I keep stumbling across this term in discussions around privacy and consumer data: zero-party data.
Folks like MarTech Alliance define it as:
“First-party data is data collected directly from your audience, as opposed to being acquired and sent to you by a third-party.
Zero-party data is data that your customers intentionally share with you. This can include purchase intentions, personal context, communication preferences, and how the individual wants the brand to recognize them.”
I don’t know about you, but that sounds like it’s pretty much exactly the same thing. Now, I suppose the distinction is passive versus active; a customer browsing your website is passively giving you information about themselves by the pages they visit, the browser they’re using, etc. whereas filling out a form is data actively coming from the customer.
To better understand why we might want to make some kind of distinction between the two, let’s refresh our definitions of data parties.
First-party data comes from the customer. When they fill out a form on your website, they’re giving you the data directly.
Second-party data comes knowingly from the customer through an intermediary. When you do a co-registration form with a partner, and the customer is aware they are sharing data with you, but you get the data from the partner company, that’s second party data. This could also include data passively collected on a partner site; if you got permission from a partner to install your Google Analytics tag on their site, this would be an example of second-party data.
Third-party data comes from a customer without their consent. Third parties harvest data about customers from cookies, from demographic data, etc. and is sent to us from those third parties without the customer’s approval. Any time you’re acquiring data – typically through ad platforms – about a customer or using targeting data (again through ad platforms usually) that the customer did not give you directly, you’re using third-party data.
The reason privacy restrictions are ratcheting down is simple: third-party data comes to us without the consent of the customer. Anything without consent is bad news.
So, why this difference between passive and active first-party data, aka zero-party data? I suspect a consulting firm somewhere needed a fancy new term to bandy about and sell, honestly. It’s reminiscent of Jim Lecinski’s Zero Moment of Truth, which was a revamp of P&G’s 2005 Moments of Truth.
Why do we care about this concept? Here’s what I think we’re all trying to understand, with varying degrees of success. Success in marketing data comes down to data consent in the post-cookie era. The more data consent you obtain, the better your data and the better your marketing engagement.
Let’s look at the parties again through the lens of data consent:
- Third-party data: no consent. Going away.
- Second-party data: some consent given (“We share data with our partner…”)
- First-party passive data: some consent given (“by using this website, you agree to our use of…”)
- First-party active data: more consent given – when a customer fills out a form, they’re knowingly giving you lots of data, usually in exchange for something of value
- First-party proactive data: full, active, willful consent. This is the gold standard, what we really want. It’s when someone fills out a contact us form or a request a demo or calls us or walks into our store, eager to do business with us. This is a customer who wants to give us information with no prompting or bargaining or cajoling on our part, because they want to engage with us, maybe even buy something from us.
Consent is proportional to data value. The more consent we get, the more valuable the data.
When we’re talking data parties, we’re really talking about data consent. Thus, the question you and I have to ask ourselves is, what can we do to climb the ladder of data consent in our customers’ minds?
Data consent comes with value provided:
- The more value we provide, up front, without expectation, the easier it is to obtain data consent.
- The better our brand’s reputation and trustworthiness, the easier it is to obtain data consent.
- The more we’re focused on what we can do for the customer, rather than what they can do for us, the easier it is to obtain data consent.
Think about how you feel when you’re confronted with a lead capture form, usually in front of some kind of download. You give consent by filling it out, but sometimes it’s grudging consent. That feels different than when you fill out a form asking someone to contact you – you’re eager, maybe even happy to do so. There’s a qualitative difference in the type of data consent you’re giving.
If you’re struggling to obtain data consent from customers, take a strong look at how much you give versus how much you ask – then rebalance in favor of giving. The more you give, the more likely you’ll receive.
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