You’ve probably seen an abundance of targeted ads as you browse the internet and social media.

Have you ever visited a site once, only to find ads for that same product advertised across every platform you use? Did you mention a product in a conversation and find that you were served an ad for it just a few moments later?

You’re not alone.

These lead targeting methods are concerning internet users worldwide as they are seen as an invasion of privacy. According to Pew Research Center, most Americans feel this way.

In response to these concerns, Google announced earlier this year that the company plans to eradicate third-party cookie usage on Google Chrome. Apple also recently changed iOS software to turn off IDFA tracking, which helps advertisers send targeted ads to individuals.

While consumers are concerned about data privacy, it’s hard for brands to eliminate these practices from their advertising and marketing strategies.

But there’s a better way for customers to maintain privacy and still interact with the best brands. As a consumer, you need to know your options.

Recognize that Your Data is an Equal & Honest Exchange

First, companies should be asking their customers directly what matters most to them, rather than rely on third-party sources. When they do, they have more control over data, and consumers know who they are giving it to and why.

This prevents your valuable data from getting bought and sold around the internet – without your explicit permission. This practice is most often called zero-party data.

In practice, that translates to one of your favorite brands sending out a survey with questions about your shopping interests. If you answer the questions, they’ll give you recommendations to help you find what you’re looking for.

There is an equal exchange with zero-party data sharing – the company offers the consumer a benefit (discount, recommendations, access to new products). The consumer shares information with them that helps create a strategy.

Zero-party data is the future of data collection because it bridges the gap between advertising needs and consumers’ privacy concerns. Let’s take a look at what this means.

Increasing Transparency  

Instead of tracking users across platforms, monitoring clicks and time spent on pages, zero-party data is driven by optional messaging, personalized surveys, and cross-channel tracking that users opt-in for themselves.

This way, every time you interact with a brand, you have an active choice in the amount and type of information you want to share. You won’t be left wondering who has your data or what they’re doing with it. This type of transparency is a key tenant of zero-party data collection.

Accenture found that 91% of customers said they were more likely to shop with brands that give targeted advertisements and suggestions. Think of it this way: if you use any social media app, you have trained an algorithm to understand what you are interested in. It knows that you like dogs, so it sends you more dog videos. You don’t waste time sifting through irrelevant content to find what you love, it’s already there. It’s the same thing with brands.

In a recent survey, Cheetah Digital found that customers value a personalized experience so highly that 50% are willing to share personal information with brands. In the current age of marketing and advertising, customers are willing to establish a relationship with companies so that their needs are met more accurately. The collection and utilization of data can help brands improve customer retention and drive loyalty.

Ensuring data privacy and cultivating a personalized customer experience may feel like a catch-22. Still, companies are learning to bridge the gap with an honest, transparent approach through first-party and zero-party data.

Zero-party data is the way of information gathering that empowers companies and their consumers and feeds a stronger, more profitable relationship between the two.

This article is republished from hackernoon.com

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