Zero party data: let’s play together with the customer!

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Companies desire it, marketers covet it, and some users want to protect it. No, it’s not a riddle, and yes, we are talking about the data millions of people leave online every day.

This data forms the foundation of effective marketing, and its significance has grown with each passing year, elevating its value.

However, acquiring this vast amount of data can be complicated. In addition, Google has announced that starting in 2023, its Chrome browser, utilised by 65% of users, will no longer support third-party cookies, which other browsers such as Safari and Mozilla have already excluded from the default settings.

So, how can companies gather information on their online customers?

Enter “zero party” data, which offers much more than a fragmented picture of individuals and is a subject of interest in the industry.

While this type of data may appear new in the digital realm, it is not unique in offline marketing, where the Voice of the Customer has always been regarded as vital and the primary source of customer information.

The assertion that customers, particularly loyal ones, want to be heard by the brands they do business with is undeniably true. So, why shouldn’t they share their data for the same reason?

But what exactly is zero-party data?

Zero-party data encompasses all information companies collect through the voluntary and conscious provision of customers. This data is very important as it is firsthand, sincere and provided spontaneously. This data is very important as it is firsthand, sincere and provided spontaneously. Various methods are employed to gather this data, with the most common ones being:

• Newsletters: customers express interest by filling out an outline form, allowing for further inquiries and questions to be asked about their preferences.

• Registration forms: users are enticed with valuable free content after filling out a form on the brand’s website.

• Competitions, promotions or contests: users often share opinions and views, as well as personal information, when intrigued or motivated by the desire to win a prize.

• Surveys: companies frequently conduct surveys on platforms other than their website, such as social media, to gauge customer satisfaction with products and services or to learn about their experiences.

The latter is the playing field of E-PATHOS!! Interactive mini-surveys while browsing the website to get to know one another, give suggestions and offer support.

But how do we persuade customers to participate in surveys and share their valuable information?

As expected, it is a common practice for companies to offer incentives in exchange for receiving zero-party information. We are talking about a “quid pro quo” arrangement. In exchange for the user’s valuable information, the company provides something of value for free, such as a coupon or voucher.

However, the real challenge lies in establishing a new relationship with customers, helping them understand that increased knowledge and exchange of data leads to improved services. This requires fostering a feedback culture.

Let’s explore the possibilities presented by interactive mini-surveys. These capture attention and create engagement, particularly when customised content is generated. For example, a questionnaire in which respondents answer health-related questions, resulting in an automatically generated personalised score, can serve as a valuable support in increasing knowledge about health insurance products.

If the survey is carefully constructed and allows for expressing interests and emotional experience, it leads to genuine conversations with highly customisable questions and answers. Customers feel heard by the brand and talk about themselves as if they were talking to a salesperson in a physical store.

Ultimately, based on the answers given, customised content is generated, such as a selection of products and services perfectly suited to the customer, enticing them to investigate further.

Ensuring authenticity and high-quality algorithms is crucial for successful listening. For this reason, to proceed on this path, it is essential to avoid “useless” surveys.

Numerous brands nowadays use questionnaires to collect valuable data and recommend highly customised products or services upon their completion. These include Banca Mediolanum, Colvin, Shampoora, VeraLab, etc.

For further information on this topic, I suggest reading Marianna Chillau’s book “People-Based Marketing.”

However, in the COOKIELESS era, what data should we base our strategy on?

In my view, there are indeed concerns about the quality and value of the data collected over time.. Of course, zero-party data is only one avenue; there are others. Analysts have classified different types of data based on how they are collected and how reliable they are

We are talking about:

Third-party data: the figure of the data provider

It is a collection of data held by Data Providers. A variety of suppliers make it available to interested companies and marketers at a cost. This type of data is collected online at a generic level and encompasses a wide range of information, such as socio-economic data, preferences expressed on social media, and the use of different entertainment devices, etc.

They are volatile data due to their potential to change quickly and their collection without the user’s knowledge.

Second-party data: the figure of the mediator

Second-party data comprises information regarding product and/or category preferences, as well as data acquired through the use of online cookies. In this scenario, the data is more accurate and involves one company selling the information to another.

In recent years, the first two categories of data have become the backbone of online marketing. Have they always generated value? I mean….for companies and customers? Who hasn’t experienced being persistently targeted by ads promoting holidays in the Maldives after unintentionally clicking on an image of a resort in the Maldives?

Has the conversion cost of actions based on this data always been evaluated correctly?

Now, let’s examine first-party data: the direct knowledge of our customer

First-party data is information collected through direct interactions between the brand and “its customers.” This exchange of information can occur spontaneously or as part of a deliberate communication flow.

These data are obtained through:

• website analytics

• emails (analysing opening clicks)

• social media channels

• loyalty programmes

• online and offline feedback !!!

But which of these provides the most valuable data for customisation and engagement?

In truth, it is not about having a lot of data but rather having the right data.

Of course, feedback takes precedence as it provides fundamental insights into “our customers” and their motivations behind specific choices. Furthermore, they are durable and remain unchanged over time.

Feedback data represent a wealth of useful information. Unlike second and third-party data, feedback data originates directly from the customers themselves. When combined with zero-party data, it paints a highly detailed picture of the person.

First and zero-party data vs Garante della Privacy (Italian Data Protection Authority)

First and zero-party data frees companies from relying on cookies and external entities, enabling them to build high-quality relationships with each user. In addition, they allow for the collection of superior qualitative data.

It is also important to know the role played by the Data Protection Authority. In fact, the European Union launched the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) to govern the processing of personal data and privacy. To comply with this Regulation, browsers are progressively phasing out third-party cookies and allowing users to opt out of being tracked.

This has made it crucial for marketers and companies to adopt new techniques to obtain meaningful data.


The ongoing revolution on privacy protection, which concerns everyone, presents significant opportunities for companies.

Brands and professionals that place zero-party and first-party data at the core of their strategies will usher in a new era of marketing that prioritises people and relationships over impersonal statistics and data.

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