MarTech Interview with Wendell Lansford, Co-founder at Wyng

Can the metaverse be a game-changer when it comes to zero-party data? Wendell Lansford, Co-founder at Wyng explores further in this quick chat with MarTech Series:


Welcome to this MarTech Series chat Wendell – we’d love to get to know more about you and how Wyng started and evolved over the years…?

I started my career as a software developer in the early 90’s, at the dawn of the internet.

What’s remarkable is, for over 25 years, marketing & advertising was focused on aggregating as much data as possible, from every source possible, opaquely to consumers. Consumer data was bought and sold (i.e. 3rd party data), or tracked behind the scenes (1st-party data), whether consumers liked it or not. Privacy was an afterthought. I call it the privacy-last era, which was made possible by privacy-last technology – and thankfully, those days are behind us.

We’re now in the privacy-first era – and Wyng is a pure play, built for the privacy-first future. We exist to help brands build relevance & trust with consumers, by embracing transparent and ethical data practices.

We got started around the time that GDPR went into effect in Europe, with the launch of our Wyng Microexperiences product. Since then, we’ve built out an end-to-end platform that makes it easy for a brand to get to know its customers’ preferences, interest, values, desires, and other personal context (i.e. zero-party data) by asking them, at key moments in their journey – and in return, serve them more relevant experiences, personalized using the data they’ve chosen to share with the brand.

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On the one hand, while personalization and relevance is key to any marketing initiative, what are some of the basic challenges you still see marketing teams face when they try to build out customized customer experiences?

As a marketing team, how do you know the emails and SMS messages you send will be relevant to each recipient?  Will people be receptive to the communications, or will they opt out? What about your website, mobile wallet offers, and social ads – will they resonate with each customer’s interests, desires, or values? How can you be sure?

The only way to know is to ask. Customers will freely opt to share their preferences, interests and other zero-party data with a brand, in exchange for a more personalized experience. Yelp, for example, asks people for their food, dietary, and lifestyle preferences. When a user tells Yelp that they’re a vegetarian, Yelp immediately provides them with vegetarian-friendly recommendations rather than steakhouses.

If you don’t ask for zero-party data, the best you can do is to use 1st-party data to guess! That’s why zero-party data is the gold standard. It’s always consent-based, and it tells the brand what each customer will find relevant, and what they’ll be receptive to – with no guesswork involved.

To collect zero-party data at scale, experience design is critical. The key is to ask for the right information at the right moments in the customer journey, and promptly deliver value in return. That’s why brands are deploying “microexperiences” for personalized data collection on their websites – like onboarding quizzes, guided shopping, next best question pop-ups, and conversational opt-ins. Moreover, brands can continuously build trust by giving customers transparency and control over their data – via a preference portal on the brand website, where customers can keep their preferences up-to-date and fine-tune their brand experience whenever they want.

As personalization trends and marketing hacks for 2022 take on a new form, how do you feel the growing impact of the metaverse will play a role here?

A metaverse is a shared environment that brings together aspects of social media, virtual & augmented reality, multiplayer online games, and crypto to create immersive, digital experiences that both reflect and bridge to the physical world.

Metaverse offers brands an entirely new way to relate to consumers, and create environments and experiences that connect on a personal or emotional level, and reflect shared values. Also, people are loyal to people – and the metaverse aims to bring “in person” experiences to the online world.

Can you share a few top thoughts on the future of the metaverse in your view and why brands need to pay more attention to this?

Metaverse technologies will have applications in a range of industries, including: e-commerce, entertainment, gaming, social media, education, fitness, travel, real-estate, and marketing & advertising. For example, one popular application today is watching movies (and chatting) with remote friends in a shared virtual theater. As another example, in November, 2021, a plot of virtual real-estate in Decentraland (a popular crypto-powered metaverse environment) sold for $2.43 million. The land, purchased by Metaverse Group, will be developed to “facilitate fashion shows and commerce within the exploding digital fashion industry.”

From our perspective at Wyng, the metaverse could be a game-changer when it comes to zero-party data. On the web, brands ask consumers for their zero-party data via microexperiences. These same techniques can be adapted to the metaverse, but with richer interfaces. And the metaverse also opens up new possibilities for asking for zero-party data – for example, imagine a virtual store with a knowledgeable shopkeeper who is there to help customers by engaging them in conversation; getting to know their personal preferences (i.e. zero-party data); and with the customer’s permission, using the data to provide a more personalized experience with the brand.

While crypto plays a role in the emerging metaverse, it also impacts the internet more broadly in the form of web3. Crypto wallets and DApp browsers, for example, introduce a new form of identity and new method of login/authentication – a crypto-based alternative to email/password-based login and Sign-In with Google.

A few thoughts on how you feel martech as a segment will move in 2022?

The pandemic has permanently altered consumer behavior in favor of digital channels, often at the expense of brand loyalty. To thrive in the future, brands must invest in building direct-to-consumer relationships online.

At the same time, consumers are more empowered than ever. Apple, for example, continues to improve privacy protection and give consumers more transparency and control over their data. iOS 15 blocks behavioral, location and device signals that many marketers used to rely on. And using the built-in Hide My Email feature, consumers can easily block all communications from brands that send irrelevant or unwanted email. This makes the need for zero-party data even more urgent.

Some last thoughts, takeaways, digital marketing-personalization and martech tips and best practices before we wrap up!

A growing number of consumers seek out brands that connect with them on an emotional or values-based level. Forrester Research recently found that 47% of consumers say they regularly purchase from brands that align with their personal values. There’s a big opportunity to get to know your customers’ values and beliefs – for example, regarding social causes like the environment or sustainability. How? By asking!

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Wyng is a leading Privacy-First Personalization platform powered by a zero-party data API.

Wendell Lansford is the Co-founder of Wyng

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