Marketing data differences: zero, first, second, and third-party

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Data loves a party, but don't let all the different types put you in a spin.

There are plenty of different marketing data types to choose from and many ways to collect it but, in general, there are four broad categories you’ll want to know about:





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In this post, you’re going to find out everything you need to know about what each of these data types means and why they’re worth your time.

What is zero-party data?

Zero-party data is marketing data about a user that they proactively provide about themselves. 

Normally they’ll do this by directly answering questions, often with the intention of getting a better and more personalised experience from your business.

An example of this might be a feedback survey that pops up on a site asking something like ‘what kind of content would you like to see from us?’. If a user responds to that question, the information in that response is considered to be zero-party data.

It’s great because: zero-party data comes directly from the users themselves, so you know it’s accurate and genuine. You don’t have to infer anything or make any guesses.

What is first-party data?

First-party data is marketing data that is collected about a user directly by your business, as opposed to data that is collected by other parties or on other platforms.

Normally this is done through tracking cookies and pixels. A user will go onto your site and interact with it, and the tracking pixel will register the actions they take – what they click on, how long they spend on the page or what social posts they engage with, that kind of thing. 

While similar to zero-party data, first-party data differs in that the data is collected automatically – while zero-party data is deliberately given by the user.

It’s great because: you don’t have to lift a finger to get the data – it’s all picked up by the tracking functionality of your CRM. And the wide array of different data collected makes it that much easier to test and replicate what works.

What is second-party data?

Second-party data is marketing data about your users that is provided to you by a company or organisation that’s close to yours and often in the same industry – normally as part of a specific exclusive partnership.

This data is often the other company’s first-party data that they’ve collected themselves from their own customers. They’ll share it with you, often in exchange for your own first-party data, for money or because it will benefit them in some other way. It’s a symbiotic relationship where everyone wins.

It’s worth mentioning that second-party data – while valuable for expanding your view of your audience – won’t ever be as specific to your users as first or zero-party data you’ve collected yourself. No data is as accurate as the information your users provide themselves.

It’s great because: it’s quicker and easier than doing it all yourself, and it can also help you step outside your norms to see your audience from a different perspective.

What is third-party data?

Third-party data is marketing data which is collected and sold by companies who have no connection to your business or your customers. 

This data will be much broader and more generic than zero, first, or even second-party data but it is collected in more or less the same way. Data collectors will create surveys and hold interviews with large numbers of people and customers and then collect this data together to sell on.

You’ll generally get more responses and bigger datasets with third-party data but it will be much less targeted and can contain a lot of erroneous results – especially with the more random answers you can get.

It’s great because: it’s quick to access and can be great to confirm the findings of your zero and first-party data, giving you the bigger industry and world picture. 

Planning to put your marketing data to work? We can help – get in touch and let’s talk strategy.

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(Header photo: Amy Shamblen on Unsplash)