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How to create a zero-party data strategy

Zero-party data can enable better personalization and customer retention without tracking users across sites, like third-party cookies. These steps can kickstart your strategy.

An effective zero-party data strategy enables marketing teams to collect relevant data about customers, create more personalized experiences and execute more targeted campaigns.

Customers voluntarily and deliberately provide zero-party data through form submissions, quizzes, questionnaires or surveys on a website or landing page, and through customer profiles or membership applications. Some experts view this type of data as an evolution of explicit data, as the individual explicitly gives this information to an organization that may treat it as a form of currency, offering deals, other promotional content or personalized experiences in return.

Organizations can do a lot with zero-party data, so marketers must have a strategy around what information to collect, how to use it to segment and target customers, and how to store and protect that data to ensure prospects and customers trust the organization.

To build an effective zero-party data strategy, marketing teams should follow these five tips.

1. Understand zero-party data's differentiators

A good zero-party data strategy removes the Big Brother aspect that exists with third-party data collection, which teams aggregate from different sources and use to follow individuals around online with ads or other messaging. Zero-party data eliminates this potentially creepy experience. Customers know when they share zero-party data, and organizations can use it to provide customized experiences for target audiences.

The three key differentiators between zero-party and third-party data are the following:

  • User-provided information. Marketers collect zero-party data directly from the user. Thus, the organization owns the data, which it can store within its CRM database or another platform. This data is a competitive advantage because its collection doesn't involve outside sources.
  • It won't go away. Third-party cookies can collect vast amounts of information about a user's online behavior, but companies and search engines are phasing them out.
  • Fewer privacy concerns. Cookies introduce consumer privacy concerns, and organizations should make it clear to users how they collect, store and use zero-party data. With transparency, users can feel confident the company won't sell their data to other sources.
A chart laying out the different ways companies can collect user data
Zero-party data is collected with the user's knowledge, whereas third-party data is not.

2. Determine what data to collect

From contact information to demographic data, marketers should determine what data to collect through forms, registrations, surveys, questionnaires, etc.

Organizations should understand what data they need for successful segmentation and personalization. Contact information is basic; items like name, email and phone number are all acceptable. Demographic data like interests, location, job titles and company names can create an ideal customer profile, and marketers can use this information to tailor different campaign messaging and timing.

Marketers should not collect too much information at once. Users may turn away if asked to fill out too much or unnecessary data, so marketing teams should balance what to collect and what they can deliver in return.

If an organization already knows certain user data, they can use progressive profiling in forms to ask additional questions. For instance, if someone already filled out a form with basic contact information, the form can prompt them next time with different questions. This approach avoids making prospects fill out the same data repeatedly and collects more data at different touchpoints.

3. Locate where to collect data

Between the company website, customer support platforms and surveys, marketers have plenty of places to collect zero-party data. These locations include the following:

  • Website forms and landing pages. At these points, individuals provide data in return for something of value. Many organizations offer webinars, exclusive events, white papers, e-books and other content in return for this data. Other website tools, such as pop-ups and chat flows, also offer valuable ways to collect data and engage with contacts.
  • Surveys and questionnaires. This option enables customer success teams to collect more information about contacts, their interests and how they feel about their purchases.

4. Fit zero-party data into existing marketing campaigns

Zero-party data can strengthen existing marketing strategies and campaigns. In particular, it can benefit the following techniques:

  • Personalization. Zero-party data can help an organization create personalized experiences and develop market research, mining customer data to see what products or services are stronger in certain segments.
  • Loyalty programs. Marketing teams can collect zero-party data to drive customer loyalty programs and offer premium content, webinars, discount codes or offers. When added to active campaigns, this data can reinforce success and enable future retargeting efforts.
  • Customer retention. Information from previous purchases and membership profiles can inform customer retention strategies. For instance, knowing someone's birthday can let marketers know to send a birthday message, or recommend similar products to previous purchases.
Users value data privacy and protection, so organizations must be transparent about how they collect and use -- or don't use -- data.

5. Be transparent with customers

Users value data privacy and protection, so organizations must be transparent about how they collect and use -- or don't use -- data. More organizations than ever before have added these types of policies to their digital assets. Many brands have a cookie policy pop up on their sites so users can adjust their settings, which can help build trust between consumers and brands.

A legal and compliance team should help work on the language to use in these policies to protect customers and enable transparency into what the company collects. Organizations can provide a link to its privacy policy with form submissions, and let users adjust preferences or unsubscribe from certain email subscriptions to enable more trust between brand and customer.

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