Successful Dealers Are Activating Their First Party Data… Are You? 

Apr 17, 2023
Jade Terreberry, Senior Director, Strategic Development for Cox Automotive and Noah Lee, Director of Product Consulting at

Data is something we all want, need and collect in order to drive business. But despite the vast amounts of data we all have, many auto dealers are left scratching their heads when it comes to truly understanding the different types of data they’ve collected. More importantly, they’re not sure exactly what to do with all that data once you’ve collected it.  

When you truly understand the different types of data you collect and learn how to put that data into action, you’ll discover many advantages to both your operational strategies and marketing efforts. 

It’s time to learn how to connect, effectively use and optimize the first party data you already have. And although none of us have a crystal ball as to the exact journey each customer will take, it brings us much closer to predicting future patterns and mapping out and defining your marketing efforts on what makes your dealership stand out to your ideal customer. 

Together, let’s take a look at why successful dealers are activating their first party data for a more profitable road forward. 

Decoding the different types of autmotive consumer data 

Not all data is created equal. As many of you know there are different types, and each has its useful place in how you run your business and maximize your marketing efforts and dollars. Let’s look at each of the 3 main different types of data and what you can do with each either separately, or when connected together.   

First party data 

First party data by definition is data your company has collected directly from your audience; whether sales or service current or previous customer, site visitors, or social media followers.  

Essentially you or your business are the first party that has collected unique information about your audience directly from your audience. It’s the most reliable, as you collected it directly from your sources. It’s also typically cost effective to collect. There’s not only quality to this data, but a lot of relevance to what your business has to offer. 

With first party data you have the ability to create highly customized, personalized experiences in your marketing efforts. You’re also able to have and build a comprehensive view of your customers. When combined with 2nd and/or 3rd party data, it gives you the most comprehensive view of the customer. 

Second party data 

Second party data is essentially someone else’s first-party data. The seller collects data straight from their audience, and it all comes from one source. You are the second party to have access to this data. The information you want to receive from another company can come from various sources owned by your partner, including websites, apps or offline sources and surveys.  

You can feel pretty confident in its accuracy, however it is shared with various other co-partners, so there might be occasional inaccuracies. Typically, 2nd party data is seen as just a brick or connector to create larger third party sets and gives you the ability to create better campaigns.  

Third party data 

Third party data is data you need to purchase from data providers. Consider it pieces of information about online users. With third party data, you’ll have the ability to precisely target specific audience groups. 

It also presents an opportunity to gain and stand out to new customers, especially if competitors aren’t putting the needed focus and investment into getting in front of them or connecting and activating their data. Besides having the ability to target the right audience, it can help you gain a digital presence.  

  Each year, Cox Automotive hosts over 2.3 billion online visits, manages 80 million leads and sifts through 2.9 TRILLION consumer insights.  

We tell our dealer partners that our data can be yours, and we mean it. 

Now that we’ve taken a closer look at the different types of data and their definitions, as well as their predominate uses, let’s shift our focus to the data that you collect directly… first party data. With ongoing concerns of what exactly a fully cookieless future looks like, activating the first party data you collect and already have, should be a focus. 

Advantages of activating your first party data 

Having data is one thing… but making it actionable is how you’re able to close more deals!  

Not using and activating your data 

is like leaving money on the table.  

Next let’s go over the advantages of putting your first party data to work for your business and marketing goals, and you’ll quickly see why successful dealers make this a priority. 

Gain insights into your audience  

Whether your audience is large or small, first party data allows you to gain insights into who your consumer is. Having insights into things such as their demographics, engagement metrics like whether they are looking at new or used vehicles, lease or financing options and service specials, and behaviors on what they’re doing across the web gives you the ability to not only understand more about your consumer, but have a clearer picture of how you can best market to and service them.  

Activating your insights also includes the ability to group them with other consumers that have those similar interests or demographics from your data. From there you can build campaigns and audiences that will convert around who they are and what they have shown you they’d be interested in. This allows you to stand out as someone who knows what their needs, wants and preferences are, and ultimately are concerned and connected to their best interests. It builds trust and confidence with you. 

Both email and social media data will give you insights into what your target audience engages with and is interested in, and your subscribers and followers will provide some additional demographics and trends you can uncover to use to tailor your marketing to. Take these data insights to see what is resonating and relevant to your customer, and further your brand as well as highlight why you are the one they should be doing business with, or continue to do business with! 

Predict auto shopper and customer behaviors 

Seeing that you are the one that collected the 1st party data from your sources, you not only know that the data is accurate and dependable, but you also know that it’s relevant to your business and marketing strategies. This data will reveal things such as what pages the user has visited on your website, what specific offerings or vehicles of yours they looked at, when they signed up for specials to be emailed to them, when they chatted with you, if they preferred to watch videos on your page and for what duration, and so on.  

You can see their behaviors in action and predict what actions they’re likely to take next based on that data. When you can predict behaviors, you have the ability to personalize your message and customize the way you communicate with consumers. When you do this, it activates the data and significantly increases the chances of you capturing their attention, as well as getting them into the funnel faster. They have preferences, and you can decode these and strategize your marketing around them. 

The ability to personalize your dealership’s content and ads  

Your first party data gives you a huge advantage when it comes to personalizing your content and ads. As you stay in front of and alongside the shopper or customer with content and ads, your data gives you the ability to show you exactly what they want, or want to see more of.  

When you improve your messaging, and target your content and ads based on what data has shown you they want, need and prefer… that’s when the true connection happens. ROI improves, engagement skyrockets, customer loyalty increases and you fast-track a consumer. When you use data to effectively target and re-target audiences with content and ads that interest and speak to them, you’ve activated not only that data, but also the consumer themselves to take action! 

There’s nothing worse than being marketed to by a brand you feel just doesn’t understand you. But messaging and ads that feel like they truly get you at your core, offer the experience and knowledge you’re looking for, and can solve your pain-points and provide an easy and frictionless way of doing business… Well, they get another look and the continued attention you’ve worked to earn. 

For the road forward 

By understanding what the advantages of first party data are and how you can activate that data to put it to use, you’ll unlock the ability to strategize and capitalize on your marketing efforts. It’s time for dealerships to stop leaving money on the table and instead focus their business and marketing strategy around activating the data they collect.  

Using, connecting and activating your dealership’s data will help you not only gain the attention and business of in-market auto shoppers, but also help retain your existing customers. And although we only touched on four key advantages, those specific advantages are large ones that will not only pay off now, but for many years to come.  

Autotrader provides you with qualified leads for people that want cars. We have the data that connects and activates your data, and we have the shoppers. We know what they want, and our goal is to match them with our dealer partners, driving quality leads and delivering a 35% higher gross profit on average. We connect you with customers virtually, to move shoppers to you, so that you can focus on building and letting your brand shine. 

Cox Automotive has the most connected and comprehensive view of the automotive industry and offers unmatched data and insights into consumer behavior, automotive trends, and operational best practices. Whatever your goals, we can help you get there faster, stay a step ahead and succeed in today’s marketplace.    

Want to hear all the ways to fully activate your first party data? Sign up for a unique webinar opportunity with Automotive News hosted by Jade Terreberry and Noah Lee. They’ll share examples of what actions you should take now, and outline strategies successful dealerships and OEMs are implementing in order to make the most of your marketing efforts and dollars. Register for the webinar.