Food52's New Secret Ingredient: A First-Party Data Platform

Food52 DMPFood52 is taking the lid off its first-party data platform.

The hybrid publisher-retailer concluded it needed to improve ad buyers’ access to its data, said Matt Greenberg, SVP of brand partnerships at Food52. 

Advertisers were asking Food52 about its data, so the demand was already there. And publishers are building first-party data solutions left and right. “We wanted to be at parity in the market with our core competitors,” Greenberg said.

Food52 also believes its data is special. It has insights into food trends – like what chicken recipes people are cooking – and it sells products, so it knows what people bought, one of the strongest signals of interest out there.

“I firmly believe we have a competitive advantage because we have an ecommerce business,” Greenberg said.

Food52 has another golden goose: logged-in users and a strong email newsletter base. People who save recipes and personalize  their experience add fidelity to Food52’s data, giving it crisper insights. Food 52 can answer questions like, “What did people read who bought a pantry item in our shop?” and then create new targeting parameters out of the answers to those questions.

Food52 just turned on its DMP in recent weeks so it’s currently building insights and beginning conversations with brands. Having a first-party data platform will help Food52 win new clients and deepen relationships with existing ones, Greenberg predicts.

 “We have a strong core group of clients, like endemic CPGs and home appliance brands, that have been asking where we are on a first-party data perspective for years,” Greenberg said.

Food52 believes a first-party data platform will grow both the direct side of its business (85% of revenue) and programmatic (15% of revenue). Having a data platform will enable better creation and targeting of branded content, including off-platform on social media. And Food52 is considering whether it will allow brands to use its data to activate programmatically not just on its site, but on the open web.

Finding a data-platform vendor

For Food52, the process of picking a vendor and getting up and running took around six months. After looking at a half-dozen options, Greenberg picked Audigent.

A key requirement was that the data platform had a cookieless methodology, given the upcoming deprecation of the third-party cookie in Chrome.

“All the legacy DMPs are going to require a lot of tweaking to be ready for the future,” Greenberg said, a downside for Food52. It didn’t want a solution that would lose a lot of data – known as “audience drop -off” – or require extensive work redoing its taxonomy, or how it categorizes content. 

With its data platform now live, Food52 is going to see how widely it can use the data. Ideally, it wants to augment the insights its editorial and shop team gets from Google Analytics, creating a data hub that multiple teams can derive value from. “Our team was bullish on the cross-team value of understanding our data better beyond web trends in GA [Google Analytics],” Greenberg said. 

The possibilities are manifold: personalized experiences on the site, data that helps inform what recipes its test kitchen pursues and products in its shop, Greenberg said. “The early results have told us we’re going to have far more actionable information to create a better experience.”

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