Improved Personalization and Deeper Insights from Zero-Party Data

As websites and other platforms restrict the use of cookies and similar tactics to collect consumer data thanks to newer regulations and increasing privacy concerns, brand marketers who have begun shifting to deeper personalization in an effort to more deeply engage their consumers will now need to work a bit harder to gain that much sought-after information.

Innovation and a nimble approach will be key as brands work to build confidence and trust with their customers, so those consumers are willing to share more data and information either in the store, on the brand website, or through a mobile app in exchange for an elevated, more personalized experience with their preferred brands.

Loyalty360 recently spoke with several of the leading technology providers to gain their insight on what steps brands should take to ensure they are getting deeper data insights from customers via zero-party data, as well as how they ensure the reciprocity and value exchange today’s consumers demand and enact greater personalization strategies with the data they capture.

Steps to Ensure Deeper Data Insights From Zero-Party Data

Susan-Frech_Headshot-(1).jpgSusan Frech, CEO at Vesta, says that in this era of mounting privacy and security concerns, zero-party data, which consumers proactively and intentionally share with brands, is truly the highest-order data. She points to the high bar consumers are setting for the brands that they will trust and the value exchanges that they will join.

“Marketers need to establish a welcoming and engaging online destination that can not only gather this data but utilize it to deliver a meaningful and engaging experience,” Frech says. “Establishing a framework like an online brand community can ensure continued access to data and insights, regardless of the ever-changing landscape of third-party channels.

Adhish Kulkarni, Senior Vice President and General Manager for DigitalAdhish-Kulkarni-mugshot.jpg Engagement and Loyalty Solutions for Evolving Systems, says as brands design customer journeys, they need to inject elements of data collection through the various touchpoints, with the key being consent and mutuality of benefit, providing a win-win playing field.

“Sometimes this can be a part of the registration process, as part of gamification mechanics, or in return for specific incentives,” says Kulkarni, who adds that the key is to build a trusted exchange of value between the brand and the customer.

“Our research shows that the quality of data and willingness to share goes up considerably when consumers are in charge of their data and proactively decide how much to share,” Kulkarni says. “Overall, the volume of data may be lower than when collecting without customer awareness, but we believe building a trusted relationship is the most powerful mechanism to retain long-term relationships.”

Sandra Sydlik, Marketing Specialist at Stuzo, points to the need for brands to minimize friction for the customer by making it as easy as possible to enroll in a loyalty program and become a member.

“Ideally, customers only need to share a single piece of data — such as a phone number— which streamlines onboarding and eases them into a progressive registration process,” Sydlik says.

Brands may also utilize a progressive profile build approach to collect only what they need to know right away and then build a unified member profile over time, she says, as they learn more about their members through other data capture mechanisms such as surveys, transactions, and demonstrated behaviours.

“This type of member data collection works when there is a mutual value exchange and members receive something they find personally valuable for sharing information with you,” Sydlik says.

Charlie Heitzig, Vice President of Data Intelligence Practice at The Lacek Group, suggests brands follow a basic zero-party data best practice: Don’t ask customers for the information you already know or can infer from transactional data.

Instead, he says, brands should ask customers for information that will help them personalize messaging and deepen customer relationships, thereby improving customers’ experiences, and even surprising and delighting them by applying the data collected.

“It boils down to your brand asking only for the data you need and will use, telling customers how you’ll apply it, and then delivering enhanced experiences informed by the provided data,” Heitzig says.
Jatin Gera, Director and Business Head for the Americas at Capillary Technologies agrees, and details how imperative it is that brands only ask for the data that can be tied to known profiles and will actually be used – since a user takes explicit action to provide zero party data — thus directly impacting their experience.

“Brands need a sophisticated CDP that centralizes this data alongside other known consumer behaviours and ultimately serves it across applicable touchpoints,” Gera says. “However, there’s no reason asking for zero-party data can’t be a fun customer experience. Gamification is an excellent example of how quizzes & polls can be presented interactively. It can also be embedded throughout existing touchpoints, such as favoriting an item online.”

Build Improved Trust and Confidence with CustomersRachel-Iannarino-(1).jpg

Rachel Iannarino, Vice President of Marketing and Client Experience at Baesman, says that marketers must get more relevant and expeditious with their personalization techniques. She points to an Adobe survey of over 1,000 consumers, which found that 67% of today’s shoppers think it’s important for brands to adjust content based on the current context. In fact, 42% of them get annoyed if you don’t.

“That tells us our existing data has to do a better job of sending pertinent information,” Iannarino says. “Brands like DSW, Dick’s Sporting Goods, and Kohls, for example, really hone the data that they collect based on past purchases and purchase frequency to send communications that create true brand loyalists.”

Iannarino admits that many marketers cringe at the idea of creating really personalized marketing because they are already strapped for time, resources, and budgets. She says the solution is to get flexible and let your strategy guide your deliverable.

“Think of it in terms of what are you trying to accomplish, then let that strategy guide your execution, and don’t get stuck on digital channels like email and SMS,” Iannarino says. “New print technology exists that is essentially the same cost, nearly the same speed to market, and provides the same level of customization as digital while realizing higher ROI. Focus on what’s right for your consumer.”

Frech says that marketers must treat zero-party data as the gift it is. Closing the loop by not just delivering improved experiences but also by clearly and compellingly communicating the connection between the data you collect and the enhanced personalization and relevance it makes possible, is critically important.

“Think of it as your ‘thank you note,” she says. “Integrate your systems to ensure your customers are known across channels and that they see in real-time the value of sharing their data by the personalization and relevance of their experience.”

Frech also advises brands to succinctly and continually declare their brand’s approach to data —  a “Data Bill of Rights” she calls it — to signal a brand’s standards and help build confidence and trust.

Heitzig says the key is finding ways to collect zero-party data from a brand’s customers in ways that are both transparent and relationship enhancing. He suggests telling them up-front how you’re going to use the information they provide and then proving it through your actions.

“Asking for — and then delivering on — customer preferences is one example,” Heitzig says. “Another is creating ways for your customers to share their specific wants and needs through quizzes or by saving their favorite products or orders in your app. Both allow your brand to deliver customized tips, hints, and offers that respond directly to your customers’ wishes.”

Consumer expectations are centered around personalization, Gera says, however privacy regulations for data collection are becoming more stringent. He agrees that the key to earning consumer trust lies in transparency and application.

“Being explicit with how data is used at the time of collection sets expectations at the decision point of entry,” Gera says. “Once collected, being overt throughout the journey with messaging — because you liked X, you may like Y —lets consumers know you’re using their data to serve them. Finally, give consumers a way to change their selections or opt-out. This will make consumers feel they’re in control of their information.”

According to Sydlik, brands need to constantly deliver value to their customers to decrease churn. Therefore, they need to get to know their customers and build a comprehensive and unified member profile over time to engage with them on a one-to-one basis.

“This builds trust and long-term customer loyalty,” Sydlik says. “A comprehensive understanding of a customer’s personal, preferential, transactional, and behavioral data, will also enable brands to calculate their share of wallet and associated wallet opportunity with the customer, and utilize personalized, real-time customer activation mechanics as a means to steer a greater share of wallet to their brand.”

Kulkarni says the collection and use of zero-party data should be clearly laid out for consumers to understand and control. Evolving Systems recommends building this into the various consumer communications, for example, suggesting a customer share their interests to help personalize rewards.

“We must build credibility by ensuring we meet customers’ high expectations of receiving something in return for their data,” Kulkarni says. “Offerings must be relevant, objectives clear, and communication within the context of the customer journey. It’s important to request/offer the right action at the right time and learn from customer behaviour to ensure constant improvement.”

Enacting Greater Personalization Strategies with Data Received

To empower greater personalization strategies, Sydlik first suggests that brands need to activate data in real-time to deliver true hyper-personalization. Consumer demands are rapidly evolving, and real-time experiences are key, she says, with brands needing to maximize the efficacy of messaging and offers by ensuring the ability to deliver the right message, to the right customer, through the right channel, at the right time.

“This is where zero-party data plays a critical role. Activation of zero-party data is only useful if the customer perceives/receives value,” Sydlik says. “Continuously delivering content to a customer that does not align with the insights gathered from the data they have shared is a very quick way to lose their trust and risk drop-off.”

Zero-party data is gold when it comes to personalizing and contextualizing customer engagement, Kulkarni says. Whether it is selecting specific rewards, cross-selling, or upselling promotions, zero-party data helps to understand a consumer’s propensity to buy or accept a reward.

“Personalization should stretch beyond simply the offer selection to also determining the optimal time to initiate engagement, in other words ‘be relevant,’” Kulkarni says. “We focus our ‘engagement circle’ incorporating a collect, learn, use strategy.”

Heitzig says utilizing zero-party data to empower greater personalization strategies hinges on transparency and following through on brand promises. If you gather customer preferences, he says, pay it off by following through with the service or communications requested.

“That builds trust, and if consumers trust your brand, they’re willing to share more data — as long as doing so results in better customer experiences,” Heitzig says. “Consumers wish to be seen and understood, and zero-party data can help your brand differentiate and tailor marketing messages.”

We’re succeeding as marketers, he says, when we create the kind of exceptional, personalized customer experiences made possible by well-leveraged zero-party data.

“It’s marketing so personalized, it feels like a service,” Heitzig says.

Gera says we all know data is the “north star” for curating consumer recommendations/buying incentives, but many brands fall short in two areas: propensity modeling and hybridizing digital and physical interactions.
He says when a consumer provides their opinion directly (zero party data), that isn’t the end of the exchange. These data points should then be integrated with supplemental data types via machine-learning to create rich propensity models.

“This will allow brands to predict that consumer’s next move and get in front of the transaction,” Gera says. “When a consumer provides information online, it should empower associates in the physical environment to have relevant conversations.”

When collected and used with intention, Frech says, zero-party data can enable marketers to realize a more holistic customer view and allow them to align their brand more authentically and meaningfully with consumers.
“It’s richness and surety allow brands to create higher-order personalization via values-based segmentation that taps into customers’ needs, preferences, and values, and dramatically elevates the relevance and power of communications and offers compared to traditional demo-based segmentation,” Frech says. “When done correctly, it can fuel a replicating cycle of greater sharing and personalization, driving progressively higher levels of trust, insights, and loyalty.”
Thank You to Our Expert Panel:
Susan Frech is Founder & CEO at Vesta. Learn more at
Sandra Sydlik is Marketing Specialist at Stuzo. Learn more at
Charlie Heitzig is VP of the Data Intelligence Practice at The Lacek Group Learn more at
Jatin Gera is Director & Business Head for the Americas at Capillary Technologies. Learn more at
Rachael Iannarino is VP of Marketing and Client Experience at Baesman. Learn more at
Adhish Kulkarni is Senior VP & GM for Digital Engagement and Loyalty Solutions at Evolving Systems. Learn more at

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