First-party data has always been the most detailed and reliable, but it’s rarely used to its full potential. A recent survey by Advertiser Perceptions and Mightyhive found that fewer than one in 20 marketers believe they’ve tapped more than 80 percent of their first-party data’s potential. It’s only now, with the demise of the third-party cookie, that it’s becoming a real priority. Because soon enough, first-party data won’t simply be a “nice to have”—it will be critical to survival. The good news is you probably already have some sitting in your marketing systems. The next step is learning how to use it.

Decide what information matters most 

If you’re not starting with a clear plan, you’re going to end up with a pile of unstructured data that your teams will spend more time cleaning and organizing than gathering insights from. Start by considering your business objectives and the information you’ll need to create a personalized experience for each user. This will help you decide how to collect that first-party data. Whether it’s a form, chatbot, shoppable ads, or other interactive features, today’s programmatic landscape provides a wealth of options you can rely on to scale your data collection strategy and get the insights you need to reach your goals.

Clean and structure the data you collect

Understanding what data you’re collecting is a critical first step, but it won’t mean anything if that data is sitting across a variety of platforms, in multiple forms—and if it’s coming from more than one source, that’s likely the case. Search for a platform that will integrate all of your online and offline sources in a clean and consistent manner, so you can readily access, understand and use it, no matter how complex your business gets, or the number of channels grow.

Create special teams to action on that data

Taking advantage of your first-party data requires support from multiple teams, which can be tough if they operate independently. Try forming what’s known as purple teams or war room teams—a small collection of carefully selected staff from every team that utilizes your data (creative, digital media, analytics, operations and IT) to break down barriers quicker than a reorganization can take place. For any real success, the set-up needs to extend beyond bi-weekly meetings. Working together to identify high-value customer signals and respond with the appropriate creative should be the full-time job.

Use that data to expand your audience 

The move from third-party data could mean you’re talking to a smaller audience. The good news is that it’s likely to be much more qualified and engaged users, which is ideal for building lookalike models to find new, high-value customers. You can leverage these users even further if you connect with them in a meaningful enough way to build brand advocates. We know that engaged audiences are significantly more likely to share a brand’s message, and interactive ad formats don’t just provide creative freedom, they also give the users multiple ways to interact, which can increase the time they spend with your brand and provide an experience they want to share with others.

Petar is the co-founder and President of Crucial Interactive, parent company of Contobox, which provides advertisers with a single platform to create, launch, serve, and analyze interactive digital campaigns.