Skip to content

Why Zero-Party Data is the Future of Marketing

Daniele Sghedoni, technology director at R/GA on zero-party data and the future of marketing.


In this episode of One to One, the Conversational Marketing Podcast, we speak with Daniele Sghedoni, technology director at R/GA.

With Daniele, we will discuss everything you need to know about zero-party data and the future of marketing.

There is a lot of discussion about capturing an audience’s intentions, interests, motivations, and preferences at scale in the marketing world, and in the episode today, you will learn why your brand might value it over any other data you collect from your users. 

Topics discussed

  • Daniele’s background and how he got started at RGA 
  • What zero-party data is and how it will bring your marketing plan into the future 
  • Distilling and activating data to provide value for users 
  • The role of chatbots in collecting zero-party data 
  • Expert advice for organizations getting started with zero-party data 
  • Avoiding some of the common pitfalls with using zero-party data 
  • The future of marketing from Daniele’s perspective

Guest biography

To me, zero party data is important because probably what I was saying earlier, it's somehow that has been explicitly shared by the users. That means that brands should care about it more than what they do with other data because users are proving some kind of trust sharing this data. They are supposed to get something back.

Daniele Sghedoni

Technology Director

  • Highly innovative leader with international experience and proven track record of building high-performing teams and products. As a strategic thinker and creative problem-solver, I am passionate about setting strategy and bringing original ideas to life. Whether it’s developing a new product, crafting a marketing plan, delivering a service in a unique way, or launching an entrepreneurial venture, I thrive on the challenge of creating something entirely new.
  • Main events I participated as a speaker: NRF (New York, 2019), Web Marketing Festival (Rimini, 2018 e 2019), eTail (Berlino, 2019), Google-Salesforce partnership introduction (Milano, 2019), Go eCommerce (Tel Aviv, 2018), Salesforce Basecamp (Barcellona, 2018), Marketing Automation (Unindustria Reggio Emilia, 2017).
    Main institutions for which I have provided training: Il Sole 24 Ore, Bologna Business School, Unindustria Reggio Emilia, IUSVE Istituto Universitario Salesiano Venezia, IFOA, Digital Update.

Company overview

R/GA is a company of reinvention. As technology changes the world, we embrace it and change. We help our clients do the same. We design businesses and brands for a more human future.

Industry: advertising services |

Subscribe to the podcast newsletter


Welcome to One to One: The Conversational Marketing podcast dedicated to helping modern marketing teams succeed in a messaging first and privacy first world. In each episode, we’ll interview a marketer who is winning with conversational marketing to distill best practices, lessons learned, and actionable takeaways. Here’s your host, Ben Gibert, VP of Marketing, Spectrm.  

Ben Gibert
Hey, everyone, and thanks for listening to One to One: The Conversational Marketing podcast. Today I’m speaking with Daniele Sghedoni, technology director at R/GA. Daniele, thanks so much for joining me today. Also, all the way from Tuscany.

Daniele Sghedoni
Thank you very much. Actually, the pronunciation of my surname was just perfect. 

Ben Gibert
Thank you. I was a little worried about that one. Before we get started with, there’s a lot of exciting stuff we’re going to talk about today as far as zero party data and the future of kind of marketing and the things that you’re up to. Can you just give everyone a little background, more about yourself and the work that you do? 

Daniele Sghedoni
Yeah, sure. So thanks for having me. First of all, I’m Daniele. I’ve been technology director at R/GA since September last year. I decided to join the agency side after five years at United Colors of Benetton, where I was in charge of digital operation technologies and analytics. I’m a Martech expert. Actually, I don’t like the word expert, but seems like that it’s trending before it became a buzzword. More important, I’ve always been lucky enough to work with companies that gave me the chance to do some form of experimentation around that. Actually, when I couldn’t experiment for work, I did it. In my spare time, one project I would mention as a volunteer is Vicinosikuro It, and it’s an Italian domain which is a nonprofit project I’ve created against COVID with a few friends. It was also supported by Google Cloud. It was running on marketing technologies, and actually it was replicated in other countries. 

Daniele Sghedoni
We published this on GitHub, which was pretty cool. Finally, I’m an avid music listener. I started my career in the music industry, and I always say that I will be back in that industry sooner or later. For now, all I can do is go to a lot of concerts, enjoy my three years old son playing drums, and create spotify playlists for my friends and family. Actually you can find some playlists on my website as well. 

Ben Gibert
Nice. Well, I’ll be sure to at the end of the episode, we can shout out where the playlists are again. I’d love to listen to it. I’m also an avid music listener, and I think this is a long time ago, but I wrote my master’s thesis on copyright and music distribution on the Internet actually as well. It’s always an industry that I felt a lot of affinity for. It sounds like you mentioned expert. Expert is definitely what you are. You have a ton of experience as you said on the consumer brand side with Bennett and also now on the agency side, I think as a technology expert, you probably are hearing zero party data, first party data, just a lot of talk around data in general. I mean, that’s what we wanted to focus on with this podcast episode in particular. I’d love to maybe kick things off with you. 

Ben Gibert
Can you define kind of zero party data for us and what it means to you? 

Daniele Sghedoni
Pass the definition. I could say that it’s the data that you own, but I don’t like this definition as it’s pretty tech. Instead, I prefer to say that it’s the data that the users are sharing with you somehow explicitly by interacting with your brand touch points, whether it’s a website store or why not a web free experience as we are talking about web free or your Discord community. I don’t know if you had the chance to join any Discord community, but believe me, there are tons of opportunities that it can offer in terms of user data enrichment. I would say that if you are not still, I wouldn’t say what free, but in Discord community I would say that probably you should start looking around before it’s too late. 

Ben Gibert
Yeah, that’s a good point. I’m actually not in many Discord communities. I’ve heard of people using them from a growth perspective before. I think very interesting that you mentioned not just data that you own, but data that people give you. That’s exactly our definition of it at Spectrm, as well as this idea that it’s the best source of data because it’s coming explicitly from your customers or the people that you’re interacting with. That’s why at least there’s such a gold mine of insights that you can get there. I mean, for you, why is zero party data so important today? 

Daniele Sghedoni
It’s a tricky question. I would say that probably you expect me to say that it’s given because of what’s happening around cookies, but sorry, I won’t make that. I would say that there’s a lot of debate around this already and actually I won’t bring anything new to the table. To me, zero party data is important because probably what I was saying earlier, it’s somehow that has been explicitly shared by the users. That means that brands should care about it more than what they do with other data because users are proving some kind of trust sharing this data. They are supposed to get something back. That being said, I’m a tech guy. I don’t feel the right person to discuss about engagement strategies. The only thing that I would say is that there’s so much talking about how to collect more data, more and more data. 

Daniele Sghedoni
Actually right now I feel there’s too little about how to distill and activate those data in a meaningful way for the users. 

Ben Gibert
Yeah, definitely. I think that’s an important point. I really would like to come back to at one point. I love that you also just completely sidestepped the entire cookie debate right there. Very good maneuvering for the podcast. I think you’re right, there’s so much talk on that topic and there’s so many other things that are maybe more interesting to get today. I think that idea of trust is something you called out which is very important in terms of data governance and also just the reasons why people are willing to give data. It really comes down to trust and also the channels where that data is being exchanged. I think your point about distilling and activating in a way that’s meaningful for users is one that’s really interesting because as you said, there’s so many people collecting data about how you act on it and how you make it meaningful translated into a user experience is very important. 

Ben Gibert
Can you elaborate a bit on that? Like, what are some approaches that you think work well in terms of distilling and activating data to provide value for users? 

Daniele Sghedoni
I was writing on my blog post a few weeks ago then and I was reading this research that was saying that over 99% of marketers will achieve a single customer review by the end of this year. Actually, I have to find a gentle way to say this, but I would say that it’s just bullshit. That won’t happen. Those kind of headlines are only good to stress out marketers likely. My feeling is that the best scenario is that it will take years to achieve a single customer view. And you can do it. I’m not saying you shouldn’t. My only recommendation is to go for a phased approach. I mean, start with choosing a small subset of user data and start activating some basic personalization. I’m sure that the rest will come. Actually, it’s what I did at Beneath On and what I’m doing for some clients. 

Daniele Sghedoni
I mean, it works. I mean, small quick wins. 

Ben Gibert
Yeah, that’s a very good point. I think even just hearing you say single view of the customer and 99% of marketers are going to have that by the end of the year stressed me out just hearing you say that. I think that’s a very ambitious goal. I think, yeah, breaking it up, having quick wins, using a smaller segment of users, that’s definitely some good advice. I mean, this is a conversational marketing podcast. At the end of the day, we talk a lot about the ways to get that data, like chat bots automation. What for you is the role for chatbots in collecting zero party data and kind of distilling and activating that data. 

Daniele Sghedoni
Let’s say that one of the pillars of customer centricity that I like the most is being where your users are. Right now people are not necessarily on your website. This is not a big revelation. They might be on the social media, scrolling your feed on Google, searching for the nearest store they can be on discord interacting with your community. To me that means that a very basic chatbot strategy I don’t know if it makes sense if it exists the word chatbot strategy but will allow you to a very basic chatbot strategy will allow you to be in the right place at the right time, as we always say. As marketers, allowing users to chat with you can help them to discover and buy your product, get some support. 24/7 actually just leveraging NLP or having them interact with a guided workflow so no need for phone calls or emails from the user on top of that. 

Daniele Sghedoni
It’s all about creativity. Think about quizzes and surveys. All of these were cool ideas to enrich your user data but I feel they are a bit outdated and there’s some space here for chatbots. That being said, back to your question whether it’s product discovery, customer support, organification any kind of chatbot potentially to me generates data that will be available to activate on other channels. 

Ben Gibert
Yeah, absolutely. I think you mentioned customer centricity again being where your customers are, right? That’s something that, again, we found messaging channels are so valuable for. Chatbots can be so valuable for, like you said, their customers are not on your website. 99.99% of the time, they’re not on your website. Engaging them where they are is the best way to collect data on them. They’re increasingly, I would say, less trustful, is maybe even a nice way of putting it. The idea of creeping following users around the web or like on social is something that people have less and less. I would say they’re more and more concerned about the amount of data that it’s being taken from them in those channels. Whereas they’re getting back to the explicit sharing part in messaging channels and chat bots. There really is that opportunity to build a relationship. 

Ben Gibert
Like you said, through some of the experiences that brands can create to get that information directly from customers. I think there really is a lot of ways that you can then activate that as well and I think activating it and just chat bots and zero party data in general is such a big topic these days. It’s one of the trending things like you’ve mentioned also being an expert or just data in general. For the people listening to this podcast, other marketers, what are kind of the top three pieces of advice that you would have for just getting started with zero party data? 

Daniele Sghedoni
I think I will surprise you again because if you’re asking me for concrete advice on what to do explicitly with zero party data in terms of advertising, personalized advertising or personalized recommendation website, I won’t make you happy. I’ve seen both on the client and agency side and I see that the main issue is not about technology or data, but individual mindset mostly and organizational complexities. That being said, I think that if I have to share an advice, everything changes fast and you cannot predict, but you can prepare. My advice is to embrace ambiguity and don’t be scared too much about testing. The role of a marketing technologist for me is to help businesses create a significant impact on customer experience, let’s say significant impact on customer experience by introducing small wins, as were saying earlier, within a long term roadmap and vision. Let’s say that, yeah, I would say embrace ambiguity and don’t get scared to test. 

Daniele Sghedoni
If you give me the chance, probably I will share a second advice which is no matter how cool is the new tool that you adopted, it’s all about the people, no matter the size of the company you are working with. I mean, just collaborate with people, work with people around you. Marketing technologies and data are cool and they do accelerate innovation, but it really gets most effective when collaborating. Think about again customer data platforms. There was an incredible hype and there’s still an incredible hype about customer data platform, but this hype is waning because they should enable a connected experience across multiple touch points. Actually the way that they are currently introduced to me, they are just creating a more siloed approach. This is happening because businesses and marketers are trying to build their customer data platform without talking as example with the IT, which as example as the retail data. 

Daniele Sghedoni
If you are not working with each other, if you are not sharing data with each other, how can you create an omnichannel customer view? I mean it will be siloed, it will be the digital customer data platform or the retail customer data platform. Again, as were saying earlier, you won’t achieve a real customer data platform if you are not working with other people. 

Ben Gibert
Yeah, that makes a lot of sense. Those 99% of marketers that are going to get a single view of customer by the end of the year might fall a bit short if they’re not working with the other teams in their companies. I think it’s a very interesting point to frame the technology discussion also more around people. I really like that because at the end of the day, like you said, you can get the shiniest, most expensive, best piece of software. If people aren’t using it within the company, or if you haven’t really created a bridge to other departments as you’re mentioning, then that data is useless. It’s either not being activated or it’s not being enriched with something like retail data like you mentioned. I think not creating silos really is the key here. If the end goal is that single view, the truly single view of the customer, can you talk maybe more about the silos and some of the dangers you see or any recommendations that you have for marketers to reduce them or avoid them altogether. 

Ben Gibert

Daniele Sghedoni
I mean, the danger is simple and probably most of the users already of this public listener already spoke about it, which is not having data shared across touchpoint actually reflects in an experience which is not coherent across those touch points. This could affect your user trust, especially after they have chosen to share personal information with you. The best in store experiences are based on very accurate referrals and most of the time, honestly, I don’t find the same level of accuracy in online experiences. This is to me a risk because some other brands are probably offering a richer experience. If you’re not working in that direction, you can lose those clients and the recommendation remains the same. Collaborate with other departments. As I said, I don’t think that marketers themselves have the skills to implement platforms that are truly omnichannel. Actually, I work within the marketing department, so I don’t like to say this, but I worked in a company, so I understand that you should work with it as example to create a real truly omnichannel customer of the platform. 

Daniele Sghedoni
That being said, I think that there are answers on the market. As I was saying, the customer data platform hype is waning, but this is mainly due to probably some new emerging technologies that actually are offering an alternative approach to customer data platform. They are calling this composable customer data platform. So it’s a long discussion. Talk about composable customer data platform. I won’t go through this, but if I was a brand I would look here rather than out of the box solutions. 

Ben Gibert
Okay, yeah, some good advice. To anyone listening, we’re not going to talk about it today, but google composable customer data platforms, see what comes up. That’s really at the forefront. I’m sure there’s some interesting things you might find if you didn’t already know about that. I mean, you’ve mentioned it as far as what that future looks like, the hype that was initial CDPs and now it’s waning . I guess you could argue like you’re saying also that the fact that the Hype is waning is probably also that CDPs are so entrenched and so common nowadays everybody is using them. It’s kind of like the baseline. Now the next frontier is always somewhere else. For you, what does that future look like? Five years from now also as the world becomes much more focused on privacy from either a regulation or a cookie standpoint, we won’t get into it. 

Ben Gibert
For you, what is the future of marketing look like? 

Daniele Sghedoni
I think I will make a provocation. Marketing techniques are now too aggressive, I think. I feel like marketing should become more gentle. I don’t really know what gentle marketing means exactly. I’m a tech guy, as I said. I feel people are getting tired of hyper personalization. The shift in public perception of data privacy that happened in this year because of multiple data breaches. I think that could be just the beginning now that the Web3 is getting bigger. VR, AR and Metaverse and those kind of things. I don’t know if you know that I was reading this research last week. It was saying that only 20 minutes of a virtual experience are generating more than 2 million pieces of data. I mean, this is huge. I think brands have to rethink how they manage and how they activate data. I don’t know what it will be in five years, but for sure, I think that kind of gentle marketing and paying more attention to how I distilled it, how do I activate it instead of creating hyper personalized experience. 

Daniele Sghedoni
That’s it. 

Ben Gibert
Yeah. Gentle marketing, I also don’t know exactly what that means, but I love the concept. I’m based in Brooklyn, in the US. I think when it comes to aggressive marketing, we’re probably champions here. Not the best as far as data privacy is concerned, but it’s nice to see that the changes happening in Europe from GDPR are also coming over here in terms of CCPA. I’m sure that the future will look very different, whether that’s led by legislation or whether it’s led by the platforms themselves, like we see happening right now as well. I think for marketers, maybe that was a bit of a scary conclusion. If you think you’re having a hard time building personalized journeys or making sense of all the data you have right now, just think about 20 minutes of a virtual experience generating 2 million data points. What are you going to do with all of that data? 

Ben Gibert
That’s going to be a very interesting challenge, and I think one that is going to have to be tackled by marketers. They really want to take advantage of these new virtual spaces. I think a great place to end. You make people end with more questions in their heads than answers here, Daniele, which is always a good way to end a podcast. I hope that people go away and think about all those things and do some additional research. I think that’s all we’re going to have time for today. Before we wrap up, if people want to follow your journey, check out some of your Spotify playlists. Where should they go? 

Daniele Sghedoni
Well, I’m not as active on the social media as I would like to be. So, again, thank you for inviting me because you gave me the chance to express my views on these topics and I think you understood how passionate I am. However, I have a personal website where I try to share some insight on how to make an impact through marketing technology. Actually, you can also listen to my playlist. But let me stress one thing again. You were mentioning again my sentence about those 20 million of data generated by a virtual experience. I mean, it’s a lot, and I feel like it will be more, and it’s not something that marketers can do by themselves. So, again, I think that collaboration is a key. Most brands are not unlocking a true a real available customer experience because they are not working across departments. What I’ve seen in my past is that it people are trying to do something which is valuable and more connected and closer to the business and to marketers, but sometimes they are not sharing what they are trying to do, so they end up with an experience which is not valuable to the marketers. 

Daniele Sghedoni
On the other side, marketers are trying to get that new shiny tool, but they end up with a fragmented ecosystem of data and tech, again, which is not valuable for the customer experience. I think that if those two departments are getting to work closer with each other, I mean, the brands that will be able to do this, I think that we gain some competitive advantage with other brands. I know that I’m stressing out with this topic of collaborate with others, but actually this is not happening as often as it should be. 

Ben Gibert
Yeah, I think that’s a very valuable point to end on. As said marketers, we do love to chase shiny new tools, but at the end of the day, we can’t deliver value to customers without the other teams that are part of the company, and especially things like the It team. To really deliver that experience, activate the data that provides value to users, which you’ve mentioned earlier. I think there are so many things that’s an important point to take away. Collaborate marketing, at the end of the day, is all about humans and connecting with humans. It makes sense that maybe as marketers, we should connect with humans within our organizations and not just the tech to actually deliver those experiences. Daniele, thank you so much for joining today. I appreciate you joining while on vacation in Tuscany. I’m jealous. Go enjoy the sea for all of our listeners as well. 

Ben Gibert
And yeah, thanks again for stopping by. Can you just tell everybody what the URL to your website is in case they want to find it? 

Daniele Sghedoni
Well, it’s difficult to say. I think I should spell it, which is S-G-H-E-O which is actually the five initial dot my surname. 

Ben Gibert
Okay, great. So you heard that, everybody? S-G-H-E do. Go check out Daniele’s journey. If you want to hear more things related to conversational marketing and the types of conversations that I’ve had today with Daniele, you can go to LinkedIn and check out Spectrm’s LinkedIn page or go to Again, Daniele, thank you so much for joining. It’s really been a pleasure talking to you. 

Daniele Sghedoni
Thank you as well, Ben. And thank you, everybody, for listening. 

Talk to our team to learn how to automate messaging into your #1 retention marketing channel.