What is Zero-Party Data and 7 Ways to Collect It

What is zero-party data and how can brands collect it? Marketers have been asking both questions since the iOS data privacy changes. We have the answers.

Kaleigh Moore
August 3, 2022

Everyone wants to increase conversions for their ecommerce brand. But it’s a vicious cycle.

To increase conversions, you need to know more about your customers—which means obtaining their data. To obtain that data, you need to rely on third-party data trackers—or at least, you had to in the past.

With the recent data privacy changes, that’s no longer the reliable option it once was. Suddenly, you need more conversions.

The good news: There’s a safety valve you can pull to break out of this cycle...

It's called zero-party data

As the world of online browsing privacy and advertising evolves, zero-party data promises to warm customers up to your brand, give you the insights you need to make more sales, and breakthrough conversion barriers. But for brands built on data from outside sources, getting started with collecting zero-party data can be a challenge. Not anymore.

Here are 7 ways to collect zero-party data:

  1. Quizzes
  2. Conversational Pop-Ups
  3. Post-Purchase Surveys
  4. Social Media Polls
  5. Product Onboarding
  6. Contests
  7. Account Creation

What is Zero-Party Data?

Third-party data means buying or renting information from third parties. First-party data means using onsite behavioral data from customers. So what exactly is zero-party data?

Zero-party data comes directly from customers when they volunteer it.

According to Forrester: “Zero-party data is that which a customer intentionally and proactively shares with a brand.” 

For example, if you run a clothing boutique and have a customer fill out a sizing quiz, you don’t need to sneak in any data collection. Customers are willing to provide you with the information you need that’ll help you better understand their needs and preferences.

One key benefit to zero-party data is in learning more about your customers, of course. But consider everything else marketing with zero-party data accomplishes:

  • Fulfilling regulatory requirements. With new regulations coming down the pike (in California, for example, the California Privacy Rights Act already applies to data you’re collecting in 2022), third-party tracking is becoming more difficult. 

  • Gaining actionable customer data you can use beyond 2022. You need information about your customers to improve conversions. But zero-party data also means clean data that doesn’t go against acts like the California Privacy Rights Act. There are no tricks or deceptions—and customers don’t feel bad for having shared it.

  • Driving new insights. Ultimately, your shop’s success comes down to engaging your customers and improving conversions. As you’ll see below, there are still plenty of ways to drive engagement without relying on third parties.

  • Building trust with your customers. When your brand only accesses customer data by asking for it helps them trust you enough to make a purchase.


How Brands Can Use Zero-Party Data?

There are tons of ways ecommerce brands are leveraging zero-party data on their owned and paid marketing channels. Here are a few examples:

  • Understand what type of content your brand should be creating to educate and entertain customers by learning about every customer’s intent and pain points.

  • Build personalized email flows to nurture quiz takers by putting them through a series of emails with messaging related to their interests.

  • Learn about the type of products your customers are most interested in, and use that information to inform your future product innovations. 

  • Tailor your website to individual customers, such as adding unique pop-ups that offer exclusive opt-in content (like targeted discounts).

  • Prospect more profitable customers by creating a lookalike audience based on your highest-purchasing audience in Facebook ads.

By knowing who your customers are and where they spend their money, you can position your products and brand better towards them. Essentially, you’ll learn how to focus your brand messaging and position yourself stronger. 

But before leveraging your zero-party data, you actually need to collect it. Below, we’ll get into everything you need to know to collect zero-party data. If you want a deeper dive, you can also check out our zero-party data marketing playbook.


What Shopify Brands Do to Gather Zero-Party Data

Here are seven of our favorite ways to gather zero-party data:

1. Quizzes

Think about the traditional brick-and-mortar retail experience for a moment. You’re browsing a few shelves, not quite focused on what it is you want, and a salesperson asks if they can help. You snap to attention and focus on what you are looking for. In just a few seconds, you transform from a browser to a bonafide shopper.

Quizzes are the online version of this interaction.

Consider Spongellé, a bath, body, and personal care brand. They livened up their customer personalization with a quiz that matched customers to their ideal fragrance. At the end of the quiz, the customer received a recommendation. In return, customers provided vital zero-party data about their fragrance preferences. 

Spongellé generated $250,000 in additional revenue—26% of which came from the quiz recommendations alone.

A quiz is the best way for your brand to collect rich zero-party data and provide value back to your customer by immediately recommending products, which significantly increases conversions and AOV.

Brands that use a quiz app like Octane AI can save all the datasets collected via the quiz and sync them to other providers (like Klaviyo, Attentive and Alloy) to personalize the flows customers receive via email, SMS, and other channels. 

Spongelle - Octane AI Shoppable Quiz


2. Conversational Pop-Ups

Brands like Ella + Milla, Miracle Mink Hair, and Bariatric Fusion are learning one thing: it’s better to talk to customers. 

Think of Conversational Pop-Ups as the digital equivalent of a retail check-in: are you finding everything all right? Can I help you find something? These Pop-Ups let customers answer one or two questions, giving you one or two data points for every customer. They’re a great tool for improving personalization and conversions without adding friction to the customer experience.

Conversational Popup from Octane AI - Bariatric Fusion

More importantly, these pop-ups mean new opportunities for retargeting and personalization.

Do they work? Conversational Pop-Ups help drive six times the conversions and twice the opt-ins—all while collecting vital zero-party data. 

Miracle Mink Hair, a haircare brand, collected 38,000 zero-party data points and made $154,000 with a single conversational pop-up in one month.


3. Post-Purchase Surveys

Once a potential customer converts into a paying customer, finding out what they liked about your brand can help you make conversions in the future. Email them post-purchase surveys—with an incentive for completing it—to get to the bottom of what’s going right.

Surveys are particularly valuable for brands who need to make online interactions feel more personal. Clinical skincare brand Colorescience, for example, ran a campaign with post-purchase surveys garnering 2,500 responses. They found 45% of customers answered that everything was great, but they also found a few red flags. 

The second-most popular answer was: not sure which color matches my skin. Colorescience responded with a “Foundation Finder” widget on their website, allowing customers to choose foundation colors and formats based on photo galleries of models. After that, new post-purchase surveys confirmed they’d made huge strides.



4. Social Media Polls

A poll is perhaps the most low-effort way to ask your customers for some zero-party data: which do you prefer? Think of it as A/B testing, only you’re asking customers for their direct opinions. 

Polls are especially effective on Twitter and Instagram, as customers have 20-40% more engagement with companies they encounter on social media. This feedback is vital at the beginning of a campaign, as Colour Pop Cosmetics demonstrated in an Instagram poll to help launch a product.

DTC brands in particular benefit from polls, as they serve as a direct conduit between product preferences and customers. For example, Skinny Mixes maintains active social channels so they can turn to a social media community for immediate product feedback.


5. Product Onboarding

At the point of product onboarding, your brand has already made the conversion from a visitor to a customer. The product is in their hands. But there’s still post-purchase information you can glean from this interaction that will inspire brand loyalty.

This is especially useful for SaaS, where an ongoing relationship with the customer is critical. Consider Lemlist’s onboarding process:

You (metaphorically) kill two birds with one stone here. 

  • First, it helps the customer focus their attention and align with the software they’re about to use. 

  • Second, it provides Lemlist with the zero-party data that tells them the user intent behind the majority of their conversions. Other questions—like the sizes of marketing teams—help Lemlist sort its most loyal customers into segments.

The result: a more accurate picture of the intent behind each user interaction. You’re no longer optimizing conversion data, but thinking about long-term loyalty. And you’re doing it without relying on third-party data.


6. Contests

Ever fill out a post-purchase survey because of the promise of a hefty gift card? Then you’re familiar with how easy it is to trade feedback and data, even when you might not win anything

Topaz Labs loves to run contests for its photography software, giving away photography-centric prizes like drones and backpacks to entice people to sign up and provide zero-party data.

A recent campaign reached nearly a quarter of a million page views with nearly 4,000 sign-ups to its software’s trial version. 


7. Account Creation

Give something away for free, and customers are often happy to sign up for your service. In doing so, they give you demographic information. Don’t ignore this opportunity to generate zero-party data!

This can accomplish something as simple as giving you a customer’s name, which leads to 26% higher open rates in the emails you send

Sustainable Women’s clothing brand Reformation even encourages signing up with email accounts in its in-person retail stores due to the impact it has on zero-party data for its brand.

When there are holidays, or big news events, social media platforms start showing their users more content in these categories because their algorithms have detected that these topics are getting more engagement than others. By creating your own content, or post, that relates to this trend, the social media algorithm is going to show your post to more people and you will have a chance at tapping into the core trend followers and receiving a huge boost in engagement.


Get Used to the World of Zero-Party Data

Shopify merchants are constantly competing for many of the same customers. In this environment, it’s easy to get used to the old ways of collecting data. But if you haven’t been paying attention, the sands are already shifting underneath your feet.

It’s time to get used to asking customers for data directly. And if you do it the right way—as the brands above all do—you can give your brand a leg up before the changes hit. Zero-party data isn’t just a good idea in customer interactions. It will soon be the only idea. And you’re going to want to know how to do it.

Ready to take the next step? Take our marketing personalization quiz to see which of the examples above sounds the most like what you need to do to take your zero-party data efforts to the next level.

👋 Subscribe to get the personalized marketing playbook for 🚀 supercharging Shopify

How top Shopify brands are increasing revenue by 10% to 30% with AI and zero-party data.