By Thomas Stocking, Director of Data Security
There’s a new term floating around Marketing circles: zero-party data. What is it? Well, the concept is a bit murky. The distinction lies between a customer’s data that they supply for the purposes of doing business and what they supply voluntarily to enhance the process of using a product or service.
First-party data might be needed to allow you to use a service, say a web hosting service. Information like your legal name, your address and credit card, or an email for confirmation of secure messages are all first-party data. You can’t use the service without them, and they are a condition of doing business with the hosting provider. But what about data that you supply voluntarily such as responses to surveys or questionnaires? This data might enhance your use of the service, allowing the provider to adjust the offering to your needs, your preferences, even your demographic, medical conditions, accessibility requirements, and more. This is zero-party data.
Zero party data is like gold to advertisers. It’s given freely without concern for privacy (perhaps not advisedly) and allows targeting of ads and content online to you specifically. It’s so valuable that advertisers even try to buy it off third parties (third-party data), with results that you might predict in terms of quality and the compromise of privacy and security. However, if freely given just by asking (nicely, hopefully), zero-party data can add value to the experience of using a product or service in immeasurable ways.
It’s easy to see the value of zero-party data in B2C. Customers are sharing exact preferences that brands have previously had to infer from first- or third-party demographics. While those informed guesses have proven to be incredibly accurate at times, they are still only best estimates, so it’s no surprise that brands jump at the chance to learn every little detail their customers are willing to share. But where does zero-party data fit into the future of B2B marketing? Perhaps with a cookieless future, zero-party data is even more crucial in B2B, where those marketing “best guesses” are aimed at entire buying committees and not individuals who fall into well-known demographic categories. Marketers will look to capture information via zero-party data that was previously available (albeit in an estimated fashion) via third-party cookies. Yet marketers will need to take care to not overwhelm potential buyers just for the sake of capturing zero-party data. This may prove a difficult balance to strike, but zero-party data could hold the key to keeping marketers aligned with their customers’ preferences without interrupting their buying journey.
It’s also important to recognize one thing about zero-party data: it’s personal. Everything about a customer that can be linked to them (their favorite ice cream flavor, time of year, or sunscreen brand) is private. It should be kept private, even if it’s supplied by the customer when asked. Even if regulations like the GDPR or CPAA haven’t explicitly listed it, the customers who give service providers access to this golden data should have the privacy of that data respected nonetheless. Only through respecting the trust that customers show by providing answers to suppliers’ questions can true customer loyalty be built. Marketers and consumers, whether B2C or B2B, should expect to see more of an emphasis on zero-party data in the future, but can prepare now for how to best capture and use that data in an appropriate, responsible manner.