• Home
  • /
  • Blog
  • /
  • An Ecommerce Sellers’ Guide To Zero-Party Data

Last updated on May 18, 2023

Have you ever picked your customers’ brains? Did you ask them who they were? What they’re looking for? How much they’re willing to spend? Or why they’re here?

Oh, you did? How many times? Once, twice, even ten times maybe?

Everyone knows the best way to do customer research is to actually speak to your customers. But realistically, how many of us are going to call or email our customers? Plus have a reasonable sample size to come to a conclusion…

Probably not many.

That’s where Zero Party Data Collection comes in handy.

What do the different types of data even mean?

Before jumping into the nitty-gritty of using Zero Party Data (ZPD), we first need to take a step back and examine the differences between all the data types.

Let’s take a look at them in order:

Zero-Party Data: Qualitative information that consumers actively share with a brand.

First-Party Data: Quantitative, largely behavioural, information that companies collect from consumers as they interact with a brand.

Second-Party Data: First Party Data that has been sold to another company.

Third-Party Data: Information gathered from multiple sources, public and private that haven’t been given directly by the customer

Now that we’ve got that established we can get to the meat of the matter.

How To Use Zero Party Data in Marketing?

To understand zero party data marketing we first need to look at what the average joe is doing.

Ok, let’s say a potential customer lands on joesecommercestore.com. 

Within 2 seconds, they get a pop up trying to lure them into providing their contact information in exchange for a small discount.

Once Joe gets a hold of their info, he throws the potential customer into a generic welcome and nurturing campaign. This probably consists of a few emails and maybe a couple of text messages.

After this person purchases, Joe then pauses the welcome campaign and launches another standardized post-purchase campaign.

All of these campaigns have one thing in common. Which is recipients receiving the same subject line, the same email copy and the same product recommendations. Because quite honestly, Joe knows nothing about these customers.

If all of this hits close to home you might be doing, for lack of a better term, “Basic Data Marketing”.

How Basic Data Is Currently Being Used

Basic data marketing is well …. Basic.

It starts by collecting the same information on everyone, which for the most part includes emails, phone numbers, names and locations.

You then use this information to put them through a campaign which is, you guessed it, BASIC. 

The main issue with this method is that it treats everyone the same. Meaning you have no clue what category they’re interested in, no insight into why they want what they want and how much they can spend.

Marketers who operate the Basic Data method consider everyone to be exactly the same, which is fundamentally wrong!

And we all know this.

Without qualitative data, marketers will be stuck looking at dashboards and guessing what customers want.

But here’s the good news.

There’s a solution and I’m sure it wouldn’t be much of a surprise if I told you it involved getting to know each customer individually.

This is where Zero Party Data comes in.

Zero Party Data is information customers willingly give you. This usually takes place through the placement of surveys in the most highly converting areas of your site and using them as little stopping points to learn more about each individual. 

The in-depth qualitative data you get from these surveys is then used to automatically personalize the flows and campaigns to each person who shops at your store.

Simple. Boring. Yet effective.

By doing so, you can treat everyone as a person, instead of another number on your dashboard. Now you can actually start building a real relationship with them.

Which is a much better way to do email and SMS but the benefits don’t stop here.

You can also use this data throughout your business to improve everything you can imagine:

  • Improve ad copy and creatives
  • Protect yourself against new privacy updates
  • Increase Average Order Value (AOV) and retention
  • Improve website conversion rate (CVR)
  • Grow your email list

And the icing on the cake is that all of this is a lot easier to set up than it sounds.

Why Implementing Zero Party Data Should Be On Your To-do List 

For the past couple of decades, marketers have been spoiled with more tracking and targeting options than was ever historically possible in the advertising world.

This meant that they could lean on these tactics and delay the implementation of Zero Party data, even though it’s the better option long term.

But then the digital marketing world got turned upside down by a software update.

If you don’t know what i’m referring to its Apple’s iOS14 update.

This move by Apple meant that all the big bad tech giants who sold your data to advertisers were now completely blind to the actions of 60% of mobile devices in the US.

Making Facebook, Instagram and most other types of digital ads immediately less effective.

And if you’re breathing a sigh of relief because you only target Android users you might not be so happy to hear that Google is planning to follow through with similar plans.

So how do you survive when all your age-old best practices were flushed down the drain overnight?

You create new ones.

Instead of relying on tracking pixels or third party data , start putting your time and energy into actually getting to know everyone who lands on your website. 

The purpose of Zero Party Data is to give context to your First Party Data So it’s more actionable. It’s like speaking to customers 1-on-1, but at scale.

In short, start using Zero Party data.

But before any of the magic can happen, you need to actually collect this data by placing the surveys on your site.

Let me take you through how to do that right now.

The Three Steps You Need To Take To Start Collecting Zero Party Data

  1. Decide what questions to ask in order to know enough about your customers to personalize your campaigns
  2. Put these questions in survey form and place them on your site to start collecting data
  3. Sync this data to the platforms you use so you can personalize your campaigns

What Questions To Ask

The best way I’ve found to do this is to imagine that you’re a doctor trying to diagnose a patient.

As soon as the patient walks in you start asking questions, both to identify the problem they’re facing and to identify the treatment which might work for them. 

The same exact process takes place in e-commerce: a visitor lands on your site because something’s not right in their life and they’re looking for a solution.

And if you never ask what’s wrong and what they’re looking for you’ll never be able to provide a relevant prescription.

Therefore whatever questions you would need to diagnose your customer are the same exact questions that need to be asked in your surveys.

Once you have these questions figured out you can start focusing on how to collect the data.

Using Discounts And Personalized Product Recommendations In Exchange For Data Collection

Although it sounds counterintuitive, the data shows that people actually enjoy answering questions from brands. That’s primarily because by asking questions you’re showing that you care about the individual customer and then by throwing discounts/product recommendations in you cement the fact that you’re here to provide value.

Once you look at it from this perspective, it makes sense as to why it works a lot better than tossing discount codes at people with no prior context in exchange for their contact info.

Your ultimate aim should be to make it sound more human.

So instead of ‘Enjoy 15% off and drop your email’ it should be:

‘What problems are you currently facing?’

‘What are you looking for?’

‘How much can you spend?’

‘Based on this info this is your perfect set of products plus a 15% off coupon’

The best thing is asking these questions comes with more than 1 benefit, not only do you build a feeling of connection and trust with your customer, but you also collect the data you need to personalize all future interactions with said customer.

Syncing Your Data 

For any of this to work, you need to make sure that this data is actually going where it needs to be which in this case is the platforms you use to manage SMS and email.

Once that’s set you can move on to the fun part – how you use all this juicy data to personalize your campaigns and smash your KPIs.

How To Use Zero Party Data In Your Campaigns And Flows

There are several main personalization levers you can pull when it comes to zero party data, let me explain a few:

Conditional Split

This type of personalization is based on yes/no factors. For example if someone said they’re a first time buyer in your category they’ll receive a different welcome campaign than someone who’s been using competitor products for years.

Personalized Subject Lines

You can use answers about customer problems or goals in your subject lines to increase open rates. For example if a customer said they have insomnia you can use a subject like ( Over 9000 customers use XYZ product to add an extra 3-4 hours of sleep each night ).

Personalized Recommendations

Recommend the type of products you think would best match each individual based on their previous answers. If they like a certain style, or belong to a specific age group or have goals in mind that you can help with then you should be basing your recommendations on that instead of just pushing your best sellers.

Goal/Problem Specific Copy

Someone who’s trying to escape the wrinkly effects of ageing should receive a completely different email than a teen worried about the new red spots taking over their face.

And luckily with zero party data, you can differentiate them.

This can happen before they even buy anything yet!

Personalizing Automated Flows

Automated flows are a thing that every ecommerce business has in place but very few care to actually get right.

Let’s take the all-famous welcome series for example.

Without knowing you I can tell you have at least 1 of the following: A coupon, a “personal” note from the founder, educational material about the brand or a roundup of best sellers.

If this rings a bell, you might want to consider changing up your ways. (That’s pretty dated!)

It’s overused and it’s really not personal.

Would you walk up to someone in real life and say the same exact thing to them as you did to the person before? Probably not.

Instead, you ask questions and respond accordingly – which is essentially what you’re doing with Zero Party Data Marketing.

So if you’re a skincare brand for example, you’ll want to know their age, gender, skin type and main issues they’re facing before ever thinking of sending them an email.

In practice here’s how this would go:

  1. You quiz them and send them their results 
  2. You then send content about their specific case
  3. Once that’s out of the way you can send them a recommended routine matched with a coupon

Personalizing Product Launch Campaigns

Every product has its own audience and inside that audience are more sub-audiences that want that product for different reasons.

And now that you’re armed with the data you gathered earlier, you can hit each sub-audience with a specific angle to increase relatability and therefore conversions. 

You can even exclude people who definitely aren’t interested because you know what each individual is looking for.

For example, if you operate an online grocery store and you’re announcing a new vegan product. You can automatically exclude people who buy red meat frequently and focus on people who purchase nut milk.

You might also be interested in: Executing an Ecommerce Product Launch Strategy

Create More Relevant Ads

Since personalization is the running theme of this article, it wouldn’t be much of a surprise if I told you that you can use this data to make your ads more relevant.

Customer research is the oldest trick in the book when it comes to creating effective creatives and copy that converts.

Zero party data essentially automates customer research at scale which gives you the necessary info to create ads that address each of your customer’s problems and focus on an angle that would actually make them want to buy.

Without this insight, you’re essentially guessing what your customers are here for which will result in a whole lot of hit or miss ads.

Final Thoughts On Zero Party Data

Ecommerce stores have gotten way too comfortable treating their customers as digits on a dashboard and ignoring the qualitative data which can actually help them reach their goals.

What’s more important is that zero party data is not a zero-sum game. Customers want to be treated as customers and businesses want higher conversions and Zero Party Data serves both causes.