Driven in part by the ever-changing digital marketing landscape, coupled with ever-stricter legislation and measures to protect consumer privacy, two types of data have emerged as the holy grail for marketers: zero-party data and first-party data.
Zero- and first-party data empower marketers with better insights. They also enable us to build stronger and more personalized connections with our customers.
Zero-Party and First-Party Data: Defined
Let’s start by defining and understanding the key differences between zero- and first-party data.
- Zero-party data is voluntarily and proactively shared by your audience. It goes beyond typical demographic information and includes explicit preferences, intentions, and expectations. Examples include survey responses, feedback, and direct personalization choices made by the user.
- First-party data is collected directly from your audience, usually through interactions on your website, app, or other owned channels. This data is generated through user behavior, such as website visits, purchase history, email engagement, and social media interactions.
Of course, there is also second-party data (which is essentially someone else’s first-party data, shared with you second-hand by a partner) and third-party data (data collected by another company without any direct link to your business or audience). While both of these additional data types have their uses, the most value for marketers lies within zero- and first-party data.
OK, now for a great example of why this matters.
One and the Same? Where Data Can Go Wrong
Two well-known figures in the United States who happen to share the same birthday and birth year — George W. Bush and Sylvester Stallone — are very different people who have led very different lives. We know this as citizens and as movie fans, of course.
But as marketers, if we were to solely leverage standard demographic data in plotting our campaign strategies and tactics, these two people would literally be identical.
Think of the implications of this side-by-side comparison, but applied at a large scale. Without the benefit of zero- and first-party data, our digital marketing campaigns would most likely be inefficient at best and highly ineffectual at worst.
So now for the best part — why all of this matters.
The Benefits of Zero-Party Data
Zero-party data provides invaluable insights into individual preferences and expectations.
Armed with this information, brands can deliver highly personalized experiences that resonate with their audiences. By offering tailored content, products, and services, you can build stronger relationships with consumers and foster brand loyalty. And from a customer journey standpoint, brands can address pain points, anticipate needs, and offer highly relevant solutions.
When a user willingly shares their preferences and data, they’re more likely to feel in control of their interactions with a brand. This transparency builds trust and can lead to more open and honest relationships, as you can get a clearer picture of your customers as individuals. This level of granularity allows you to segment your audience more effectively and craft targeted marketing campaigns that address specific needs and pain points.
ZERO-PARTY DATA IN PRACTICE
As part of their commitment to supporting cat rescues and animal shelters, our brand partner World’s Best Cat Litter® includes a “gotcha day” postcard in branded adoption boxes that they donate to rescues and shelters across the country.
New cat owners who adopt from these rescues or shelters are given the adoption box, and through a QR code on the postcard, are encouraged to share with the brand their cat’s name and adoption date (also known as “gotcha day”).
With this initiative, World’s Best Cat Litter® collects zero-party data that is used for email marketing purposes. Users who complete the online form and opt-in will receive personalized messages that dynamically pull in their cat’s name and “gotcha” date — including an automated email sent on the one-year anniversary of the adoption, which promotes the brand and helps foster loyalty.
The Benefits of First-Party Data
First-party data, which is directly collected by the brand, allows for complete ownership and control over the data. This autonomy is critical, especially as data privacy regulations become more stringent in recent years. Brands can use this data responsibly without relying on second- or third-party sources.
Collected through tracking pixels on your website, product(s), or social media profile(s) that collect information about behaviors and actions, first-party data is automatically recorded within CRM and/or CDP platforms such as Mailchimp, Klaviyo, and Shopify. It can also be collected through brand surveys, customer service interactions, and other means that enable a user to share information with you directly.
First-party data enables marketers to track customer interactions across different touchpoints, gaining a comprehensive understanding of their journey. This knowledge helps optimize marketing strategies and identify areas for improvement, including the retargeting of digital ads, email nurturing, and even moving users into the shopping cart. It also can give a clear picture as to what your ideal consumer profiles/personas are (e.g., AOV, LTV, products ordered, and more).
FIRST-PARTY DATA IN PRACTICE
Our client Blue-9 Pet Products, in an effort to reach customers who browsed dog training products on their website but did not purchase, leverages a retargeting strategy through paid social ads. Through the collection of first-party data via the Meta pixel, the brand can serve relevant ads to Facebook and Instagram users who visited the Blue-9 site within the last 30 days — and include a “shop now” call to action.
In addition, Blue-9 also leverages first-party data for automated email marketing campaigns — including a basic use of the data by sending abandoned cart emails to users that showcase specific product(s) that were left behind. This simple use case helps Blue 9, and countless other brands, drive more customer value and generate more revenue.
What Happens When You Combine Zero-Party and First-Party Data?
While both zero- and first-party data offer distinct advantages on their own, combining the two can take your marketing efforts to the next level.
Integrating zero-party data into your first-party data allows for a more comprehensive view of your customers, resulting in more refined segmentation and more personalized interactions.
With zero- and first-party data, brands have the opportunity to build robust customer profiles, better understand customer preferences and intentions, and deliver highly personalized experiences across various touchpoints. This comprehensive approach embraces data transparency, fosters deeper customer relationships, and, in turn, drives brand loyalty and advocacy.
PUT DATA TO WORK FOR YOUR BRAND
Needless to say, they were not — and are not — one and the same. Neither should be your marketing strategy when it comes to leveraging different types of data.
You wouldn’t address a former US President the way you would a Hollywood action hero — and you wouldn’t market to them the same way, especially if you had customer profiles that were built on a solid foundation of zero- and first-party data.
Moral of the story? Use your data to your strategic advantage. We’re here to help you get there!
George W. Bush: Eric Draper / Library of Congress
Sylvester Stallone: Kevin Winter / Getty Images