Gone are the days of primarily leveraging individual-level trackers to help serve ads based on purchase patterns. Harnessing and relying on zero-party data will help navigate industry changes such as Google’s new mobile app tracking restrictions and others on the horizon. Like first-party data, zero-party data meets the opt-in criteria for privacy policies: It’s willingly shared with trusted brands to help validate user intent and deliver personalized experiences at scale.
So, what’s the difference between zero-party data and first-party data? It’s similar to willingly sharing information with an online pet food retailer in order to receive monthly delivery versus getting ads for dog food based on your search patterns. While first-party data can infer consumer preferences based on the ads they’ve engaged with, zero-party data already knows their preferences because they’ve been willingly shared. Leveraging data that comes directly from the source is incredibly important as the advertising industry transforms.
Self-reported, inherently trustworthy and automatically compliant with appropriate disclosures and control for users, zero-party data can greatly increase the effectiveness of campaigns and lift customers’ trust, since activations are based on information coming directly from the source. And it’s become incredibly important, partly because of Apple’s app tracking change, which led 95% of iOS 14.5 users to opt out of tracking online behavior. Couple this reality with Google’s preparations to not only curtail app tracking but also phase out third-party cookies, and we’re staring down a historic shift in the industry. As Deloitte put it: “The end of third-party cookies will be one of the greatest internet disruptions ever seen.”
Zero-party data can help to minimize this disruption by forcing brands to evolve the way they nurture customer relationships. Here are three steps to help brands harness this intelligence.
Preference centers can be a conduit between a brand and its customers that gather first-party data. First, preference centers allow customers to dictate whether they receive a brand’s information via email, text, social media message, phone call, or print catalog. The centers also let customers select which kinds of products, services or content they’re most interested in.
Websites use preference centers to put customers back in the driver’s seat and improve their customer experience (CX). Publishers know the value of zero-party data, as Variety, The Wall Street Journal, Bloomberg and other publications implemented preference centers, which invite readers to enable notifications for their favorite topics, content and writers. The publications then collect zero-party data from the reader that can be used for making relevant content offers going forward. B-to-b and b-to-c marketers should follow suit. As more b-to-b brands delve into marketplaces, preference centers are a strong way to garner zero-party data.
Online quizzes often get a bad rap. But if they are kept short—five questions or fewer—and are relevant to the customer’s shopping needs, they can empower buyers to select their preferences in real time, providing sellers with valuable zero-party data for future marketing purposes.
Wine retailers are starting to greet web visitors with a quiz about their palates and feeding a CX algorithm that then provides recommendations for wine orders. Zero-party data like this helps the company make more informed suggestions as customers build their profiles. This intelligence can take brand relevance to the next level and such learnings should be applied to b-to-b marketing to increase personalization strategies.
When a customer buys a product, they’re more inclined to share information about their path to purchase, emphasizing the value of surveys to collect zero-party data.
Relevant post-purchase survey questions can include how the customer discovered the brand, what features they sought when purchasing it and how likely they are to recommend the customer experience to friends and family. Amazon Marketplace uses this tactic to measure how its sellers perform and which products they promote on their platform. B2B brands can use such post-purchase survey data to better understand customers’ professional identity and predict the services or products that might interest them in the future.
In a privacy-led world, zero-party data should be leveraged in conjunction with first-party data to be ready for a world without third-party cookies. While first-party data is still incredibly powerful, there is a great opportunity to harness the power of zero-party data to personalize campaigns at scale. In the months and years ahead, the value of these intent signals will only increase. The industry is at a crossroads, and it’s time to focus on collecting zero-party data to help customers thrive in light of the privacy changes yet to come.