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Business Pro Tip: Move Beyond a Third-Party Data Strategy

With privacy concerns growing around invasive data acquisition methods, marketers are asking people to directly share their feedback—commonly called zero-party data. Associations should look into that, and other ways to wean off third-party data.

You might have heard the term “zero-party data” floating around recently, but you’re likely to hear a lot more about it in the coming years as organizations large and small try to figure out ways to square the gap between privacy and data acquisition—something that has grown more controversial because of marketers’ aggressive use of third-party data.

It’s a trend that, if you care about using data to get results, you don’t want to ignore.

What’s the Strategy?

Zero-party data, a privacy-first approach, involves members or customers volunteering data to you rather than you seizing it.

You may need to give your audience something in exchange for that data, but the benefit is that the data comes from a direct source that has consented to sharing information with your association. Perhaps this is done through a member survey, or even a sit-down interview. It’s different from third-party data, which helps you understand how people use your offerings by gathering information from sources other than asking users directly, such as studying page views or actions across websites.

While not a new approach, zero-party data has been growing in prominence, in part because it moves away from the assumption-based strategy of third-party data gathering.

Why Is It Effective?

To put it strongly, developing a zero-party data strategy is effective because the alternatives may eventually prove untenable. Growing concerns about consumer privacy might leave some data-heavy personalization approaches out to dry.

The shift toward zero-party data is highlighted by some recent research from Forrester that finds that 9 in 10 marketers expect to implement zero-party data approaches in the next year.

Organizations will have a learning curve in how to gather and use zero-party data, but it has its benefits. Over at the marketing blog The Drum, Cadi Jones of the research technology firm Qmee makes the case that zero-party data actually has much more value than more traditional third-party data, as it makes context and intent more obvious to the organization.

“The promise of zero-party data for publishers with strong and trusted relationships with their audiences is to deliver the ability to offer targeting across their owned and operated inventory, even in areas without context,” Jones said. “Targeted inventory has a much higher value to brands, allowing them to reach the right user at the right time.”

What’s the Potential?

Zero-party data isn’t the only way for associations to move away from the potential dead end of third-party data acquisition strategies.

First-party data—aka data acquired by the organization with the end user’s consent, is one such strategy that could prove effective, as it could centralize data usage, easing privacy concerns.

One idea recommended by organizations including Digital Content Next and the marketing website Campaign is to build more in-depth relationships with publishers, which can offer many of the benefits of a third-party data approach without some of the negatives.

“Publishers understand their audiences and are building cohorts—a group of users that share some common attributes or behaviors—from their first-party data insights,” wrote Aphrodite Brinsmead, a senior product marketing manager for Permutive, on the Digital Content Next website. “This will give publishers an opportunity to build direct relationships with buyers, as publisher cohorts are privacy-safe. They allow advertisers to continue to target and reach audiences post-cookie, across platforms.”

(lucadp/iStock/Getty Images Plus)

Ernie Smith

By Ernie Smith

Ernie Smith is a senior editor for Associations Now, a former newspaper guy, and a man who is dangerous when armed with a good pun. MORE

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