Data Privacy and Security


What Is Zero-Party Data?

Mary Kearl By Mary Kearl Jul 13, 2022

First there was third-party data. Then first-party data. Next came second-party data. And now there's a new type of customer data marketers need to know about—and start collecting. That's right, you guessed it: Zero-party data. More likely than not, you're probably already collecting some zero-party data, a term Forrester first introduced in 2017.

But what is zero-party data, anyway? That's what we're here to answer. We'll cover what zero-party data is, why it’s important, and explain the difference between zero-party data, first-party data, second-party data, and third-party data.

What is zero-party data?

Forrester defines zero-party data as "data that a customer intentionally and proactively shares with a brand, which can include preference center data, purchase intentions, personal context, and how the individual wants the brand to recognize her."

Common types of zero-party data include the preferences a customer selects in your brand's preference center or answers to a poll on your website. In general, if your brand uses polls, quizzes, preference centers, or forms to learn about and capture information about your customers, then you already have some zero-party data at your disposal.

What’s the difference between zero-party data vs. first-party data vs. second-party data vs. third-party data?

While first-party data and zero-party data are both data that your brand collects (as opposed to a second or third-party doing the collecting), zero-party data is a more direct form of data collection compared to first-party data. First-party data includes indirect and inferred insights, such as a user's website browsing activity or engagement with emails or in-app messages, while zero-party data is information customers explicitly share with your company, such as responses to a survey.

First-party data definition: This is customer data that your brand (the first party) collects and tracks with your customers' permission. First-party data is information that users share—directly and indirectly—with brands when they're using a brand's owned website, app, or digital experiences.

First-party data example: When a user opts into receiving push notifications from a company and clicks on a notification from that brand, the activity that the brand tracks is considered first-party data.

Second-party data definition: Often referred to as “somebody else's first-party data,” second-party data is data that has been collected by a first party that your company then partners with to leverage, such as publishers or a platform with a second-party data marketplace.

Second-party data example: For example, publishers may offer up their owned (first-party) data to advertisers as second-party data that can be used to reach similar customers within the publisher's network.

Third-party data definition: This is customer data that is collected by a company other than your brand (i.e. a third party). Third-party data is often captured without consumers' knowledge or direct consent.

Third-party data example: For example, publishers may allow third parties to track their website visitors (for a fee), collecting information that can be used to create customer profiles which is then sold to advertisers for targeting purposes.

Why is zero-party data important?

As a rule, you can't have a company without customers—and if you don't know your customers and have information about their wants and needs, then you’ll struggle to properly market your brand's products and services as the solutions that meet their wants and needs.

Through a digital marketing lens, if you want your customer engagement campaigns to deliver results, you need a best-in-class customer data collection strategy in place to find out who your customers are and use these insights to power both your personalized marketing efforts and data-driven marketing strategies.

But of course, not all data is created equally. In particular, there are known disadvantages of second-party datait's usually more expensive to get, with second-party marketplaces able to set their own price and it can be challenging to use at scale—as well as known disadvantages of third-party data: Beginning with GDPR and CCPA, there's been a bigger push for consumer privacy that’s impact brands and individuals in countries and regions around the globe. At the same time, Google has announced plans to kill off third-party cookies in Chrome, joining other browsers like Safari and Firefox, and Apple's recent privacy-focused changes will make it harder to rely on third-party data going forward.

In response to third-party cookie deprecation and privacy-related shifts like Apple's updates to IDFA, nearly all—90%—of retailers and eCommerce brands Wakefield Research surveyed as part of the the Braze 2022 Retail Customer Engagement Review said they plan to increase their marketing budgets. In addition, our cross-industry 2022 Global Customer Engagement Review found that 35% of brands plan to allocate increased budget to focus on zero- and first-party data.

How do you collect zero-party data?

As mentioned above, some popular ways brands can collect zero-party data include via:

Brands can use the following messaging channels to collect zero-party data:

How do you use zero-party data?

One way marketers can use zero-party data collection strategies is to learn more about anonymous users—that is, customers who visit websites or use apps without logging in or choose to continue browsing as a guest. After all, up to 86% of retail users and 57% of users across all brands' users are anonymous, representing a huge untapped audience to get to know and engage. You can build your anonymous user engagement strategy with a quick survey or by encouraging them to opt into hearing from your brand via their preferred channels.

Final Thoughts

Ready to get started? Check out our Anonymous User Campaigns guide for 6 ideas to grow and leverage zero-party data to get to know your anonymous users once and for all. Plus, read the full 2022 Global Customer Engagement Review, to learn why brands are increasingly investing in zero-and first-party data strategies.


Mary Kearl

Mary Kearl

Mary Kearl is a writer and digital strategist, who has led email, social media, and content marketing for several brands. She has helped launch six mobile apps and one niche social network and is always up for a good Netflix/Hulu/Amazon Prime binge recommendation or travel tip

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