DTC 89: 📦 Why you need customer-first data
May 21, 2023
Content Tag

Saturday, September 11, 2021

If you grew up watching cartoons, you may have had a big hit right to the feels this week.

Steve from Blues Clues gave us nostalgia and closure with the video he posted for the 25th anniversary of the show.

If you haven’t seen it yet, get ready for an emotional trip down memory lane.

In this newsletter you’ll find:

🔥 Why you NEED to be using customer-first data.

🎁 How to execute an email giveaway campaign.

🤑 Sponsored display ads on your own ASINs.

💎 A DTC brand to clean your diamonds at home.

Read till the end to access exclusive DTC swag. 😎

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Customer-first data

So here’s the deal: Apple took a swing at Google and Facebook by releasing new privacy labels back in December 2020, saying "transparency is the best policy."

And of course, the world of consumer privacy exploded right after.

Now, we’re in the midst of a cookie-pocalypse where third-party data and cookies are going away –for good.

While this is creating new challenges for marketers, there’s no need to panic.

The solution is simple, and it’s called customer-first data.

There are four main types of customer data: zero-party, first-party, second-party, and third-party data.

0️⃣ Zero-party data: Info that customers intentionally share with brands, including demographics, preferences, pain points, or contact info.

1️⃣ First-party data: Info that companies collect through customer behavior, including on-site interactions, transaction history, and downloads.

2️⃣ Second-party data: First-party data that you purchase from another company with a similar target audience.

3️⃣ Third-party data: Info about your target audience that is collected from various sources and compiled, including demographic info, interests, and purchasing signals.

Both zero-party and first-party data together are considered customer-first data.

This is because the customer is aware they’re sharing personal information, and you’re actively listening to your customer’s needs to provide the most accurate and relevant shopping experience for them.

The benefits of customer-first data in a privacy-first world

The use of third-party cookies and purchased data caused distrust between consumers and brands over the years.

Now Google is moving toward a privacy-first world, and shoppers are okay with it.

The biggest benefit to customer-first data is it gives brands the opportunity to rebuild trust with shoppers.

Other benefits of customer-first data:

1) It’s much higher quality than second or third-party data (you can trust its relevance since it’s directly shared by your customers).

2) You’ll see higher engagement rates with your emails, SMS, content, pop-ups, and campaigns because you’ll know what messaging works best for each buyer.

3) It gives you valuable insights about which products you should innovate or focus on, which part of your business is most profitable, and why.


The pressure to nail your marketing is higher than ever. You know it’s true – that’s why you read DTC every week, right? 😉

With stiff competition for the consumer dollar and savvy customers growing immune to traditional digital marketing tactics, it’s about time to rethink the way you market.

So how do you overcome the struggles of marketing fatigue and deliver content that captures and engages?

Say it with me: customer lifecycle marketing. It’s a mix of strategies that positively influences customer behavior as they move through the marketing cycle, helping you focus on quality rather than quantity.

To demonstrate the power of lifecycle marketing, Simon Data is sharing their best practices with an on-demand webinar that’ll be sure to get your marketing mojo flowing again.

You’ll learn heaps of helpful tips, including:

  • The difference between the marketing lifecycle and lifecycle marketing
  • How to use quality messaging over quantity to gain the greatest impact
  • Why personalization is not the same as tailored marketing

👉 Check out the webinar here

Customer-first data – Part 2

How to collect customer-first data

There are various ways to collect customer-first data, and you should prioritize using more than one at a time.

Choosing depends on what works best for your customers, but here are a few to consider.

✅ Build on-site quizzes and surveys:

Quizzes are one of the best ways to collect customer-first data because you can ask any questions you need to build a complete profile about each customer segment.

You can also get super creative with what type of quiz you create.

The most popular we’ve seen are product recommenders, virtual consultations, bundle builders, routine builders, size finders, style finders, gift finders or customer surveys.

Check out this example from Mavi Jeans

📬 Make an email preference center (and share it!):

Customers' preferences change all the time. One month they may prefer dogs, and the next they could be a cat person – the point is you can’t collect info from them once and assume their profile is complete for good.

To continue providing value in every message, make an email preference center where customers can go in and update the information they want to receive.

Beyond the standard options of asking what types of emails customers want to get, you can also use your preference center to let them update their interests, shopping preferences, and pain points too.

Oh –and make sure customers are aware that your preference center actually exists (i.e. include it in the footer of your email campaigns!)

👥 Use advanced targeting conditions on your pop-ups:

Targeted pop-ups tell you which products and offers customers are engaging with the most. You’ll also see much higher engagement when the messaging and discount are related to what customers are looking at on your site.

In addition to the email opt-in, you can include an extra question to learn more about your customer’s shopping intent.

For example, as soon as the customer lands on Revolve’s website, the welcome pop-up asks if they’re interested in getting women’s recommendations, men’s recommendations, or both.

Revolve can use this information to make sure every email flow includes only recommendations the customer wants to get.

📝 Create landing page forms:

Unlike a pop-up, an on-site form gives you the opportunity to ask customers a few more questions. However, you have to give customers a reason to fill out the form – and a 10% off discount code isn’t going to cut it.

The best time to use a landing page form is when you’re launching a contest or giveaway – giving customers a good reason to share their email and answer a few questions.

Plus, a landing page form is something you can easily share via email or on your social channels to drive customers to the page to fill it out.

💻 Use account registration:

When customers create an account at your store, you can ask a few additional questions to learn more about them. Keep it to 1-2 extra questions – you don’t want to make the customer work too hard just to sign up.

And if you don’t want to offer a general account registration, you can try these options instead:

  • Subscription program
  • Membership program
  • Loyalty program

📊 Track and test everything and anything:

In addition to directly asking customers about their preferences, pay close attention to their behavior on your site.

Learn what messaging they engage with most, what offers they prefer, and what pages they spend the most time on.

Basically, do the following things:

  • Invest in website heatmaps
  • Run A/B tests on your emails and pop-ups
  • Keep track of every customer’s purchase history
  • Add HTML tracking codes on web pages
  • Watch customers’ mobile app interactions (if you have one)

Here’s an example of how CYSM is testing their exit-intent pop-up – it’s an A/B test between a 10% off or $20.00 off discount.

Note: Always analyze and find patterns in your results. There’s no point in collecting this behavior data if you aren’t going to actually use it!

Using your customer-first data

The most common use of customer-first data is to personalize your marketing, but there are many ways you can leverage it across your entire strategy.

Try these ideas, for example:

  • Retarget customers with abandoned cart and browse abandonment flows on email, SMS, or Facebook Messenger.
  • Create customer profiles and segment them by preference, gender, location, or other personal information.
  • Build lookalike audiences to target more accurate prospects with your paid ads.
  • Share dynamic email and website content (personalized banners, upsells, imagery, and text).
  • Use it to create your content strategy. For example, if you work at a food company and learn you have a large segment of customers who are vegan, you can spend more time creating vegan-focused content like recipes.
  • Watch the shopping trends of each customer segment to learn which audiences are most profitable for your business. You can then prioritize marketing to these customers to see a higher ROI.
  • Keep an eye on style, size, and product demand. When you learn more about your customer’s preferences, you’ll have a better idea of how much product you should carry to avoid items going out-of-stock too quickly.

Best practices to keep in mind

🎯 Understand your goals:

What’s your strategy? Why are you collecting customer-first data?

Not every data-collection method will be right for you. So whether it’s to grow your email list or improve your on-site conversions, prioritize the right tools and experiences to make sure your goals are met.

For example, if your goal is to grow your email list, you’ll want to prioritize tools like quizzes and pop-ups that focus on collecting opt-ins.

🤔 Allow customers to change their preferences:

Make your email preference center easily accessible for customers to change their preferences to keep your engagement rates up.

Also, if customers choose to re-take your quiz, it should overwrite their previous data.

🚀 Add value for customers too:

Provide customers value in return for the data they share with you, like extra loyalty points or a discount.

⏰ Deliver each experience at the right moment:

Don’t disrupt customers from making their way towards making a purchase. There’s a time and place for everything, and throwing a pop-up on a checkout page isn’t the way to do it.

Find the best times to interact with your customers, like attaching your quiz as part of your email welcome flow.

Amazon Tip

Over the last couple months, the Pilothouse Amazon team has been running sponsored display ads on a client’s own ASINs.

ASIN = Amazon Standard Identification Number

Most Amazon advertisers run competitor and branded sponsored products ads but we see very few branded sponsored display ads.

These ads can display in up to three placements and typically a competitor's product will show.

For example: 👇👇

If a shopper landed on your product page by clicking an ad with a competitive placement, you paid for them to get there (and likely it wasn’t cheap 😒).

The shopper could bounce off the page to a competitor, for a fraction of the cost.

To counter this, the team runs aggressive bidding on the client’s own ASINs with Sponsored display ads to ensure all of the client’s products are filling the three spots.

This not only works to help upsell/cross-sell products from your own catalog but also typically increases conversion rate on the product page since that shopper is less likely to bounce off.

Test this out for your own brand!


Your cupboards are overflowing with coffee, you ran out of toilet paper, your spouse is on you about two credit card charges this month…

Subscriptions are great—until they’re not. 😔

Reordering can be easy, though.

CPG brands like Lemon Perfect, Hydrant, and Huron are giving their customers a fast and personalized way to reorder from text, email and even QR codes.

It’s one of those things that's easier to experience than explain, so click the link below to see it for yourself.

Check out Huron’s Repeat cart in action. 🔁

Repeat is so confident you’ll love it, they’ll even cover your second month’s bill.

Ready to make reordering easy?

👉 Learn more about Repeat


This week on All Killer No Filler we were joined by Julien and Dylan from Pilothouse's email team to discuss a tactic that we're rolling out across multiple clients.

If you’ve got fears about iOS 15 or are looking to grow your email lists, you’re gonna want to give this one a listen. 👀

The Takeaways: 👇

🎁 Run Giveaways

Tis the season of marketing frenzy (think Black Friday, Cyber Monday), and promoting your list and audience growth should be top of mind.

1-2 times per year, use giveaways as a tactic to grow your email program.

Although some users may join in hopes of winning, offer all entrants a consolation prize if they don’t win big!

Watch those lists grow and the sales roll in.

🤑 Curate Your Prize

Sure, winning a Tesla is cool, but it’s not going to make entrants excited about your products.

Make sure your prize ties into what you’re selling.

Not sure how? Try these as prizes:

  • The full range of all your products.
  • A bundle with an element of your product included.
  • Limited edition.
  • Early access to a new product launch.

Looking to take it a step further? Split test your giveaway!

This is your chance to see if certain prizes bring in a higher opt-in rate.

📧 Create a Custom Flow

Plan to run the giveaway for 1–1.5 months.

If you see engagement dropping off, wrap it up sooner.

Monetization of the list doesn’t stop when the giveaway ends. Build a flow specifically for the contest.

After winners have been announced, send an email first letting entrants know.

After that? Stack 10-15 emails across the next 2–2.5 months.

For more tips and tricks from the Pilothouse email team on email giveaways and how to prepare for iOS15, listen to the full pod here.

Brand Spotlight

If you say that you’re cleaning your jewelry enough, you’re lying.

Here to make cleaning your diamonds easier is DTC brand Juli – the first sonic brush cleaning system for diamonds.👇

Don’t let your most prized possessions fall down the sink like founder Hannah did.

Check out Juli’s diamond cleaning kits and the founder's story here!


🚨 Get 3% cash back on all ad spend with Jeeves, the YCombinator-backed, unlimited virtual card that puts 100% of your corporate spend in one place (and pays you for the privilege).

💵 PayPal acquires Japan’s Paidy for $2.7B to crack the buy-now, pay-later market in Asia.

📽 Microsoft acquires video creation and editing software maker Clipchamp.

🏨 Bill Gates' investment firm to take control of Four Seasons in $2.21B deal.

💄 Beauty Pie buying club brings in $100M Series B to fund expansion.

🛍 Wisetack closes on $45M to bring ‘buy now, pay later’ to in-person services.

🎾 Tennis superstar Naomi Osaka has officially entered the skincare business with her own line designed specifically for people with melanated skin.

😎 Review: Facebook’s Ray-Ban Stories make the case for smart glasses.

🔊 Have you heard our latest podcasts?

👩‍💻 Nestle's Orchid Bertelsen on strategies that scale across 30+ brands (and the metaverse).

🤑 How this DTC brand grew 1000% in one year with David Gaylord, CEO of Bushbalm.

📫 Chase Dimond on iOS 15 changes and this one simple hack to raise your email open rates by 20%.

📈 Geeking out on growth with Little Spoon's Simon Wool.

Don’t forget to rate the DTC Podcast on Apple (⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️)

DTC Newsletter is written by Thomas Schreiber, Tina Donati, and Rebecca Knight.

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