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Unlock smarter ecommerce with zero-party data

When you target your customers directly, you're building trust and bolstering your bottom line. Learn the ins and outs of zero-party data and how to leverage it for e-commerce success.

Today’s ecommerce landscape is a treasure trove of customer data. And if data is the new gold, zero-party data (ZPD) is the new platinum.

In a world where time and attention are the currency and every click and interaction matters, ZPD provides the ultimate consumer insight that can take brands from “giving it their best shot” to “laser accuracy.”

ZPD isn’t just a collection of customer information—it’s a vital resource for creating brand-customer connections, prioritizing customer privacy, and providing customers with personalized experiences. In this guide, you’ll discover more about ZPD’s role in ecommerce, why it’s important for B2C campaigns, how you can collect it, and what brands can do with it. 

What is zero-party data in ecommerce?

Zero-party data refers to any information that your audience willingly and intentionally shares with you about themselves. In an ecommerce setting, this could be things like customer details, purchase history, communication preferences, loyalty membership information, and the like. 

ZPD can also inform e-commerce and B2C brands on how customers want to be recognized and communicated with. And since ecommerce thrives on customer experience and personalization, zero-party data is crucial to these endeavors. 

Plus, ZPD plays an important role in understanding the “why” behind customer behavior. Unlike second- or third-party data, your target audience provides ZPD freely and directly, so it’s the most accurate—which also makes it the most valuable. And since it comes directly from the source, it can instantly provide your brand with actionable insights to help you fine-tune your B2C marketing campaigns.

Other examples of ZPD include:

  • Product and service preferences: This can be your customers’ favorite colors, styles, and use cases—all useful information for informing marketing, creative, and product decisions.

  • Purchase intent: Finding out more about your customers’ plans for future purchases can help your e-commerce brand better target these shoppers with marketing campaigns and prepare for upcoming demand. 

  • Reviews and feedback: Improve your products and services by asking your audience directly about the tweaks and updates they'd like to see. This also helps build trust with your customers, as they'll see that you value their opinions.

  • Interests, hobbies, and habits: Use this information to discover insights about how your customers use your products and services. This information can also serve your campaigns, as you can weave these “stories” into your marketing creative. 

  • Social media activity: Finding out more about your audience’s social media tendencies can tell you which platforms your customers prefer and help you find influencers who can help you engage with similar types of shoppers. 

When you engage your customers directly, you can gain access to highly valuable, highly targeted information about your exact audience—not an implied or “lookalike” audience. And this information can be used to create better experiences for your customers and marketing campaigns that actually speak to them.

Why is it important to collect ZPD for ecommerce campaigns?

Modern brands know that personalization isn't just about addressing your customers by name (although this is great)—it’s about genuinely tailoring your customers' experiences to their unique needs and preferences. Not only does zero-party unlock these touchpoints of personalization, it also helps improve conversion rates and build loyalty.

And, as privacy concerns continue to grow and third-party cookies disappear, ZPD provides compliance and aligns with consumer concerns. Collecting ZPD reflects a brand’s commitment to respecting its customers and their privacy, which fuels brand reputation and trust. 

If you have a smartphone, you’ve likely experienced the “I was just talking to my friend about this product, and now I’m getting ads for it on Instagram” phenomenon. Consumers now know that this isn’t coincidence. Social media platforms and web browsers track everything users do: the websites they visit, the terms they search for, the things users purchase online, users’ locations, likes, comments, interactions, sign-ins, and the people they surround themselves with online and IRL (again, location tracking). And users have agreed to all of it because of, for lack of a better term, FOMO.

Aren't we all scrolling past the terms and conditions or clicking the "accept" button on every website popup that stands between us and whatever nice and shiny webpage is behind it? Well, it's not so clear anymore. More and more users want their privacy back and are demanding more from companies who do collect their data.

Instead of tracking cookies and pixels, brands need to shift to transparently collecting consumer data directly from ‌customers themselves. Consumers want personalization, but they want to have control over what they give up to receive this personalization. They way they can have this control is through ZPD.

E-commerce and B2C marketing strategies that leverage ZPD can eliminate the “creepiness” that users have felt due to second- and third-party cookies. It’s a lot less surprising to see product recommendations in your inbox or social feed if you know you’ve given your favorite brands access to your preferences. It also helps to relieve the personalization and privacy paradox, which has long been a frustration for both brands and consumers.

How to collect zero-party data as an e-commerce brand

Collecting ZPD for ecommerce should be a strategic initiative—not a free-for-all. The way you collect and employ ZPD needs to align with your brand’s overall content and marketing strategy. More importantly, it needs to align with your consumers' preferences and feedback.

Use a pre- or post-purchase survey

One way to collect ZPD is with surveys. A pre-purchase survey will tell you more about what your customers are looking for (and how they’re looking to spend their money), and a post-purchase survey will give you insights into your customers’ decision-making process and connection to your products or services. 

With surveys, you can discover customer preferences, habits, interests, shopping and technical experiences, pain points, and referrals (what led them to your brand). All these help you develop or improve products and determine if your product is the right fit for your target market.

When you create a survey, think about it as another strategic element in your overall ecommerce campaign. Consider the timing, content, design, and length of the survey. If you’re including a survey on a thank you page, you’ll want to keep it brief—one to two questions. And, if it’s on a thank you page, your customers likely have not had time to receive and/or interact with your product yet, so those should be more about the customer’s technical experience with your website. If you’re sending the survey via email a week or more post-purchase, you can get more in-depth with specific product questions. But always remember to respect your customers’ time.

Host giveaways or contests

This strategy will require you to make a small investment in its success, as you’ll need a product to “give away” or serve as the prize for your contest winner. But everyone likes free stuff and winning—especially if the barrier to entry is relatively low. 

Ask customers (or potential customers) to provide their names, email addresses, and other relevant information for the opportunity to “win” one of your products or services. This can help you collect valuable target audience information and also increase customer engagement. You can even ask customers to share the link to your giveaway or contest for an extra entry. 

Create interactive experiences

Interactive experiences include forms, quizzes, and polls designed to engage your audience and encourage them to share their preferences in a fun, creative way.

One of the most popular interactive techniques for collecting ZPD is through a product recommendation quiz. Lead customers to the right product while gathering their contact information and finding out more about their preferences, interests, and needs. 

If you have a product or service that can be customized—by size, style, frequency of use, pain point, or other user-specific attribute—a recommendation quiz is a great place to start your ZPD collection journey. These are especially useful for ecommerce brands that can link directly to the product(s) in the quiz results.

If they’re designed well, forms, quizzes, and polls can help you provide customers with immediate gratification and value through personalized results and suggestions. And the information you gather will allow you to also personalize their experience in future marketing efforts. But remember, the creation of your ZPD collection efforts needs to be just as strategic as the campaigns you’ll create using the ZPD.

Let customers manage profiles and preferences

User profiles and preference pages are dedicated places where customers can opt in and customize their personal information, interests, needs, and expectations. When creating your preference center, make sure to align your questions/fields with your brand—and if you don’t need the information to provide customers with the optimal experience, don’t ask for it right away. For example, if you represent a clothing company, asking for a customer’s size and style preference up front is important—their social media profile links aren’t. 

Beyond asking for a name and email address (or phone number if you have an SMS text opt-in), try to keep your questions to two—maximum. You don’t want to lose customers before you really have them. Implementing an A/B or split test may be helpful here, as it'll let you know if the quantity or quality of questions is causing you to lose users. It may be most beneficial to have a multi-step user profile process that collects the most pertinent information first and more detailed customer information in a follow-up form.

Customer profiles and preference centers let your audience tell you things like:

  • Contact information

  • Demographic information

  • Communication channel preference (e.g., email, text, social media)

  • Communication frequency preference (e.g., daily, weekly, monthly)

  • Content preference (e.g., blog posts, deals or sales, product launches)

By allowing users to determine their own preferences, you’re not only empowering them but also building a more nuanced and comprehensive understanding of your customers.

Encourage customer reviews

Customer reviews help you identify both the selling points and pain points related to your products and services. You’ll be able to zero in on what they like best about your brand's offerings, but you’ll also get valuable insights about details that may be hindering your sales. For example, if you sell cosmetics and a customer writes a review of a lipstick that they didn’t like, it could help you in a couple of different ways:

  • The customer didn’t like the lipstick color: This is a personal preference, and you can use this information to adjust your product recommendations to them. 

  • The customer didn’t like the lipstick product itself: This may be a personal preference, so you’ll need to look at other reviews to determine this. If it’s ‌common opinion, you may want to consider reformulating.

And, as your product reviews increase, so will your brand’s trustworthiness in the eyes of potential buyers. One low-touch way to encourage customer reviews is by adding a call-to-action on relevant product pages.

Send conversational pop-ups and texts

Conversational pop-ups and texts allow you to reach your customers where they are. As customers navigate your website, you can use pop-ups to help them along their shopping journey. User actions will determine the type of message they receive. For example, by taking customer browsing history into consideration, your pop-up could ask specific questions or provide recommendations for specific products.

Not only does this help your customer find what they’re looking for in the moment, but it also allows you to store that information for future personalization efforts. 

If you’re sending texts to your customers, they’ve already opted in for at least your basic brand communication, so you have some of their ZPD. You can take this a step further and gather more information by texting links to surveys, quizzes, and other types of ZPD collection techniques.

Develop a loyalty program

Loyalty programs offer customers something of monetary value in exchange for their information, so they’re one of the most effective means of collecting ZPD. When customers sign up for your brand’s loyalty program, they typically provide at least their name, preferred contact information, and birthday so you can offer them rewards and other benefits. And according to Statista, seven in ten U.S. consumers consider these programs a leading reason they’re loyal to specific brands. 

Loyalty programs also provide you with a channel to use the ZPD you’ve collected to offer customers rewards that they actually want. In turn, you’re able to help your customers create an emotional connection that facilitates even more allegiance to your brand.

What can ecommerce brands do with ZPD?

Brands should use ZPD to inform their overall marketing efforts. All brand channels and creative campaigns should work together to provide customers with an experience that truly resonates with them. When you’re transparent with your ZPD collection efforts, and you let your customers know how you intend to use their information, you can develop a mutually beneficial relationship.

Speak to customers directly

Beyond addressing customers by name, “speaking” to them directly also means providing them with the products, services, content, and information they want and need. 

E-commerce brands can speak to customers through things like personalized newsletters that highlight products or related content they’re interested in. Brands can also speak to customers through targeted messages in their communication channels of choice.

Provide recommendations customers actually want

Product and service recommendations are one of the most effective ways to use ZPD. This can be accomplished with quizzes and surveys, but it can also be shared through direct messages related to products customers have previously purchased.

For example, if a customer has purchased an industrial flashlight from your outdoor supply website, you might consider recommending rechargeable batteries in your next marketing message.

Personalize advertising and marketing efforts

When analyzing your ZPD, you may discover insights that can lead to a specific type of creative or unique messaging opportunity. For example, you may find out that the majority of your customers are located in a particular area. You can use this information in your campaign’s creative with regional phrasing or design that features recognizable landmarks. 

Offer segmented promotions

By collecting information about customers’ behaviors and preferences, ecommerce brands can segment their audience and create highly targeted promotions that can drive higher engagement and conversions. The goal is to make your customers feel like you’ve sent them an offer that was created especially for them.

Discover unique product uses and characteristics

Product reviews provide specific feedback about how brands’ actual customers are using their products, so this could lead to unique marketing and messaging opportunities. You may discover brand new use cases and characteristics you haven’t even considered promoting.

Reviews can help shed light on customers’ nuanced information, like the context surrounding their use of a product, leading to better audience segmentation and targeting.

Innovate products and services

ZPD is great for brands that provide many options of one base product, like flavors of a protein shake or roasts of coffee. Sometimes, brands develop and promote the product options their internal teams think are popular, but until they poll their audience directly, they may be missing big opportunities.

Customers’ ZPD can lead brands down completely new paths or help them tweak their existing products and services to better fit customers’ preferences

Discover the platinum standard of customer data

Zero-party data isn’t just information—it’s a goldmine mine of audience insights that can help you create long-lasting, symbiotic relationships with your customers. And in the ever-evolving world of digital marketing, where authenticity and user privacy are paramount, ZPD serves as a beacon of trust for both customers and ecommerce brands. 

If you’re not sure where to begin your ZPD journey, check out Typeform’s tools for building forms, creating quizzes, and developing surveys that'll engage your customers and inspire them to share more and better data with you.

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