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Using Zero- and First-Party Data to Fuel Your E-Commerce Personalization Strategy

Learn how to use rich customer data to create personalized experiences that lead to improved engagement, loyalty, sales, and customer satisfaction.

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In a 2022 survey of online shoppers, 62 percent said a brand would lose their loyalty if it failed to deliver a personalized experience. Personalization is the name of the game for modern consumers, and e-commerce companies can’t afford to offer anything less than a truly bespoke experience. 

That’s only possible through rich customer data. Explore this guide to learn:

  • Why customer data matters
  • How to collect zero- and first-party data
  • What types of data points are relevant
  • How to personalize the customer experience at every stage
  • What tools are available to help

Time to dive into the data to deliver a next-level customer experience!

Why Use Rich Customer Data in Your Marketing?

Learn how rich customer data can lead to improved performance metrics. 

Meet modern marketing challenges head-on.

Collecting rich, zero- and first-party customer data can provide the insights you need to proactively combat some of the top challenges facing marketers today, including: 

  • Higher customer acquisition costs (CAC) due to increased competition
  • Less availability of third-party data from sources such as Google, Apple, and Meta
  • Elevated customer expectations for a tailored and seamless experience
  • Greater frequency of brand switching, making loyalty more elusive

How can data help?

To provide a stand-out customer experience that improves customer acquisition, engagement, and retention, you need to understand your customers. That understanding comes through data. 

Amid stiff competition, brands need to do more than provide a great product or a great deal—they need to create an emotional connection with their customers. Data can be used to create memorable shoppable moments unique to your brand and to each customer. 

Deploy data to improve key metrics.

By using data to personalize the customer experience, you’re bound to see some measurable results, including improved:

  • Customer engagement: Personalization can increase customer engagement by providing customers with content and offers that are tailored to their interests and behaviors. This bespoke experience encourages customers to spend more time on the website and ultimately make a purchase.
  • Customer loyalty: Personalization can build loyalty by making customers feel valued and appreciated. When customers feel like a business is going out of its way to provide them with a personalized experience, they are more likely to continue shopping with that business and recommend it to others.
  • Sales: Personalization can increase sales by providing customers with relevant product recommendations and special offers. This type of personalization makes the customer more likely to make a purchase and may also increase the average order value.
  • Customer satisfaction: Personalization can enhance customer satisfaction by providing a more relevant and enjoyable shopping experience. When customers feel like a business understands their needs and preferences, they are more likely to be satisfied with their purchase.

How to Gather Rich Data

Learn how to get rich data straight from the source: your customers.

The best way to get information is directly from your customers through first-party data (observations of customer behavior) and zero-party data (information provided explicitly by customers).

Some opportunities for gathering rich data throughout the customer journey include:

  • Web, email, and SMS analytics: One way to collect data is through your web and email analytics tools, which can reveal information about the ways consumers interact with your content and the purchases they make. 
  • Reviews: Analyze reviews from past and current customers and do a sentiment analysis to see what existing customers love—and don’t—about your company, shipping, products, and more.
  • Landing page forms: A well-crafted landing page can help you grow your list and gain more data on your potential customers while getting them to make a purchase, sign up for a free trial, or download a free piece of content.
  • Quizzes: Provide a personalized shopping experience and recommend relevant products with a pop-up quiz that asks e-commerce site visitors to share their shopping goals.
  • Surveys: A customer survey can help you get answers to specific questions you have or gain insight into broader topics such as customers’ overall experience with and attitude toward your brand.
  • Email preferences: Keep tabs on customers’ preferences when it comes to the types of emails they want to receive and the frequency with which they want to receive them. This can help you understand their interests relative to your brand.
  • Checkout: During checkout, consider asking for a bit more information than just shoppers’ email addresses. With an incentive, consumers may be willing to share their phone numbers, for example.

Make the connection clear between data and a personalized experience.

Remember, collecting this data doesn’t just benefit your marketing; it also shows customers you care about them and their experience. Concentrate on making that connection clear to your customers as you ask them to share information.

In a 2020 survey that asked consumers for their thoughts on sharing data with brands, the most popular answer was that they’d be happy to share their data if it led to an improved experience. Gen Xers, millennials, and Gen Zers are especially eager to share data in exchange for a personalized experience from brands. 

Ultimately, you want to create a mutually beneficial relationship with your customers in which they’re keen to share data, knowing they’ll get a first-rate experience tailored to them in return.

Provide an immediate incentive for sharing data.

Although data can certainly help you improve the customer experience over time, you’re more likely to gather rich data when you also provide an immediate incentive for the customer. 

For example, you can motivate customers by offering:

  • Personalized product recommendations
  • Exclusive promotional codes
  • Product freebies or upgrades
  • Birthday gifts
  • Free giveaways

The more motivated customers are to share information, the more detailed a picture you’ll be able to develop of your customers on both a holistic and an individual level.

Using Data to Empower Your Personalization Strategy

Learn what types of data to factor in and how to use it for powerful personalization.

What type of data can you turn into personalization? Consider these factors that should inform your personalization strategy:

1. Position in the Customer Journey

Experiences for non-customers, first-time customers, second-time customers, and brand VIPs should look different. Understanding a customer’s relationship with your brand can help you speak directly to them and take their relationship with your brand to the next level.

2. Demographics

Though no demographic label can tell you the full story about a customer, understanding basic information such as a customer’s age, gender, parental status, or geographical location can help you infer what types of messaging or product recommendations will resonate with them. 

3. Interests and Values

Seek to understand a customer’s interests, values, passions, and goals. These may be harder to quantify or label, but they are the things that drive them. Try to understand the unique qualities that define your customer segments and individual customers so you can connect with them effectively.

4. Buying Behaviors

Is this customer a seasonal shopper? Do they need reminders to revisit an abandoned cart? Are they an impulse buyer or a more methodical shopper? Understanding a customer’s buying behaviors can help you nudge them in the right direction and predict future behavior.

5. Unique Shoppable Moments

Occasions such as a customer’s birthday, their upcoming wedding, their pet’s birthday, or their anniversary with your brand can all provide shoppable moments that are unique to them. Knowing these dates and creating communications around them allows your brand to create hyper-personalized messages and more effectively nurture your customer relationships.

Keeping Your Data Clean

Keep in mind that more data isn’t necessarily better; think quality over quantity. Too many irrelevant or inaccurate data points can hurt your ability to truly understand your customers and your marketing campaigns’ performance. 

Start with your email list. Are you sending emails to recipients who consistently leave them unopened? These unengaged folks can not only hurt your email analytics but can also increase the risk of your emails being marked as spam.

You should also make sure your data is stored in one central database. Brands often have customer data living in various environments, which can make using that data a messy process and can lead to errors. For example, you may not realize that someone on your email list, someone on your SMS list, and someone who visited your store last week are all the same person. Ideally, you want to use a tool such as Klaviyo to maintain a single view of each of your customers so you can accurately understand their experiences and effectively nurture their customer journeys. 

How to Deploy That Data

You’ve collected rich customer data. Now what can you do with it? Opportunities for data-driven personalization abound throughout the customer journey. For example, consider the ways you could customize:

  • Email content
  • Pop-ups and overlays
  • Product recommendations
  • Content recommendations 
  • Promotional offerings
  • Landing pages
  • Product inserts or packaging
  • Search results
  • Customer service

In the next sections, we’ll look in more detail at how you can personalize the customer experience at every step of the customer journey.

Personalizing the Pre-Purchase Experience

Learn how you can deliver a bespoke experience even before someone becomes a paying customer. 

Don’t underestimate the power of a first impression when it comes to forming strong customer relationships. As OvationCXM points out, “The pre-purchase experience not only influences how likely someone is to become a customer, but also how likely they are to remain a loyal customer.” 

Here’s how to make a great first impression, driven by data.

Understand the pre-purchase customer journey.

Start by gaining a better understanding of your first-time customers and what their initial customer journey looked like. How did they find out about your brand? What motivated them to make a purchase? Understanding these trends can help you deliver an excellent pre-purchase experience that speaks to your potential customers’ needs and preferences.

Deliver on individual customer needs.

Next, focus in on the individual customer. The sooner you can get to know a potential customer, the faster you can learn how to effectively communicate with them. For example, a protein smoothie company should try to understand a customer’s nutrition goals. Are they trying to gain muscle? Lose weight? Get more vitamins? Feel more energized? 

Whether they’re in the early stages of considering your product or ready to make a purchase, you can improve the experience by recommending the right products or sharing informational content via email or SMS to help them achieve their goals.

Start conversations during the pre-purchase journey. 

Brands typically interact with a potential customer 5-12 times before they’re ready to commit to a purchase. This gives you plenty of opportunities to make a positive impression and showcase the benefits of buying from your team. To have these interactions, collect a consumer’s email address and phone number, and build an automated welcome series that:

  • Speaks to typical buyer pain points
  • Addresses common purchase objections
  • Offers direct lines to your customer support
  • Provides discounts on products or product categories they’ve viewed

Treat customers like VIPs through personalized customer service.

You want customers to feel like VIPs from the start. Treat every channel like customer support. With a tool such as Gorgias, your team can integrate email, social media channels, live chat, voice, and SMS all in one platform with all customer data syncing in one place. With this depth of data, your customer service team can deliver a personalized experience, greatly increasing the likelihood that someone will make a purchase.

Personalizing the Experience After the First Purchase

Learn how you can make the most of this time when customers are especially engaged.

From the time customers place their first order until they receive that order, they’re engaged and open to messaging. Take advantage of that time to make a positive impression and show your individualized approach to the customer experience.

Provide personalized order updates.

Clearly communicate during every step of the shipping experience. Rather than give up valuable traffic to shipping carriers, use custom tracking pages to keep customers updated. You can also keep customers informed through SMS and email updates, which help to keep their purchase (and your brand) top of mind.

Share content related to their purchase.

While customers are eagerly awaiting their delivery, this is the perfect time to share helpful or entertaining information about their product or about related products they might be interested in. You can even share lifestyle content to help them make the most of their purchase. For example, if you know they are drinking protein shakes to get more vitamins and build muscle, then share recipes that will help them do just that!

Cultivating Loyalty Through Continued Personalization

Learn how to wow customers well beyond their first purchase.

When a customer has made their first purchase, this is a great accomplishment—but the work doesn’t end there. Continue to use customer data to offer a personalized experience that encourages repeat purchases and long-term loyalty. Consider trying these strategies.

Provide a personalized loyalty program.

Loyalty programs can be a great tool, but the average U.S. consumer only actively uses less than half of the 16+ loyalty programs they belong to. Make your loyalty program engaging by personalizing the experience at every turn. Integrate data into all email communications to offer personalized rewards and recommendations, notify customers when they earn points, remind them how many points they currently have, and share any exciting events or promotions that are exclusive to loyalty members. 

Encourage active subscriptions.

Subscriptions are a great way to lock in repeat purchases. You can track purchase frequency and incentivize customers to sign up for subscriptions for their most relevant products. Keep subscribers engaged with:

  • Automated emails and SMS messages to gather feedback and connect them with customer support whenever a customer cancels or pauses a subscription
  • A sequence that aims to prevent cancellation by offering customers the opportunity to reschedule or delay an order, swap products or subscriptions, or take advantage of a discount 
  • A churn prevention series to lower the chance of churn when it is historically likely

Get customers to interact with your brand.

Encourage customers to write reviews, take and post photos and videos, and interact with your brand and products. Respond to this content wherever you can to build stronger customer relationships. Tools such as allow you to engage in social listening, tracking every Instagram story, post, and reel you're tagged in. You may also want to filter your data and create segments of potential influencers to collaborate with. User-generated content not only creates loyalty but also builds trust for new customers. 

The Ultimate Tech Stack

Equip yourself with these practical tools.

Here are some of our favorite tools for leveraging rich customer data in your personalization strategy:

  • Justuno: Collect first-party data and create a personalized and interactive experience on your website with Justuno.
  • Klaviyo: Customize email and SMS campaigns with dynamic content and track performance with Klaviyo.
  • Recharge: Manage your subscriptions and encourage long-term customer loyalty with Recharge.
  • Gorgias: Use Gorgias to sync customer data in a central location, allowing you to offer excellent customer service. 
  • Okendo: Use Okendo to gather feedback from customers through surveys and reviews and share these reviews with prospective customers.
  • Stamped: Gather and showcase customer reviews and facilitate customer loyalty functions including rewards and referrals with Stamped.
  • Octane AI: Create quizzes that help you get to know your customers and deliver a more personalized experience with Octane AI. 
  • Wonderment: This shipping tool allows you to precisely track orders so you can keep customers in the know and proactively address issues such as delays.
  • Boost your presence on Instagram and TikTok with’s tools for facilitating influencer marketing. 
  • PostPilot: Create personalized direct mail campaigns (and even create handwritten cards for an extra personal touch) and track performance using PostPilot. 
  • Segmentify: Manage customer data and use AI to create personalized experiences with Segmentify.  
  • GetEmail: This tool uses publicly available data to identify a prospective lead’s company email address in seconds. 
  • Triple Whale: Use Triple Whale to access your business intelligence and analytics in one user-friendly dashboard.
  • Engage customers with QR code-activated experiences they can access right there on the products they purchase using Brij.

From the customer’s perspective, the more personalization you offer, the more seamless the experience. On the back end, though, a lot goes into making that happen. 

Start making the most of customer data with a partner who can help you collect, manage, and deploy data for powerful personalization. At SmartBug, we have the e-commerce expertise and tools at our disposal to make it happen.

Let’s talk about your personalization strategy and how SmartBug can help!

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