What Does the End of Third-Party Cookies Mean for Market Research?

As consumers become increasingly aware of their information online, user privacy will continue to be a pressing issue in the United States. 

For example, big tech companies like Facebook and Google have been expanding their user settings to promote transparency and limit data collection at the user’s request.

Part of this movement has also included a focus on the negative consumer views toward third-party cookies.

It’s clear this will have a significant effect on the marketing industry, but what about market research specifically? 

Read on to see how cookies are currently used for research and what will change with the end of third-party cookies.

What Does the End of Third-Party Cookies Mean for Market Research?


What Are Third-Party Cookies?

Third-party cookies are attached to a user’s browser and store information about their online behavior.

This information may be shared between websites to present them with personalized ads or recommendations. 

It is no secret many consumers have expressed hesitations about their information changing hands so frequently online.

Major web browsers in the market have taken significant steps to remove or phase out third-party cookies over the past couple of years. 

For instance, Firefox, Safari, and Google Chrome have either eliminated or planned to eliminate these cookies from their browser offerings.

Learn more about ethical research practices like disclosing the use of personal data here.

Third-party cookies are attached to a user’s browser and store information about their online behavior.  This information may be shared between websites to present them with personalized ads or recommendations.


What Will Change in Data Quality and Security?

Cookies are often a big part of online survey security protocols. Survey respondents may be assigned a cookie on their browser when they open a survey link for the first time. 

This cookie prevents that same respondent from entering the survey again as long as the cookie is in place. 

The pitfall here is that users can take the survey again if they clear all cookies on their browser or even just access the link on another device.

Potential Gaps in Security Without Third-Party Cookies

Does this mean you should expect a gap in survey security measures without third-party cookies? 

Not necessarily. 

First-party cookies, which are cookies used to save information about users within the same website, are not expected to suffer the same fate as third-party cookies. 

Duplicate respondent protection can still be performed with first-party cookies on many prominent online survey platforms

First-party cookies, which are cookies used to save information about users within the same website, are not expected to suffer the same fate as third-party cookies.

Non-Cookie Blocking Alternatives

If for some reason third-party cookies were being used to block duplicate respondents, there are non-cookie alternatives for researchers. 

Respondents can be prevented from completing the same survey multiple times by using IP addresses.

User data such as IP address, location, browser, and device type is automatically collected for most online surveys. 

However, this approach has its disadvantages such as blocking multiple valid respondents from entering the survey because they share the same IP address at home or work.

Recommended Reading: Four Basic Tips to Quality Check Your Data After Fieldwork is Completed


What Will Change in Respondent Targeting Without Third-Party Cookies?

Another side of cookies in market research is targeted marketing. 

A big component of a researcher’s job is finding the right respondents for online surveys and recruitment screeners.

Sometimes this data is available through survey panels or other websites that sell access to anonymized user data. 

Third-party cookies have also been commonly used to collect online user information such as: 

  • Browsing history
  • Duration of time on certain webpages
  • Task conversions

With these types of cookies likely being phased out in the near future, researchers will need to find new ways to target respondents in some cases.

With these types of cookies likely being phased out in the near future, researchers will need to find new ways to target respondents in some cases.

Example of Changes in Respondent Targeting

For example, third-party cookies may have historically been able to tell you if a respondent visited Amazon and made a purchase. 

To target respondents who fit this criterion in a world without third-party cookies, you may have to directly ask respondents in your survey if they have purchased an item from Amazon in the past 3 months. 

While this may not be as accurate as tracking actual online behavior, it may be the next best thing to meet your research needs.

Worried you won’t be able to target your audience as well without third-party cookies? Here are several options to find research participants for online surveys and recruitment screeners.


Contact Our Full-Service Market Research Firm

Drive Research is a market research company located in Syracuse, NY. Our team has the knowledge and tools to design a robust market research study, should it be the right fit for your business.

Interested in learning more about our market research services? Reach out through any of the four ways below.

  1. Message us on our website
  2. Email us at info@driveresearch.com
  3. Call us at 888-725-DATA
  4. Text us at 315-303-2040

tim gell - about the author

Tim Gell

As a Research Analyst, Tim is involved in every stage of a market research project for our clients. He first developed an interest in market research while studying at Binghamton University based on its marriage of business, statistics, and psychology. 

Learn more about Tim, here.


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