Understanding customers through primary research in a world without cookies


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

Companies 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 offer that you already know is or will be a hit, you still face the challenge of getting it to the attention of the people who need it at the right time and in the right place. And you need to ensure that your customers remain loyal when they are ready to buy. This costs data and a lot.

There is no miracle cure here. What we do know is that good marketers use a variety of technology solutions and data streams to better understand audiences. They also rely heavily on things like cookies to collect data that allows them to deliver the most relevant content and offers to specific audiences. Data collected by cookies helps to optimize performance, user experiences and much more.

But as most now know, these “bite-sized” blocks of data are gradually being phased out in response to increased consumer privacy demands. While Google isn’t the first to implement increased privacy measures, the move to do so has certainly received the most widespread attention. Google’s removal of the cookie is planned for the end of 2023 and is coming. And savvy marketers are now taking steps to prepare.

To further explore these trends, my company conducted a study with Loyalty Research Center to find out how the loss of the cookie affects marketing effectiveness. To get the data we needed, we reached out to executive, director, and C-level marketers at leading business-to-business (B2B), business-to-consumer (B2C), and business-to-business to consumer (B2B2C) companies in more than 15 industries. While this audience would generally be difficult to reach 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 research was complemented by qualitative interviews with industry experts and the analysis of hundreds of primary data transcripts from investment professionals.

We found that the best performing marketers are structurally changing the systems, channels and actions they use to increase marketing effectiveness. Leaders are redistributing marketing budgets, adopting new technology stacks and putting more emphasis on primary data collection.

It is the proliferation of first-hand data collection and research that is of particular interest to me as we see this increased first-hand demand at my company. I’ve been collecting data for quite some time now and I see a clear shift in what people need to get out of their quantitative research projects. They are more focused and specific; the data is being used in new ways and, as our research showed, many use market research as part of their toolkit to help prevent cookie loss.

As for trends in primary research, an important one is the need for highly targeted respondents for market research research. It is difficult to find individuals who meet a very specific set of profiling criteria, and the current pressures in the data collection landscape make it more difficult. Not only has the demand for research increased, as evidenced by our experience and our new research, but the supply – available respondents – has decreased. This makes it difficult to find the right people to answer your questions and negatively impacts data quality.

To get the most out of your primary research initiatives, you need to start with access to a solid, representative pool of respondents. It’s not easy, but it’s possible.

• Consider choosing an experienced partner. Inexperienced researchers are unable to find respondents or carry out projects in this increasingly complex and demanding ecosystem. Find a data collection partner who takes the time to really understand the results you want for your market research project, and the problem 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.

• Choose the right recruitment method. In part because of the supply-and-demand issues we cited above, finding the right survey respondents requires you to spread the net wide — and do your homework to get the right people. If you’re looking for very specific audiences and aren’t thought through with your recruiting methods, your survey may end up with respondents who don’t have the right qualifications. Audience profiling requirements can be very nuanced, especially when it comes to B2B, and sometimes a specialized approach is needed. Ensure there is an effective process to identify and verify respondents. You’ll be thankful you did when you see the quality of your data.

• Be able to turn. During your market research project (particularly in the field, as survey responses are collected), make sure to monitor its progress on a daily basis. Data quality checks at every stage of the project, whether by people (team members or partners) and the latest technology, can ensure that your project is completed on time with the correct data. During these checks, if you find something that doesn’t look right, or if there are fewer responses, you can turn to get more respondents to ensure quotas are met and projects succeed. If you have one, you can turn to your partner for recommendations. Pivoting saves you money and time in the long run by reaching the right people for the data and insights you need.

If your business wants to generate public understanding, some of the tools you use to do this, such as cookies, will soon be a thing of the past. Our research indicates that high-performance marketers prioritize primary research. And good primary research requires a solid foundation for collecting data that can access the representative, targeted audience you need to help your business make the best decisions.

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