How Zero, First, Second & Third-Party Data Shape Marketing

Published On: 09 Jan 2024


Learn the power of data-driven marketing strategies with insights on zero, first, second, and third-party data types. Increase ROI and engagement today!

It goes without saying that data-driven marketing strategies are critical for brands to effectively reach and engage with customers. Successfully leveraging different data types, like zero party, first-party, second-party, and third party data, enables more personalized and impactful marketing.

A report from Forbes revealed that data-driven marketing strategies can increase ROI by as much as 5-8 times their campaign spend. This remarkable return on investment highlights the immense power of leveraging the right kind of data in the right context. In this blog, we'll explore how each type of data – zero, first, second, and third – plays a unique role in shaping marketing strategies.

Understanding Different Data Types

Leveraging different consumer data types represents a vital capability for brands seeking to effectively reach, engage, and build loyalty with their audiences. From declared zero party insights to trusted first-party intelligence, rich second-party perspectives to broad third party market views, each data source offers unique applications for powering marketing strategies and personalization in our privacy-first, consumer-centric age.

1) Zero Party Data: The Direct Consumer Insight

Zero party data refers to information that customers intentionally and proactively choose to share with a brand. This direct declaration of preferences, interests, needs, and other personal insights can be gathered through voluntary participation in surveys, feedback forms, profile questionnaires, and interactive quizzes.

In the context of measurement, especially in Incrementality Testing, zero party data is crucial. It offers direct insights into customer preferences and behaviors, aiding in the assessment of the direct impact of specific marketing initiatives.

Enabling zero party data collection fosters value-driven, mutually beneficial relationships where consumers offer transparency into their wants and behaviors in exchange for more personalized experiences. Consider an apparel brand conducting an optional Style Finder survey to capture color palette preferences, favored fabrics, typical usage occasions, and other stylistic insights from subscribers. These zero party declarations can then inform highly tailored recommendations and advertisements that reflect individual tastes.

Progressive brands are also incentivizing zero party data sharing by offering rewards like members-only discounts, early sale access, bonus loyalty points, or gated content in return for completed profiles. These opt-in programs increase enrollment while amplifying consumer voices for improved products, services, and messaging relevance.

They also offer compliant data collection that avoids infringing on consumer privacy. Adidas adiClub Membership Programme represents one example, granting users gear giveaways and special events access based on their activity log sharing.


Such creative mutual value exchange establishes the consumer foundation so integral for next-generation data strategies.

Suprio Guha Thakurta, an experienced business strategist and ex-chief Strategy Officer at The Economist in a recent post discussed the differences between first-party and zero party data in the context of the declining use of third party cookies, exacerbated by Apple's App Tracking Transparency initiative.


2) First Party Data: The Gold Standard

First party data constitutes the behavioral, transactional, and descriptive information a brand collects through direct owned-channel interactions across digital properties like websites, mobile apps, and online communities as well as brick-and-mortar store networks. This can range from purchase histories, website activities, loyalty programs, opt-in mailing lists, ratings and reviews, and CRM data to social media engagement, geolocation check-ins, user-generated content including imagery, and more.

This data is pivotal in Multi-Touch Attribution (MTA) and Marketing Mix Modeling (MMM). It provides detailed insights into customer journey touchpoints and the effectiveness of various marketing channels, thus enhancing the precision of marketing effectiveness measurement.

Robust first-party data assets enable advanced audience segmentation for highly targeted, personalized ad campaigns and customer experiences. Fashion merchandisers can segment mobile app users based on browsing behaviors to promote recently viewed items. Alternatively, hospitality brands may customize hotel landing pages with recommended local attractions based on a visitor's metro area.

While first-party data delivers incredibly rich, precise consumer perspectives, privacy remains imperative. Allowing customers transparency through clear opt-in consent and privacy policies helps secure trust that maintains data access over the long term.

A recent study indicates that 58% of marketers believe CDPs are very important for getting value out of customer data by offering a unified view of customer interactions from various sources. They ensure data accuracy, aid in real-time processing, and enhance personalization.

3) Second Party Data: Strategic Partnerships

Second-party data refers to consumer intelligence acquired from strategic brand partners through co-marketing initiatives, publisher partnerships, mailing list-sharing agreements, or aggregated data platforms.

Unlike third party data providers, second-party data partners directly own original audience insights from their own branded assets and engaged communities. By contractual data exchange or licensed access, second-party assets can expand their reach while preserving security and privacy standards.

For example, an eco-conscious fashion retailer could partner with a like-minded organic restaurant chain to promote sustainability programs. They can measure program success and exchange segment analytics to inform future initiatives by accessing each other's customer emails under agreed terms. Similarly, consumer tech brands frequently amplify launch campaigns by sharing early adopter segments.

In a measurement-focused approach, this data enriches Multi-Touch Attribution (MTA) and Marketing Mix Modeling (MMM) analyses. It broadens the understanding of customer behaviors and market trends, offering a more expansive view of marketing effectiveness across various channels and partner ecosystems.

When combined with a brand's first party data strategy, second-party data introduces supplemental perspectives that provide a more three-dimensional understanding of shared target audiences. These collaborative data alliances allow for larger brand positioning and strategy optimization based on expanded channel insights.

4) Third Party Data: The Broad Perspective

Third party data refers to information compiled and aggregated by external data brokers who source broad consumer intelligence across public government sources, credit agencies, published surveys, website behavioral tracking, location data providers, and more. As third party data providers have no direct relationship with the consumers or brands using this data, the insights tend to be more generalized despite the large scale.

Still, third party consumer data often powers market analysis, competitive intelligence, and audience discovery initiatives. It allows brands to spot emerging trends, size up untapped customer segments beyond their owned channels, or activate new geographies.

For example, franchise brands use third party insights to evaluate optimal expansion locations, while publishers lean on third party psychographic data to improve readership models and ad relevancy.

However, data privacy legislation like GDPR and CCPA has severely restricted access to more sensitive data fields around geographic, financial, health, political leanings, and other categories. Paired with the rising consumer wariness of uncontrolled data sharing, third party sets have declined in both breadth and specificity compared to just a few years ago. Their application requires careful compliance and ethical balancing today.

While third parties still support expanded perspectives when applied judicially, direct zero and first-party data now represent the foremost drivers of customer intelligence capability. Tomorrow's brands must champion transparent, value-based data relationships that respect consumers as equal partners if they hope to thrive through relevant messaging and experiences that build trust.

Mikko Piippo is a digital analytics and marketing expert who provides practical tips on leveraging data to drive growth. In a recent post, he summarizes the key data types: zero party data directly shared by consumers, first-party data collected from a company's customers, second-party data shared between partner companies, and third party data sourced externally. His advice is to focus on zero and first-party data to build trusted consumer relationships that power personalization.


Data Types in Action: Real-World Applications

1) Enhancing Personalization with Zero and First Party Data

Direct zero and first party data represent the most valuable asset for hyper-personalizing marketing campaigns and customer experiences. As privacy regulations evolve, brands must adapt their personalization strategies. Rather than relying solely on third party data, savvy marketers are focused on collecting zero and first-party data directly from customers. This transparently obtained data powers hyper-personalized experiences.

For example, online retailer Andie uses their Fit Quiz to gather zero party data like style and size preferences.


They combine this with first-party data from their ecommerce site in a CDP. This powers automated email flows with tailored product recommendations. The results? A 343% conversion rate boost for Andie.

The key is consent - customers explicitly provide the data and understand how it will be used. This fosters trust while enabling true one-to-one personalization. Reduce generic messaging and drive higher engagement and conversions with zero and first-party data.

2) Leveraging Second Party Data for Niche Targeting

Second-party data helps brands expand their reach within niche target groups outside their owned channels. Take California wine producer Winc, which traded email lists with upscale hotel chain Four Seasons based on hospitality guest spending analytics. This exclusive wine club member access supplemented Winc's existing base to penetrate a highly relevant yet difficult-to-access customer segment with specialized vineyard partnerships.

Meanwhile, Verizon shared cellular plan subscriber segments with Walt Disney Parks to better target families for seasonal deals leveraging one brand's strength with parents and the other's appeal among kids and teenagers. Such exclusive second-party data swaps can unlock valuable new micro-segments.

3) Utilizing Third Party Data for Market Expansion

While less targeted than directly sourced data, third party sets still deliver broader market perspectives that support expansion initiatives. Consider fast-casual restaurant chain Chipotle, which turns towards third party psychographic and behavioral data to help enter the European market. By profiling key consumer habits and food preferences based on aggregated panel and survey data, they tailored new store designs, ingredient sourcing, and their marketing campaigns to align with each regional market's expectations.

That said, heavy reliance on broad third party intelligence over time poses risks. This highlights why directly collected zero and first-party data must anchor personalization efforts, with only supplemental support from third party sources to segment their customer needs and preferences. Compared to untargeted emails, segmentation helps marketers send more relevant emails, which increases open rates by 30% and click-through rates by 50%. An estimated 64% of firms employ segmentation in their email marketing. The most successful brands focus less budget on massive but imprecise data acquisition and segmentation, and more on building genuine customer relationships through owned channels.

Integrating Data for Comprehensive Marketing Strategies

Nowadays savvy marketers integrate zero, first, and second-party data assets to inform larger strategies rooted in rich customer intelligence. This comprehensive approach delivers more relevant experiences and communications compared to any single data type alone.

Strategic integration enables both a wide lens and microscope view from customer journey analytics revealing cross-channel behavioral patterns to campaign personalization optimized for micro-segment tastes. Brands must ingrain responsible data usage across teams through governance frameworks that embed privacy and compliance by design. Marketers should champion value-based data relationships where consenting customers get rewarded for transparency with more personalized value in return.

With strong first party data pillars and zero party co-created insights in place, secondary sources can layer on supplemental perspectives. However, third party data reliance should be minimized due to imprecise targeting and rising regulations. Approaching data strategies as an ongoing journey instead of a one-time project allows brands to responsively adapt to consumer feedback and legislative environments.

Brands that will thrive are those investing in customer intelligence platforms that ethically unify data sources into powerful assets. They also cultivate organizational data literacy through training to drive informed decision-making. With a comprehensive view of the customer and an ingrained culture of data responsibility, brands can build genuine loyalty through relevant messaging and experiences that respect consumer needs.


In closing, first-party intelligence remains the foremost asset for personalization while zero party insights directly anchor experiences to consumer needs. Combined they fuel relevant messaging and lifetime engagement. Yet second-party partnerships can fill gaps unlocking valuable niche audiences. More broadly, judiciously applied third party data identifies growth opportunities to quantify market potential.

Still, brands must champion responsible data practices respecting consumer privacy and evolving regulations. As new data applications arise, transparency through updated privacy notices and consent processes maintains trust.

Future-focused marketing stacks like Lifesight allow seamless, ethical data orchestration - unifying zero, first, and second-party assets while minimizing third party dependencies. This comprehensive approach makes every touchpoint count through campaign relevance rooted in customer intelligence. Request a demo today to transform data into better consumer experiences driving measurable impact.

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