As tracking people online is being curtailed by tech companies and governments alike in the face of privacy concerns being raised, marketing based on third-party data is coming to an end.

For those of you who haven’t read the deluge of articles on this topic and would rather avoid them, we’ve summarized it into a simple, mildly-entertaining infographic:

The Data Party and Three Degrees of Separation

Zero First Second Third Party Data

Customer data is ranked on how close it is sourced from the customer: (0) Zero-party data is stuff that is volunteered by customers in profiles, surveys and so on. (1) First-party is information collected by the business during a transaction like what the customer bought and how much they spent. (2) Second-party is the same as first, except it comes from a business sharing its customer data with another company. (3) Third-party is now considered the evil kind. Those were the cookies (in reality a unique data tag) that tracked everything you did online, and was made standard by sites like Facebook.

And now that you know those scintillating facts, we’re going to move on. It’s important for your marketing company (it should be us) to know the ins and outs of data. We hope you – the potential or existing client – can stay focussed on what you do best: running your business and making your stuff or providing your service.

You’ve likely heard a lot about the shift to zero- and first-party data, and that’s far more technical than it needs to be, because it’s rather dry marketing speak for once again paying attention to the customer’s real behaviour, not stalking them like a guy in an overcoat hawking watches on the street corner in the hopes they’ll buy a fake Rolex.

Interaction Shows Interest

Tracking customer behaviour is not going away, but zero- and first-party data are what we’ve been willing to give people who sell to us long before the digital age landed on us. Information collected this way doesn’t raise privacy concerns when it’s used to entice us to make a repeat purchase:

Information customers are happy to share

Consider these examples:

“Mr. Smith. Welcome back. I see you bought a suit and some shirts the last time you were here. You’re in luck, we have a new collection in.”

“Ms. Abara, this is Kim calling from the kitchen shop. I understand you were asking about glass storage jars. We have a wonderful selection arriving in next week’s shipment.”

“Welcome back, Ravi237. Based on your previous purchases we think you might like these 12 items or explore any of our 36 categories. Please feel free to speak to our online customer service representatives at any time.”

Online, we willingly interact with brands we like. We sign up for newsletters, discounts and free draws. And we also buy online from brands and stores that we trust. Once we’ve entered our contact info, that gives the company a window of time to directly market to us. We can always opt out, and now more than ever it’s in a company’s best interest to develop a relationship with us.

Matt Collette of Edelman Canada calls the engaged customer a super customer because of the outsized influence they wield in determining what is likely to resonate with less-vocal customers, but they are nothing new in the marketplace. They’ve been known for decades as a preferred customer – someone that has proven that they buy more often and they spend more money with companies they patronize.

Today, the preferred customer can overlap with social media influencers. While preferred customers don’t accept compensation for their recommendations on social media, they are the early adopters and evangelists for what is new, what is cool, and what delivers on its brand promise consistently.

Leveraging the New Normal

As the data-tracking cookie dies, it’s time to pivot back to some of the old ways from the dark misty fuzzy wayback time. You’re likely already collecting zero- and first-party data as part of your normal business transactions, and that’s great. Because the cost of acquiring customers is only going up (and significantly so), while retaining a customer you already have is not only less expensive, it’s a solid investment.

Building that personalized relationship with someone that has proven they buy regularly keeps your business at the top of their mind. Their buying and word-of-mouth recommendation power cannot be underestimated. It’s a strategy that works equally well for brick & mortar locations as well as online communities.

Infinity Reef is a small, nimble agency that outperforms for its size and responds well to client engagement and collaboration. Contact us and we’ll be happy to have an unhurried, in-depth conversation with you.