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Over the past two years, marketers have adjusted to shifting consumer expectations in interacting with brands. This is evidenced by recent privacy changes at big tech companies, as well as new privacy legislation being introduced at the state and federal level throughout the U.S.

With 79% of Americans concerned about the way companies are using their data, and distrust continuing to grow, brands must now pivot away from previously relied on data tactics and evaluate new privacy-oriented strategies. This will allow brands to create targeted strategies to reach consumers while maintaining the personalized experiences they expect. The challenge is that many organizations have not previously depended on discovering and utilizing their own data sources, meaning they must develop new response strategies. These include allocating more resources to contextual marketing tactics, building zero and first-party data assets, and forming compliant second-party relationships. 

This burden now lies with marketers. They must develop new strategies that steward successful marketing programs while embracing data responsibility. Here are three ways to start.  

Placing privacy at your core

Although consumer concerns about data privacy aren’t new, in recent years, calls for stronger data privacy protections have become louder because consumers are becoming more steadily aware of how brands are using their data. Consumers are increasingly concerned about businesses misuses their data, and are often reluctant to share information because they want to maintain their privacy.


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Now is the time for marketers to revisit their attribution models and place consumer privacy at the forefront. With every action, a brand is either building trust — or eroding it.

According to BCG, more than two-thirds of consumers want customized interactions when engaging  with a brand, yet nearly half are uncomfortable sharing their data to receive personalized details. This leaves marketers at a crossroads. How can they offer a highly tailored customer experience without access to strong data and insights about an individual’s preferences and behaviors? The solution lies in zero-party and first-party data.

Shifting brand priorities to zero and first-party data

To deliver and exceed customer expectations, brands must pivot away from third-party reliance and look inwards towards data they have already collected on customers. And luckily, many brands already have the information offered by cookies — it just requires identifying and harvesting it.

The term zero-party data was coined in 2020 by Forrester, but the concept and practice has been around for much longer. Forrester considers zero-party data an innovative form of first-party data that a consumer intentionally and proactively shares with a brand. This is slowly becoming the heavyweight champion for marketers.

With the numerous touchpoints consumers come across when interacting with a brand, it’s not uncommon for zero-party data to reside in dozens of different places within the organization. By revisiting key channels, such as loyalty programs, preference centers, or surveys, brands are able to source new data and insights on their consumers. These channels are the cornerstones for locating new and more reliable data on consumers. This type of data also creates more trust between a brand and the consumer because they are willingly giving up data in exchange for a better experience when interacting with the brand.

By collecting these numerous data points, brands can bridge the gap between data and integrate it into actionable insights. 

Acting on data and delivering personalized brand experiences

Customers are more likely to shop with brands that provide relevant offers and recommendations. And this can be achieved by focusing on operationalizing zero and first-party data. By uncovering those previously untouched variables through data mining, brands must operationalize and use these variables to design a tailored customer experience. Brands that are mindful of every interaction with every consumer are able to retain as much data as possible. However, by asking for this data, you have implied that you will act on it and it’s now your responsibility to do so. 

With so many choices in today’s digital world, consumers don’t need to be loyal to one brand. According to SalesForce, 71% of consumers worldwide switched brands at least once in the past year and more than half (60%) say they will become repeat buyers of a retailer after receiving a personalized shopping experience. If you expand your understanding of what your consumers value the most when interacting with your brand, you can create a differentiated value for them through a more personalized experience. 

Your brand: Putting privacy and personalization together

Brands must start making changes that respect consumer privacy, and that starts by demonstrating to consumers that they value their communication preferences, rights, and personal data, and are using it in a way that is beneficial to the individual. Organizations that place data privacy at their core, rather than as an afterthought, will experience the most success. And although driving engagement will become more challenging, it is important work.

Now is the time for marketers to integrate data privacy into their brand’s identity and interact with consumers in an authentic, personalized way – with privacy at the forefront. 

Marketers, it’s time to get to work.

Todd Hatley is the Senior Vice President of Data, Insights, and Customer Experience at RRD Marketing Solutions.


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