Future Forward: Zero-Party Data and the Evolution of Retail Advertising


2024 introduces distinct challenges for retail brands navigating data privacy amidst Google’s removal of cookies. Though cookie depreciation has been a looming threat since the original announcement back in 2020, Adtaxi’s 2024 Privacy Survey tells us that 33% of respondents still lack a cookie-replacement strategy. If your brand is in this category, there is no need to worry — there’s a bright spot at the end of the tunnel.

Leading the charge in innovative, consent-driven strategies is the adoption of zero-party data, or data that consumers proactively share with a brand. This privacy-friendly approach empowers retail brands to create hyper-personalized targeting tactics, fostering genuine connections while respecting user privacy.

Retail brands need a compelling rationale to establish fair and just connections with customers through a privacy-centric approach for a successful zero-party data strategy. The question remains: where and how should they begin?

Elevating First-Party Data Amidst the Decline of Cookies

Begin your retail advertising endeavors by embracing first-party data. In today’s dynamic marketing landscape, leveraging first-party data is paramount to success. With its ability to  provide insights into past and current customer buying behaviors, first-party data empowers precise targeting, accurate measurement and intelligent attribution. Unlike outdated methods relying on cookies and third-party data, embracing first-party data signifies transparency and a direct, effective approach.


Brands can capitalize on this distinctive advantage by utilizing first-party data directly or via trusted partners to refine advertising precision, targeting consumers actively seeking products across their online shopping journeys and beyond. Many have recognized first-party data as a vital component in their commerce strategy, emphasizing the need to understand customer shopping behavior, including engagement with competitors, price sensitivity and purchase motivations. While this invaluable data has certainly proven its effectiveness, brands routinely run into issues with their ability to scale.

The dual challenge of scaling “gold standard” first-party data and adjusting to the absence of cookies looms large over retail advertisers in the coming year. To overcome this, successful brands will pivot toward zero-party data as a key element of their data strategy as well. This approach, which involves directly asking consumers for their preferences, enables brands to build a rich and reliable dataset, both scaling and enhancing their first-party data without relying on third-party cookies.

Optimizing Retail Advertising with Zero-Party Data

Retail marketers are continuously challenged to understand how well their products or services align with potential customer preferences. Enter zero-party data, a potent asset that goes beyond the limitations of relying solely on first-party and purchase history, providing profound insights into prospective customers’ needs and desires. Once harnessed, advertisers can deploy various strategic tactics to effectively utilize this data.

One strategic approach involves guiding customers to explore new product categories, all finely tuned to their preferences and interests. Let’s consider an apparel retailer employing zero-party data strategically in its advertising. In this scenario, the company adopts an interactive approach, prompting consumers with a survey placed within an ad unit. For instance, the survey may inquire about the customer’s specific shopping intent, such as what category of apparel they’re most interested in browsing. After the viewer answers the survey, they could then be served a promotion for that type of clothing or prompted to look through various items within that category.

The personalized nature of the ad, aligned with individual preferences, creates a willingness among shoppers to share the required personal interests. This fosters a deeper understanding of who they are and what they are looking for, enabling advertisers to refine their targeting strategies and deliver more relevant content. In essence, zero-party data becomes the cornerstone for advertisers to unlock innovative and personalized advertising tactics, creating a more meaningful connection with their audience and real-time insights for the brand.

Realizing the Potential of Zero-Party Data

Effectively leveraging zero-party data is a fundamental practice that may seem simple but holds crucial importance. The key is to pose the right questions to consumers, aligning them with the goals of the retail campaign. For instance, imagine you’re a luxury off-price retailer aiming to attract shoppers through a compelling new video ad campaign. In this scenario, your brand incorporates interactive video elements, such as viewer-friendly calls-to-action within the player and a post-view survey.

This interactive approach not only engages the audience but also provides the retailer with the opportunity to connect with qualified consumers. The use of survey questions like “Are you familiar with this retailer?” and “Are you likely to shop at this luxury off-price store?” serves as a subtle yet powerful tool.

If the objective is to boost familiarity or consideration, zero-party data comes into play here by extracting relevant signals from customers and optimizing campaigns based on their responses. This personalized approach ensures that the collected information directly contributes to achieving specific campaign objectives, resulting in more effective and personalized advertising.

It’s become essential for retail advertisers to seamlessly embed data collection within advertising campaigns, encouraging customers to willingly share their data. Opt-in mechanisms incorporated into these formats ensure an efficient and privacy-safe approach to gathering valuable consumer insights. By prioritizing user consent and clearly communicating the benefits of sharing data, retail brands can establish a positive and transparent environment that motivates consumers to actively participate in the data-sharing process.

A Glimpse into the Future

Brands and agencies are recognizing the value of zero-party data in creating meaningful connections with their audience while adhering to privacy standards. As we move further into 2024, with the removal of cookies we anticipate a much larger adoption of zero-party data. Successful brands are not only adapting to this change but also are setting the stage for a future where data-driven advertising is not just efficient but respectful of consumer privacy.

The challenges facing retail advertisers this year are met with innovative solutions centered around zero-party data. By strategically implementing zero-party data, brands can not only overcome the hurdles of data scaling and cookie removal but also elevate their advertising strategies to new heights, building trust and fostering personalized connections with their audience. The future of retail advertising lies in the hands of those who embrace privacy-friendly approaches, and zero-party data stands as a beacon guiding brands toward a successful and consumer-centric future.

Brian Mulderrig is the SVP at ViralGains, a marketing platform that enables brands and agencies to discover, understand and nurture customers by leveraging the power of zero-party data in ads through creative interactivity and audience-building AI solutions. Under his leadership, the company has achieved 215% revenue growth over the last four years. Prior to ViralGains, Mulderrig held sales leadership positions at ownerIQ (acquired by Inmar Intelligence) and Ziff Davis (NASDAQ: ZD).

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