Direct Conversations Fill the Cookie’s Gaps

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With the third-party cookie going away on Chrome this year, Apple already having downgraded its mobile identifier, and privacy laws piling up, organizations are looking for new ways to understand customers at scale. This is fueling interest in zero-party data, or information that customers willingly and proactively provide to brands.

Momentive, formerly SurveyMonkey, is one of the companies helping other organizations start direct conversations with customers. To be sure, privacy questions remain. Getting a consumer to willingly offer information is one thing; safely storing that data and only using it in ways to which a consumer consents are another thing. 

But Denis Scott, SVP of marketing at Momentive (formerly SurveyMonkey), chimed in on how leading brands are using direct conversations with customers to fill in the gaps left by the third-party cookie and similar technologies.

How do brands like Allbirds, Toyota, and Hershey use Momentive to better understand their customers?

To shape what’s next for a business, decision makers need to understand how key stakeholders think and feel. Momentive helps brands glean an elusive business metric, human sentiment, from whatever group they need to hear from: students, customers, employees, the market as a whole, and more. Momentive’s solutions help decision makers ask hard questions so they can quickly and confidently take action and achieve tangible results. 

Take, for example, Eat JUST, the maker of JUST Egg. As a fast-growing startup in the emerging plant-based protein industry, the company is navigating uncharted territory. Eat JUST leveraged Momentive for market research to understand what its consumers look like and how to reach more of them. Surprisingly, the research showed that Eat JUST’s customer base is not primarily vegans, but rather meat eaters who are trying to gradually shift to a more plant-based diet for health reasons. 

Beyond that, the company found that its core customer segment is the one that currently eats the fewest eggs, which means JUST Egg appeals to a much broader audience than intended. That data allowed Eat JUST to target a wider swath of consumers, which has had cascading effects on how the company brings its products to market, builds its customer profiles, and does market segmentation — all of which is also done using Momentive solutions.

We’re in a moment of avid discussion about zero-party data. Do you describe the information you collect as zero-party data? What do you think of the term? 

Advertisers get it: the end of third-party cookies brings the real need for brands to have their own data. Our hope is that business leaders as a whole also see that having data on customer sentiment will ultimately save money and make customers more happy. It eliminates waste to make a data-based decision on what people are looking for, instead of guessing and having a costly mistake. The data we are collecting can be considered zero-party data because it is coming directly from the sources themselves. 

Privacy changes are making it harder to collect customer information at scale. Can you talk about how and why they’re driving demand for solutions like yours? 

Web tracking has been a topic of debate for years now; with new legislation passed around the world that limits the use of third-party cookies, and browsers like Chrome planning to block third-party cookies by default within the year, marketers and advertisers must be prepared for this new reality. 

Momentive solutions allow customers to purposely provide that data. It’s a better transaction for the brand, because they are getting authentic and real-time customer data, but also for the customer since their feedback is going right to the source. Retail websites might ask visitors what their personal style is and tailor what products they see based on their responses. B2B solutions may ask users, “What is your job function?” or “What is your business goal?” during onboarding, which can both personalize the user experience and give the company insight into its user base. There is no replacing real feedback from the source!  

Third-party data helped organizations collect data at scale. Can brands and retailers get the amount of data they need directly from consumers? 

I think they can. As people move through different stages of life, their needs and interests change. The pandemic was life-changing for many people, eliminating a commute, a surge of at-home fitness equipment purchases, and a sudden (and often fleeting) interest in bread baking. If brands are using outdated data, even by a few months, they are risking making expensive mistakes. 

Currently, we are seeing headlines that retailers are overstocked and some are refusing deliveries from warehouses, considering discounts to move stock quickly, or asking customers to keep refunded items. It’s likely these orders were made with outdated data — between mass unemployment, the Great Resignation, economic lockdowns, and more in the last year, data that is even a few months old is becoming irrelevant. 

Because circumstances can shift quickly, direct and immediate feedback from customers will always be worth more than stale data. Technology has made it possible for brands and retailers to get consumer feedback directly, without relying on slow, pricey, third-party market research agencies.

Joe Zappa is the Managing Editor of Street Fight. He has spearheaded the newsroom's editorial operations since 2018. Joe is an ad/martech veteran who has covered the space since 2015. You can contact him at [email protected]