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The Value of Your Dealership’s First-Party Data

two people looking at data on laptops and writing
Article Highlights:

  • Good data is accurate, actionable data.
  • When data was collected is just as important as from whom it is collected.

‘First-party data’ is one of those hot phrases being thrown around a lot in the automotive industry lately. And it makes sense: data (or at least good data) is the foundation for any smart, efficient marketing efforts.

Whether or not your dealership is already utilizing data to drive better marketing results, you have the resources to build customer loyalty, boost profitability, and capture in-market demand before the competition—all from what’s already in your DMS.

          Good data is accurate, actionable data.

Let’s break this down further into four key elements so that you can judge for yourself if what you (or your marketing partner) is using qualifies as good data:


Collecting data can oftentimes feel like a game of telephone. The first person to hear critical information from the consumer is going to have the clearest understanding of what they say, and the last, well, they may get that message scrambled.

Simply put, first party data is any data that you collect directly from your customers. Since its coming directly from the source, first-party data is inherently more useful to marketing efforts than second or even third-party data (which is data about your customers that comes from another source, like a business partner or a data firm).

What that means:

For your dealership, a lot of things could be considered first-party data:

  • Customer name and contacts (email, phone number, mailing address, etc.)
  • Purchase information (such as what car a customer bought and when they bought it)
  • Website submissions, newsletter subscribes, or customer reviews

It’s the source of the data that matters. It’s only first party data if you’re receiving information directly from the source—and the closer you can get to that source, the better your marketing efforts will be.


When data was collected is just as important as from whom it is collected. Think about all the emails that you receive on any given day—odds are there are a few that come to your inbox from companies that you haven’t done business with in years.

There are plenty of reasons why customers may default from your business. Maybe they’ve moved to a different area, started a new job, or their family has grown/changed. Your dealership’s first-party data can paint a very clear picture of your audience, but as people change over time, the accuracy of that data will also change.

What that means:

In most situations, a customer from six months to a year ago will be more interested in your emails than someone you haven’t seen in 6-10 years. Customer data should be verified and updated regularly, otherwise your dealership wastes time and money by expecting the right results while using the wrong information.

Ask yourself (or your marketing partner), when was the last time your dealership’s data was cleansed?


We all love repeat customers, right? To talk about the depth of your data, let’s use an example:

Danny has been regularly servicing his vehicles at your shop for years. Over the span of the last 10 years, he’s also purchased two new cars from you. That’s a lot of customer data, all of which can be traced back to a single DMS customer record—lifetime value, propensity to buy, service habits, current equity… all of these bits of data that, when looked at together, can help you predict what action he might be in need of taking next.

The depth of your dealership’s data comes from how much information you have about each individual customer. Knowing a name and an email address is a great start, but you’ll need a lot more than that if you want to clearly see your audience and their needs.

What that means:

The data you collect from customers can provide you with marketing insights for future actions they may take (as well as actions of customers that share similar characteristics). This is predictive analytics in action.

Maybe Danny comes to your shop for maintenance on his crossover, but your transactional data indicates that he may be interested in purchasing a new car soon. Add in some demographic information, like Danny’s age or income level, and you may notice that he fits the profile of someone who may be interested in purchasing a larger SUV. With this information, you can come to him with a relevant, and perfectly timed sales offer while he’s already servicing his current vehicle in your service center!


Remember when we said that dealerships have a LOT of data?

The span of your data refers to the full range of data you’ve collected. It can be a good indicator for where your dealership has a competitive edge (and who your target audience should be as a result). For example, a dealer who notices customers travel hundreds of miles in every direction to buy their SUVs has an edge in that market (and an edge in how to market), while another may find that they have a higher than normal retention rate in their local area (which also gives great insight into marketing tactics).

What that means:

To glean those types of details from your market, you need the span of data that’ll lead you to the correct correlations and conclusions.

Think of it this way: Our research shows that over 40% of your customers’ emails are wrong or missing entirely from your system, and over 30% of your customers no longer own the car that your records say they do.

When a good sized chunk of your customer information is inaccurate, your marketing efforts can’t get you very far. A clean, accurate, and updated marketing database is the first step to seeing who your customers truly are without any bad data getting in the way. It’s the first step to accurate, actionable data.


Data is one of the most readily available, yet underutilized tools that your dealership could be using to improve your marketing efforts. Your DMS is already full of information that can help your dealership drive better marketing results—and when you clean and update that data, the results are even better.

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Mollie Swygart is a marketing communications professional at Reynolds and Reynolds. She is an expert on Reynolds’ suite of cutting-edge marketing products, their functionalities, and how they can be utilized to improve dealership success. Mollie received her Bachelor’s Degree in Studio Art and English from Marietta College. She also obtained an Associate’s Degree in Marketing from Rhodes State College.

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