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Entering 2022, privacy technology was identified as the top prediction for increased marketing investment to look for throughout the year. Consumers have voiced anger, confusion, and suspicion over company breaches, unwanted sharing of personal information and collection of data from other entities. A survey right before the new year, seen in Forbes, showed that almost 160 of 463 different chief marketing officers put privacy first over artificial intelligence, the metaverse and other technology predictions impacting the industry.

As companies scramble to check the privacy compliance box, the main solution to ensuring consumer privacy and trust in a competitive market space is hearing directly from customers themselves. Zero-party data is data that a customer intentionally shares with a brand such as their preferences, insights, profile data and consents. Customers expect companies to provide value in return for their willingness to share their personal information. This process builds trust with the customer and helps companies maintain compliance. For example, one of the most common forms of zero-party data is collecting a person’s email, areas of interest and consent when they sign up to receive product information. This basic information enables businesses to give customers what they want moving forward which in turn incentives customers to continue to share insights.

How is Zero-Party Data Different than First-Party Data?

Zero-party data is a subset of first-party data. In addition to the zero-party data that a customer explicitly shares with a brand, first party-data also includes data that a company directly collects about customers as they interact with their brand such as demographic information, purchase history and subscription data. While businesses use this implicit first-party data to target customers, it can only offer inferred insights about areas of interest.

How is Zero-Party Data Different than Third-Party Data?

When considering how companies predominantly interact with their customers, a large percentage of customer insights (e.g., what the customer is interested in or not interested in), has been from the use of external third-party data. Whether it’s through online activity, third-party cookies, affiliate networks, social media engagement and more, companies tap into many outside data sources to get their product or service in front of the person.

For example, a majority of retailers use information about consumers that is collected when consumers visit various websites. Third-party data is collected when searching for or clicking on an item to possibly purchase and it is stored in the consumer’s web-browsing history. Retailers can then share or purchase that browsing history with other businesses or affiliates. However, web browsers, such as Apple’s Safari and Mozilla’s Firefox have already eliminated third-party cookie tracking and others like Google Chrome, will be phasing out third-party cookies in 2023. So, from online web browsing history perspective, the third-party data approach of large companies has been called into question and is even greater now in the shifted virtual reality most have adapted to due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

With many companies still leveraging third-party data, the largest weakness is making assumptions about what interests the customer. Just as retailers track activity on their websites, assumptions of what product the customer is looking at, in regard to if they are going to purchase that particular product or want to look for similar products is segmented through advertisements and can be seen most of the time on social media feeds. Just think about how many times you have seen a product you found on Amazon that you didn’t necessarily want pop up on Facebook. The underlying message here is that zero-party data puts the customer in charge of what they want or don’t want the company to remember about them, while third-party data is based on assumptions and completely bypasses consent.

What Is the End Goal of B2C Marketing?

With companies continuing to evolve their physical business models to a virtual model, it’s important to invest in and develop a well-thought-out, zero-party data strategy. Customers want to have more power in their relationship with the companies from which they buy products and the companies need to engage them in more personalized experiences to continue providing high-quality service. To provide personalization for the customer, everything from products and content to advertisements need to be tailored for that specific individual and be proprietary to the brand. An important attribute of zero-party data is that it is proprietary and no competitor has access to it. Moreover, the future of marketing also relies on being heavily relationship based, in which the company must give complete transparency into how they intend to use the customer’s data and they should provide value in return for sharing their data.

Ultimately, by giving customers control of their preference, profile, insights and consent data, it will only lead to them continuing to buy the company’s product or service and strengthen the relationship for the future.

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