Resilience Through A Recession, Led By Zero Party Data

The guiding light of DTC, through thick and thin, is right there in the name: direct access to customers. An ecommerce recession hits different because unlike traditional retail, DTC brands can use zero party data to recalibrate their relationships on the customer’s own terms. It’s all about operationalizing the voice of the customer, and below are just some of the tactics in your toolbox.

But First: What’s Zero Party Data, Again?

It’s DTC’s ultimate value prop: data provided willingly and directly from each of your customers, through post-purchase surveys, PDP quizzes, support chats, and any other touchpoint that otherwise wouldn’t be available to retail brands. The key, of course, is to make this data work at operational speed & scale — you need a customer’s feedback to change the trajectory of their own brand experience, rather than that of next year’s customers.

Meet Them Where They Are… But Your Competitors Aren’t

Advertising in a post-iOS14 world is already hard enough; an ecommerce recession pushes brands beyond the obvious “pixel attribution alone won’t cut it”, and deep into the realm of “how can I lower acquisition costs?” Believe it or not, this is a question for your customers.

Any brand running a solid attribution survey can tell you the “Other” responses written in by customers are gold for new media discovery, unearthing organic mentions, earned media, and all the other sources that traditionally show up as a big, sad slice of pie called “direct traffic.” But you can take this zero party data one step further:

Ask “What (vertical) podcasts do you listen to?” or “Who’s your favorite (vertical) influencer?” to focus on your next media dollar, and discover emerging channels before they become oversaturated with spend.

Know Who Holds The Purse Strings

Your AOV is $80 and your CAC is $30, simple as that. Or is it? If you ask, “Who is this purchase for?”, customers will self-segment and solve your buyer vs. user problem for you, which means you’ll now have an entirely new view of your customer base. Maybe gifters generate $110 AOV on $25 CAC, in which case you’ll want to see how that segment answered the attribution question.

And sure, you could stop there, or take the CRO cue to make gift options and bundles more prominent on your PDP. But if you’ve learned this much about your shopper, why not learn more about them and segment further? Ask the gifters, “Would you use this product yourself?” to pursue a couple optimization avenues, not the least of which is reducing wasted ad spend on people who reply “no.” On the flipside, ask your users, “Are you switching from another brand? What made you switch?” to hypersegment them on criteria like price sensitivity vs. quality & variety, so your retargeting & remarketing creative hits with a higher batting average.

Get A Head Start On Churn

Most brands find out the hard way that their customer was ready to buy again: the customer buys somewhere else. This is a huge retention miss, because your brand has home field advantage as the product they’re currently using.

Putting zero party data to work here means you can start identifying repurchase & churn signals well before the customer decides it’s time to buy again. This is achieved by asking a question as flat out as, “Do you have a timeframe in mind for your next product?”; or for a more sentiment-driven insight, “How has our product met your expectations?“ Given that retention revenue is known to be vastly less expensive than acquisition revenue, having a grasp on your product lifecycle opens a crucially advantageous window for the marketing and support teams to keep your customers loyal and your margins healthy.

Use Zero Party Data To Embrace The Unknowns

The Known-Unknowns Matrix is a powerful risk assessment model on its own, but for DTC leaders and their strategic partners navigating a recession, the ability to get same-day answers to some of their most baffling unknowns can be transformational for the business.

A forward-looking question like “What will happen if we have to downgrade our supplier?” doesn’t require six months and a six-figure consultant to sort out. Just use the power of zero party data to turn that question into a customer-facing one, for ground truth on which value props your shoppers prioritize, and which are just nice to have: “What do you value most in our product (Affordability, Quality Materials, Unique Selection, etc.)?”


The common thread through all of these tactics is that your customers are your support system, regardless of market conditions. The cost to listen at an operational level is near-zero — and by having them tell your marketing stack what it needs to hear, you forge a smoother acquisition journey and stronger retention relationship

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