Zero to Hero: How Brands Can Seize on Consumer Calls for Personalisation

Customer Relationship Management and Leader Concepts on Whiteboard

By Irem Isik, Head of Marketing, Storyly

Whisper it quietly, but the holy grail of marketing may finally be within our grasp.

We’re fast approaching the tipping point where brands no longer have to jigsaw together disparate bits of data to create a realistic image of a consumer. After all of the false promises and hard work of truly understanding the individual, it feels as if we’re reaching the stage where it might finally happen. That’s because we are entering the era of zero-party data.

This is a marketing phrase that has recently entered modern parlance. First coined by Forrester, zero-party data refers to personal information that a consumer proactively shares with a brand.

Data collection has become even more important following the pandemic. Digital change accelerated as consumers connected with brands – and each other – in greater numbers than ever before. This had the effect of making them more aware of their data, and their rights relating to its collection and use.

That can only be good news for brands. Yes, data privacy laws can be strict and cause headaches for marketers. But regulation and consumer awareness of their rights also sharpen focus on the benefits of exchanging personal details for a personalised experience. In turn, that offers brands new opportunities to target and engage individuals.

Gathering and using zero-party data is emerging as the best way to do that. It’s a solution that fulfils the expectations of both the brand and the consumer.

Zero-party data strategies compare well to other data approaches for a number of reasons. Third-party data sets tend to lack the accuracy of zero-party data; they’re also inefficient in that a lot of guesswork can be needed to build a complete picture of the consumer. Meanwhile, with the likes of Google and Apple turning against third-party data collection, marketers have even less room for manoeuvre when they try to fill in the blanks.

Unlike first-party data prompts, and laborious second- and third-party data curation, zero-party data is willingly offered by consumers. It’s therefore like gold dust and doesn’t seem a violation of their privacy. Consumers are urging brands to pay them back with tailored communications, offers, and experiences. The reward they really want is personalisation.

In its report Next In Personalisation, McKinsey states consumers are now demanding hyper-personalisation: “Want my money? You need to understand me.” The research reveals that 76% are more likely to buy from brands that personalise communications and content.

There are big rewards on offer for businesses, too. Companies that excel at personalisation generate 40% more revenue than those that don’t. Personalisation at scale equals profit – and in sharing zero-party data, consumers are willing participants.

But getting it right isn’t as easy as it looks.

Potential pitfalls of mass personalisation

While the zero-party data/personalisation value exchange may seem a panacea for the long-suffering marketer, it comes with many challenges and considerations.

It must feel natural to the user instead of an intrusive and continuously “pinging” experience. Gamifying the whole process with polls, quizzes and even open-ended questions is one way to do this.

Brands should also beware of engagement tipping into over-personalisation. While people demand experiences tailored to their preferences, likes, and dislikes, there is a risk of getting in the way of new experiences and inspiration. Brands are only ever one misstep away from over-personalisation, the type that creeps consumers out so they’re gone forever. Consumers therefore require a level of control over the personalisation aspect of app marketing. That means seeking feedback.

In addition, brands should guard against showing the same or similar things over and again. This delivers a boring experience to consumers and risks causing “content fatigue”.

One final note: if brands are collecting data in exchange for a promise to deliver better experiences, that value exchange must be immediate. Delayed gratification can cause frustration and push the consumer to look elsewhere.

Seizing the promise of personalisation

The key, then, is for brands to offer a personalised experience to the individual consumer without being accused of invading their personal space. With the right tools, there’s no reason why this can’t be achieved.

Once a brand has zero-party data in its grasp it becomes much easier to contextualize every communication to the individual. Cutting-edge analytics can help mine the data to find the moments that matter i.e. when someone shops; the communications they prefer, and in which channels; whether they’re on a train or on their sofa.

With greater frequency, those consumers will be engrossed in their mobile devices: researching, watching, learning, buying. And if they’re in that moment, and see something they desire, they’ll act.

Having identified these moments, it’s up to the brand to deliver the right narrative that will guide the consumer to a successful conclusion. That means push notifications, emails, messages, in-app Stories; many content forms, delivered as part of a multichannel strategy centred on understanding the context of the consumer’s activity, whenever and wherever they want to receive it.

Brands can get creative with their approach. Apps provide the perfect opportunity to experiment and engage, with content based on zero-party data analytics.

Understanding the consumer who wants a brand to get to the point; entertain them or collect feedback with polls, quizzes, and other forms of gamification; or offer the chance to post reviews that their peers will devour is key to building a personalised experience that engages the individual and leads them through the funnel.

While many brands are attempting to seize the chance to run polls and present quizzes, these tend to appear for the sole purpose of driving engagement metrics. But smart brands use these features as a feedback loop, drawing on insight from zero-party data to create value out of it. And believe me when I say it works: Interactive stickers on Storyly Stories received a 35% response rate across brands: this includes 46% from quizzes, 38% from polls and 20% from emoji sliders.

Take our client Grace Health for instance… An app on a mission to change the world’s attitude to reproductive healthcare for women, is a great example making use of zero-party data through Storyly Stories. They have garnered a 48% response rate using interactive stickers, allowing it to strategically collect and re-use the data for the sake of its audience.

As an early-stage start-up, Grace Health is powered by people who need tools that are as flexible as their responsibilities. The interactive capabilities of stickers on Stories make it quick and easy for users to give feedback, providing the brand’s creators with actionable audience insights.

Enabling an authentic user dialogue is also key to brand trust for the audience, offering them a safe space to ask questions, share concerns, and learn more about their sexual and reproductive health.

The app team often uses polls, quizzes, sliders and question stickers to ask users about their needs. It then uses the insights to create a high-value content strategy that keeps people returning.

Zero-party data is here, and it’s here to stay. Undoubtedly, consumer data privacy must take precedence and brands’ strategies are yet to be fully defined. But joining the “zero-party party” is now a vital part of customer engagement strategy success.

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