I’d never try to explain the difference between first- second- and third-party data to friends outside of work. They probably wouldn’t remain my friends for too long! But for marketers, knowing which kind of data they are working with is crucial to understanding both compliance risks and likely performance.

First-party data is the most reliable. This is your data, collected from your customers, about the things they do within your own environment. Nobody is scared of first-party data. You know where it has come from, and you know how It has been collected-and you own it already. Plus, it Is likely to be your very best performing data too! There’s a whole privacy piece about this but that’s for another day.

Second-party data is gathered by another trusted data collector directly from the data subject. It is very easy to track provenance. The data could be about general lifestyle or demographic traits or about specific brands and products. Second Party data is often expensive to collect but when managed by a trusted supplier you can fill your marketing funnel with lots of great leads – and all recently collected. More on this shortly.

Third-party data is collected from the data subject by many collectors, about many things, then aggregated and distributed by someone else. Often to other aggregators. It is possible to find trusted third-party data, but it can be more difficult. It is important to trace the data back to its origin to be sure of its compliance. Even some of the strongest brands in the UK (clients and suppliers) have got it wrong. It terrifies marketers and DPOs alike, but sourced and managed correctly it can deliver value.

For now, it’s fair to say everybody loves first-party data. We are often told how we’re going to rely upon it when the cookie-less future finally arrives. The thing is, who has enough of it?

Happily, there’s always another party. Zero-party data is data intentionally shared by a data subject specifically about you or your products. This can be done on a form, a survey, or even a game. What it lacks in volume, it more than makes up in accuracy. It’s the difference between asking someone what size shoe they wear instead of guessing what size someone wears because it’s what they looked at online (trust me, it is easy to make this mistake!). If you’ve ever completed a questionnaire on skin types on a cosmetics website you’ve happily handed over zero-party data.

Zero-party data is a turbo charge for customer marketing, and you should take every opportunity to collect some more. You need it. Your customers and your website visitors want to share it with you. What’s holding you back?

Nothing at all. In fact, the question you should be asking is how can I get more?

What about all those people who somehow haven’t visited your website yet? They would rather receive marketing about things that are interesting to them too. If there was a way you could ask them about the things you want to know before they visited your website, just think of the personalisation possibilities.

A client recently ran a campaign with us relating to people’s pets. They were struggling to engage their prospects, so within the questionnaire they used to gain consent for contact, they began to capture the name of the pet at the same time. Content was then personalised, and prospect engagement went through the roof. That is the power of zero-party data.

There are many ways in which you can capture zero-party data outside of your own website. Examples include online data collection sites, landing pages, or Facebook forms. It might be a weird idea to wrap your head around, but you can use second-party data providers to collect zero-party data for you. The consumer knows they are giving their data to your brand, and they expect you to contact them. It’s never been easier to gather data to make your messaging more personalised and more relevant.