Imagine you are a loyal customer at your local dinner spot. You’ve willingly shared your dietary needs, preferred ingredients, and special dates with your server. So, it’s not unexpected for the restaurant to remember and tailor everything from food suggestions to seating choices to delight you.
Today, brands have the opportunity to be like your favorite restaurant, using the power of zero-party data to transform the information you volunteer into a personalized experience. By utilizing customer insights to make precise predictions about buyer behavior, this strategy, in turn, helps brands better understand and meet customer needs.
Zero-party data is the next evolution of first-party data
Zero-party data is data that a customer willingly shares with a brand. It can include information like preference center data, purchase intent, and personal likes. It’s how someone wants the brand to see them, contact them, and even consult them as they move through the customer journey.
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Zero-party data is a subset of first-party data, which is data that you collect directly from your customers and own. This can range from tracking page views across your site to the specific questions you ask them in a lead capture form. Because of those broad categories, many marketers are already familiar with some form of zero-party data. If you’ve ever altered your email cadence in a nurture stream based on your audience’s response, that’s zero-party data at work.
As privacy and consent regulations give consumers more control over data, prioritizing voluntarily given data can help ensure the accuracy of your insights. It also opens the door to your audience having a more compelling reason to share this information. According to Twilio, 62% of consumers expect personalization, but that doesn’t mean they are cavalier with their data. Only 40% of consumers say they trust brands to use their data responsibly and keep it safe.
When customers directly see that a brand uses the data the customer provides to create a better experience, they are more likely to trust the brand with their data in the future because they see a direct benefit.
“It takes decades to build trust and we can lose it all very quickly if we are not mindful about how we handle their data. Customers should trust that you are handling their data with responsibility and care,” says Max Gabriel, president of IIRIS at Informa Tech, the company’s centralized data and analytics engine.
End the customer guessing game
As marketers, we have gotten good at being able to read the tea leaves when it comes to figuring out our customers’ next moves. Pulling from our first-party data, leading indicators, like spending above-average time on a particular content piece before signing up for a product demo, are some of the ways we gather the puzzle pieces needed to fill in the customer journey. But over time, as we receive more inputs from an increasing number of similar channels, the path gets cloudier.
The resulting mess of inputs makes it hard to not only manage data but to also create a regular practice around using it. According to a study from Invesp, 87% of marketers say data is their company’s most under-utilized asset. Zero-party data takes away the maybes and possibilities by going directly to the source and asking them what they need, making it a more manageable, regular practice.
With personalization becoming an expected customer experience not just in the consumer world but for B2B marketers, being able to quickly make accurate judgements on what subsets of their customers will engage with. According to Accenture, 91% of consumers are more likely to shop with brands that recognize, remember, and provide relevant offers and recommendations. For niche markets, this can make the difference between being yet another copycat brand or one that stays top of mind.
At Industry Dive, for example, a core audience for CFO.com is its namesake profession. But from The Wall Street Journal to the biggest ERP brands in the world, everyone wants a piece of their time. Beyond engagement metrics, CFO.com leans on a key data tactic to customize the reader experience and set the editorial strategy: they ask CFOs what they want to read.
Predictive analytics has entered the chat
The future of the zero-party data surge doesn’t stop at more personalized experiences. The more accurate, specific, and direct responses you can voluntarily collect from your customers, the better you can build experiences for them that go beyond point solutions.
Take for example a B2B buyer investing in enterprise devices for their remote workforce. They might engage with a brand looking for a one-off purchase of mobile devices. But in the brand’s communication strategy, they might regularly serve up newsletters and advice around digital transformation, as well as send out surveys to customers asking about their interest and readiness around that topic. Over time, the responses this customer gives could set up the business to begin proactive outreach around more of their products aimed at modernizing the business, even tailoring content to automatically reach them at the right time.
This means more fruitful customer relationships and reduced marketer effort for greater returns, with one study from Convince and Convert seeing more page views with 77% less content.
Better experience is not just for the customer
The biggest benefit zero-party data offers is a better way to deepen the relationship you have with customers while earning their trust. But the benefits of creating a healthy, consent-driven data strategy do not just impact the buyer. In fact, 89% of UK leaders and 78% of US leaders believe data literacy is important for their teams’ daily tasks, according to the Winterberry Group. By focusing on data that is more reflective of your customer’s wants and needs, you can cut through the clutter and find the answer you need faster to better serve your customers and reach your goals.
Start small with your data capture, and see what you uncover. Brands can open the conversation with their audience with simple tactics like asking which topics their customers would like to see the most from them. Take a small cohort from this information and begin sending them assets based on their preferences, making sure to compare any before-and-after engagement metrics from implementing this strategy. Even this small step can make a big difference in getting comfortable with the power of first-party data.
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