Brick & Mortar Businesses Embracing Zero and First Party Data Strategies Are Poised to Weather the Third Party Data Industry’s Decline. Is Your Company on the Hype?

In the intricate world of digital marketing, the landscape has never been straightforward, and it’s especially complex today with a plethora of data providers categorized into DMPs, DSPs, CDPs, MDPs, and numerous other acronyms that form the backbone of the digital marketing ecosystem in which businesses operate. 

Among these, cookies have been a focal point — a BO HO HO for clients and a legal and DPO headache, yet a vital ingredient for digital marketers who rely heavily on harvesting these “tasty cookies” through various means: high quality online content offered for free, search engines that display relevant results instantaneously, thematic web portals that freely assist you, social media platforms connecting you globally at no cost, and mobile apps that lay the world at your fingertips for free. But pause for a moment — are all these digital universes truly free? The answer is yes, because when a product is free, the real product is you, the reader. Each time you venture online, you feed the vast industry of digital marketing cookies — essentially, Third Party Data — without which the internet would not function as swiftly, relevantly, or tailored to your preferences as it does today.

Let’s dig a bit in the world of First and Zero Party Data

First Party Data is crucial as it paints a clear picture of a user’s interaction with a website, mobile app, WiFi authentication funnel, digital menu, product catalog, or shopping cart. For brick-and-mortar businesses, First Party Data examples include the journey customers take to place an order in a restaurant after scanning a QR code for the digital menu, the value of products ordered directly from a cinema’s web app, items and their values added to a shopping mall visitor’s shortlist, and many other sets of data critical for each type of business.

Zero Party Data, on the other hand, comprises personal information that users willingly share with your business. This includes, but is not limited to, phone numbers, email addresses, gender or sexual orientation, age range or birth date, marital status, whether or not they have children and their ages, among other data that aid in tailoring messages for one-to-one communication.

Zero Party Data, in combination with First Party Data, is a goldmine for any savvy marketer

Visitors to a shopping center, concertgoers, football stadium fans, or restaurant customers will not hesitate to share their personal data as long as they trust your brand and are assured, they will receive only relevant marketing communications from you. Let’s engage in a thought experiment and consider Florina, a 41-year-old mother of two visiting the Sun Plaza shopping center in Bucharest. In this venue collects Zero Party Data and First Party Data, which are synchronized with PlaceWise (an MDP with a CRM role that collects Zero & First Party Data through a loyalty system). Florina uses the mall’s WiFi for better indoor internet connectivity. ZARA, one of the stores in Sun Plaza, has a promotion on office suits 40% off. Utilizing the collected data, and PlaceWise successfully identify Florina’s presence in the mall, her proximity to the ZARA store, and automatically send her a promotion via email/SMS: “Today only at ZARA Sun Plaza, enjoy a 40% discount on women’s office suits. Present code ABCDEF at checkout to benefit from this promotion.”
In this case the user received a very relevant promotion with a high probability of benefit of it. So, as long as you craft your marketing message very relevant to your customers they will have no problem sharing Zero Party Data with your brand. 

So, why the urgency with ZERO & First Party Data? 

If the current digital marketing landscape operates efficiently with its global data collection engines, you might wonder about the rush to shift strategies towards Zero & First Party Data. Laurentiu Cenusa, co-founder of, sheds light on this pressing matter: 

Google is the largest player in the digital marketing market, serving both as a client and provider of Third-Party Data through its ecosystem: Android, Chrome, Google Search, Gmail, Calendar, and other services. This is changing right now, as you read this article. Google announced back in 2020 its plan to phase out cookies in favor of the Privacy Sandbox engine, which will replace cookie usage and offer Google the most effective targeting tool they ever built. Without sounding alarmist, once the migration from cookies to Privacy Sandbox is complete, Google will cease to supply the Third-Party Data market. The extent of the impact is uncertain, but consider the Apple iOS 14 update, which affected Facebook Ads (and others) by increasing advertisers costs. In my view, the Apple iOS 14 moment will seem minor compared to the impact of Google’s withdrawal from Third Party Data. Announced in 2020, this process was supposed to conclude in 2022 but began in 2023 and will continue into 2024, with Google planning to completely abandon Third Party Data by 2025. It’s not too late, but it is critically urgent for any brick-and-mortar business to shift its marketing strategy to focus primarily on Zero & First Party Data. Simply put, if you manage a restaurant, station, airport, exhibition center, concert hall, shopping mall, amusement park, or bank, consider how to start collecting email addresses and phone numbers from your visitors. Beyond the primary Zero Party Data mentioned, any additional data collected will serve as a bonus, soon enabling you to send personalized messages, achieve the coveted one-to-one communication all marketing directors desire, or integrate contact lists into Google and META’s remarketing campaigns, thus paying much less for targeted results.”

This growing concern for personal privacy isn’t unique to Google. Indeed, as Justin Schuh, former Engineering Director of Chrome’s Security and Privacy, stated in 2020 on the Privacy Sandbox blog, it’s just another step forward in making the world of Third Party Data even more obsolete, lacking in value and relevance. However, Google isn’t alone in taking concrete steps in this direction. With iOS 14, Apple made a clear statement regarding its vision for cookie collection on iPhone, iPad, and MacBook devices: it’s incorrect to create an ecosystem where the user isn’t fully aware that they’re sharing personal data not just with one entity (say, a news site they visit) but with a constellation of 900 partners subscribed to the flow of personal data resulting from the tasty cookies sometimes mandatory for a proper browsing experience or access to information. Apple positioned itself as a market leader, implementing a simple feature in iOS 14 that helped over 92% of iPhone users realize how many apps were collecting their personal data and then sharing it across a global constellation of DMS/DSP/CDP/MDPs. In 2020, Apple also updated Safari to completely block the collection of cookies, affecting the annual $45 billion industry. 

Similarly, Mozilla Firefox has aligned with this trend, implementing features that allow users to completely block or limit the duration of stored cookies, thus restricting the digital marketing constellation’s access to valuable data, which in turn makes digital campaign targeting less relevant.

The solution is simple, affordable, accessible, and easy to implement. It may sound like an electoral promise, but it’s true. Any company can easily, quickly, and cost-effectively implement a solution that helps collect personal data while fully complying with GDPR regulations. Consider a shopping center that already offers WiFi to its visitors:

  1. Implement as an OTT (over-the-top) service over the existing WiFi infrastructure. Integration can be swiftly done at the controller level for enterprise vendors such as Cambium, Cisco, Ruckus, Fortinet, Aruba, Huawei, or others like Ubiquiti or Mikrotik. In the absence of an enterprise WiFi infrastructure, efficient solutions that ensure network security, apply enhanced security policies with separate and prioritized traffic, connect digital signage equipment or other IoT devices, and, most importantly, help the company collect Zero Party Data are available.
  2. The data can be integrated into the client’s CRM or could incorporate PlaceWise, the most elaborate MDP dedicated to shopping malls that aggregates data from multiple sources and creates user profiles by combining Zero Party Data with First Party Data. This enables marketing managers to make more informed decisions or create custom-made one-to-one marketing campaigns. PlaceWise also offers a suite of services dedicated to shopping centers that assist in collecting First Party Data, such as loyalty programs, contests, feedback forms, or integration with Google Analytics.

In conclusion, the end of the Third-Party Data era is near… so near it’s almost visible. Is your company ready for this moment?