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Virtually every country across the globe has enacted privacy laws to protect consumers’ personal data. It started with the European Union’s landmark GDPR regulation, which pushed data privacy into the spotlight, and continued as tech companies conceded to consumer demand for more control over how personal data is collected, bought, and utilized. Now on the heels of the EU announcing their Digital Markets Act to combat Big Tech’s hold on the world, the U.S. is working to pass the Choice Online Act and the Open App Markets Act, on top of the already existing state-led legislation like the California Consumer Privacy Act.

Even Apple and Google have made fundamental changes that signified the death of third-party signals, which left marketers scrambling to adapt and quickly figure out what the future of personalization will look like. 

While it may seem like these laws and regulations will limit the personalization capabilities of marketers, zero- and first-party data remain key to humanizing digital interactions and experiences.

Personalizing campaigns through existing data

The first step to creating digital experiences that satisfy the human experience is for companies to get to know their customers. Think about your interpersonal relationships: you take the time to understand your friends’ and family’s needs and wants, and humanizing digital experiences requires the same effort. Zero-party and first-party data, which customers share voluntarily, or marketers collect through behavioral patterns, can create personalized marketing experiences without sacrificing customer privacy

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By leveraging this customer data, marketers can develop campaigns that inform customers of relevant information such as the closest physical store’s hours, cart reminders or product suggestions that anticipate customer needs. These tactics improve customer experience by putting the customer first. There’s an important and understood value exchange between consumers and marketers. Consumers willingly give brands information about them and their interests, and marketers leverage it to build a seamless shopping and browsing experience.

Humanizing the digital world through the omnichannel

Digital can also help bridge human connection. For example, if your friend is making a recommendation on a TV show, workout or pair of jeans, that “social proof” is valuable information that we use as cues in our everyday lives. Digital experiences can achieve the same thing. At a pivotal moment in the consumer journey, companies should show consumers the social proof in the form of ratings and reviews or how many other shoppers are engaging with the product they’re viewing. This connects other people’s behaviors to their own, making the experience feel more personal than transactional. 

Zero- and first-party data have been and always will be fundamental components of marketers’ toolkit to create personalized marketing campaigns. As the consumer path to purchase becomes increasingly nonlinear, however, brands now must incorporate and prioritize omnichannel strategies to level up the overall experience. 

For example, estimates show that consumers now check their phones 96 times a day. Consumers use their phones for new product discovery and identifying brick-and-mortar locations for in-store purchasing, creating a heightened need for more seamless omnichannel communication strategies. Consumers don’t shop Brand X in mobile, Brand X in email, Brand X in social — they shop Brand X. 

To provide digital experiences that satisfy and personalize human experiences, the experiences need to be connected regardless of channel. Failure to do so would be akin to texting with your friend about upcoming plans, and then you call them “not knowing” what you’re talking about. The experience can’t be siloed.

This is uncharted territory for marketers. The legal landscape on data privacy is continuing to expand, and it’s making many industry experts nervous, given that data is the fuel marketers live on. However, this is why knowing how to leverage existing customer data to produce valuable business results is so vital. By establishing the right data strategy by leveraging zero- and first-party data, the overall digital experience will improve.

Julio Lopez is senior director/practice lead, retail strategy at Movable Ink.

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