Understanding Customers Through Primary Research In A World Without Cookies


Founder and CEO of Rep Data, providing a full-service, consistent and reliable data collection solutions for market research.

Businesses are only successful if they understand what their customers want and need, how they behave and even how they feel. Even if you have an offering that you already know is—or will be—a hit, you still face the challenge of getting it in front of the people who need it at the right time and in the right place. And you need to make sure your customers stay loyal when they are ready to buy. This takes data and lots of it.

There’s no magic bullet here. What we do know is that good marketers are using an array of technology solutions and data streams to better understand audiences. They’re also relying heavily on things like cookies to collect data that will help them deliver the most relevant content and offerings to specific audiences. Data collected by cookies helps optimize performance, user experiences and much more.

Yet, as most are now aware, these “bite-size” blocks of data are phasing out in response to increased consumer privacy demands. While Google isn’t the first to implement increased privacy measures, its move to do so has definitely received the most widespread attention. Slated for late 2023, Google’s elimination of the cookie is coming up fast. And smart marketers are making moves now to prepare.

To examine these trends more closely, my company conducted a study with Loyalty Research Center to find out how the loss of the cookie is impacting marketing effectiveness. To get the data we needed, we accessed executive, director-level and C-level marketers at leading business-to-business (B2B), business-to-consumer (B2C) and business-to-business-to-consumer (B2B2C) companies in over 15 industries. While this audience would generally be hard to get through traditional data collection and respondent recruitment methods, we were able to use a specialized approach to verify that each respondent met the profiling criteria. The survey was complemented by qualitative interviews with industry experts and the analysis of hundreds of primary data transcripts from investment professionals.

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We found that the highest-performing marketers are structurally changing the systems, channels and actions they are using to drive marketing effectiveness. Leaders are reallocating marketing budgets, adopting new technology stacks and placing a heightened emphasis on the collection of primary data.

It is the rise in first-party data collection and research that is of particular interest to me, as we are seeing this boosted demand firsthand at my company. I’ve been in the business of data collection for quite some time, and I’m seeing a definite shift in what people need to get out of their quantitative research projects. They are more targeted and more specific; the data is being used in new ways, and, as our study showed, many are using market research as part of their toolkit to combat the loss of cookies.

As for trends in primary research, an important one is the need for highly targeted market research study respondents. Finding individuals who meet a very specific set of profiling criteria is hard, and today’s pressures in the data collection landscape are making it harder. Not only has demand for research increased, as indicated both by our experience and our new study, but supply—available survey respondents—has declined. This makes it hard to find the right people to provide responses to your questions and negatively impacts data quality.

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If you want to get the most out of your primary research initiatives, the place to start is by accessing a solid, representative group of respondents. It’s not easy, but it is possible.

• Consider choosing an experienced partner. Inexperienced researchers don’t know how to find respondents or run projects in this increasingly complex and demanding ecosystem. Look for a data collection partner that will take the time to truly understand the desired outcomes for your market research project, plus grasp the problem that needs to be solved. This will drive the strategy needed to find the best audience and avoid a doomed one-size-fits-all approach to recruiting respondents.

• Pick the right recruitment method. In part because of the supply-and-demand issues we touched on above, finding the appropriate survey respondents requires you cast the net wide—and you must do your homework to get the right people. If you are looking for very specific audiences and you’re not thoughtful with your recruitment methods, you can end up with respondents in your study who don’t have the right qualifications. Profiling requirements for audiences can be very nuanced, especially when it comes to B2B, and it sometimes takes a specialized approach. Make sure there’s an effective process in place to identify and verify respondents—you will be thankful you did when you see the quality of your data.

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• Be able to pivot. During your market research project (specifically in-field, as survey responses are being collected), make sure you are monitoring progress on a daily basis. Data quality checks at every phase of the project, both by humans (team members or partners) and the latest technology, can ensure your project finishes on time with the right data. If you find something during these checks that doesn’t look right, or if there is a drop in responses, you can pivot to gain more respondents to ensure quotas are met and projects succeed. If you have one, you can turn to your partner to help provide recommendations. Pivoting will save you money and time in the long run because you will be reaching the right people for the data and insights you need.

If your business is seeking to generate audience understanding, some of the tools you use to do so today, like cookies, will soon become things of the past. Our study indicates that high-performance marketers are prioritizing primary research. And good primary research takes a solid data collection foundation that accesses the representative, targeted audience you need to help your business make the best decisions.


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