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Ben Kentzer

Head of Data Engineering

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News & Views / First Party Data: Making Sense of Census Data
28 February 2024

First Party Data: Making Sense of Census Data

Third Party Cookies days are numbered. That wealth of information that allowed you to add behavioural data to your customer data will lose its power through 2024 as Google Chrome deprecates third-party cookies by the end of the year. It is worth noting that other browsers such as Safari and Firefox have already heavily restricted this data, so the impacts have already been felt in the tracking landscape, but Chrome has the largest market share - making 2024 the end for third-party cookies.

Smart businesses are turning to other sources of data to enhance their in-house customer data, also known as First Party Data. In this blog, we explore how to leverage one of these alternative sources: Census data.

For as long as the internet has been about, data has been collected relating to the behaviour of users. This started out as simple server-side log files listing the pages that had been viewed and moved onto far more sophisticated server and client-side data gathering – covering the type of machine that was being used, the location of the user, how the user got to the site, and many other pieces of information.

Once a user was identified, this data could be linked to their record, enabling more informed, personalised and effective marketing tactics. As users started to use multiple devices at various times, it became more challenging to effectively track these journeys. Encouraging users to identify themselves by logging in on each device is the best way of linking these – so essentially picking up some personal information (email address, customer number etc) on each device, so a journey could be reliably tracked.

With the changes to how browsers allow cookies to be processed, it is likely to reduce the value of this data.

The upshot of this is that companies may need to spend more to get the same results.

Is there anything that can be done to mitigate this?

Businesses have spent years fine tuning their costs based on understanding their visitors’ behaviour. To have some of the usefulness of this data taken away could mean a change of tack.

Most organisations can tap into their own customer data. Some do not realise how rich this source is, and how they can enhance it further using other data sources to help bridge the gap between the good old days and the brave new world.

There are many, many pieces of publicly available data that can be used to enhance this first party data. The most granular of these tend to be at a postcode level in the UK, with other sources being available at more summarised levels only – like county, region etc.

One such type of data is Census data. This has been collected in some form for millennia. From references in ancient texts such as the New Testament of the Bible, through the Doomsday book right through to modern times, knowledge of who lived in which area has been collected to help support food production, health provision and even conscription.

The latest available census data for England and Wales was collected in March 2021. This data covers subject areas such as the age breakdown of the population, the number of people that do not have English as their first language, religion, ethnic origin, long term health issues, and education amongst many other things. The data is summarised and manipulated so that it is impossible to identify an individual, but the data can help understand trends and patterns for different areas and – when linked to other data – can enhance first party data’s usefulness.

Now is the time to get the most benefit from the England and Wales census, as its power will diminish over the coming 8-10 years until the 2031 census is available.

For businesses seeking to leverage the power of this information, Jaywing have recently placed the 2021 England and Wales census data onto the Snowflake marketplace – the data is available to Snowflake customers within the UK on AWS (Amazon Web Services), GCP (Google Cloud Platform) and Azure. The data can be installed into your Snowflake account and queried as if it were your own data. If you're not a Snowflake user, don't miss out – reach out to us, and we'll host your data on your behalf, or guide you through the process of getting acquainted with the platform.

This data source is the first of a series of different public data sources that Jaywing are making available via Snowflake Marketplace. The aim is to make it easy for organisations to consume this data and help build up a more detailed picture of their customers. Whether you are an existing Snowflake user or not, Jaywing can help you make the most of this and many other sources of data.