Brands Turn to Zero-Party Data Amid Privacy Restrictions

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Tighter privacy restrictions are leading brand marketers to consider data collection opportunities they may have overlooked in the past, including some zero-party data collection methods that involve partnerships with subscription box companies and legacy media publishers. Unlike first-party data, which involves a company collecting insights about a customer or user, zero-party data is information that the customer or user proactively hands over to the brand.

Thanks in large part to the growing popularity of so-called subscription boxes, like FabFitFun and Blue Apron, brands have discovered that they can get their products into the right hands and also collect powerful data about consumer preferences without running afoul of the latest privacy regulations. Subscription boxes, which automatically deliver niche-oriented items on a monthly, quarterly, or yearly basis, have moved in alongside loyalty programs as a powerful source of consumer data for publishers and marketers. According to industry estimates, nearly one-quarter (22%) of subscription box companies saw an increase in subscriber acquisition rates last year, with food and beverage subscription boxes showing the greatest demand.

OK! Magazine’s new OK! Beauty Club is designed to provide just as many benefits to brand marketers as it does consumers. The club, which is free to join and available for users in the United Kingdom, is the result of a partnership between OK! Magazine and SoPost, which partners with beauty clubs and brands to create targeted campaigns and get samples into the hands of engaged consumers. By having members add their personal preferences in SoPost’s online sampling platform, the OK! Beauty Club generates unique zero-party data that brands and publishers can use for planning future marketing initiatives.

Giving subscribers the ability to share information about their habits and preferences ensures they receive samples of products they are actually interested in, and it leads to better consumer insights and higher engagement, explains SoPost CEO Jonny Grubin. In addition to being more likely to enjoy the products they receive, consumers are also more likely to engage with brands directly and leave reviews that can be syndicated via the SoPost platform, creating deep data insights for brands that want both consumer and product feedback.

“The main data type that can be accessed through SoPost’s community offerings is zero-party data, or data that each individual customer fills in,” says Grubin. “By filling in their own preferences, consumers get products that conform to their specific interests, which puts the power in brands’ hands to more intelligently target consumers who care about their products.”

Identifying Opportunities

Zero-party and first-party data have many benefits. For example, if brands use the data for intelligent targeting and remarketing, they can not only nurture existing customers to create repeat buyers but also better determine what types of consumers are more likely to be interested in their products for more general advertising campaigns.

New privacy protections have made third-party data more difficult to collect, and the challenges will only increase when cookies are removed by Google next year. For brands, that means there is a greater need for consumer data, since many of the most popular sources used previously are drying up. With consumer data playing a critical role in informing the latest wave of digital marketing and advertising strategies, it’s important that brands know they have somewhere they can turn that is also privacy-forward.

“In the future, even beyond 2022, I believe we will see a greater trend towards consensually-given data like zero-party as it has the potential to be both more privacy-compliant and more accurate than current data sources,” he says. “Brands can use this data much like other data types to learn about what their specific customers want to drive the best possible results for their digital campaigns.” 

Because most of SoPost’s brand partners already work with publishers, Grubin says being able to connect their sampling campaigns with other media activity creates opportunities for powerful multi-touchpoint campaigns.

“In addition to zero-party data, which is specific to SoPost’s communities, the majority of SoPost’s digital sampling channels can be used to create deep first-party datasets for brand partners,” Grubin says. “Advertisers can capture first-party data through marketing opt-ins on SoPost’s user journey via their choice of activation channels – we work with all the major social platforms, a wide range of premium publishers, and innovative ad tech partners.”

Stephanie Miles is a senior editor at Street Fight.

Stephanie Miles is a journalist who covers personal finance, technology, and real estate. As Street Fight’s senior editor, she is particularly interested in how local merchants and national brands are utilizing hyperlocal technology to reach consumers. She has written for FHM, the Daily News, Working World, Gawker, Cityfile, and Recessionwire.