captured and activating that data in a secured space will elevate your marketing efforts to new heights.

Combine your CDP with an identity resolution system or third-party data assets will further allow your brand to find high-value individuals and engage with them in a personalized manner. It’s a sure-fire way to turn prospects into loyal customers.


Addressing the challenges of cookie deprecation and consumer privacy, marketers and brands must elevate the importance and investment around first-party data storage, activation and consent. To do this, they will need to combine the power of an intelligent analytics platform (GA4) with enterprise storage (GCP, Big Query) and multi-channel activation (GMP). Wherever you are in your journey to greater digital success, an investment in tools and technologies that can bring the power of first-party data to life will maximize the value of your marketing investment.