Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in November 2019 and was revised on September 23, 2020.
Performance marketers are navigating a new world of privacy regulations that are making them rethink how to maintain accurate measurement across their campaigns.
The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) has created a tidal wave of changes with browsers that now block both first- and third-party tracking cookies:
- Apple’s Intelligent Tracking Prevention (ITP) on Safari detects tracking capabilities and blocks any cookies associated with that domain.
- Firefox Enhanced Tracking Prevention (ETP) blocks third-party tracking software, including third-party and first-party tracking cookies.
- Google Chrome 80 provides improved controls for consumers to block or clear cookies used in a third-party context.
With these restrictions, measuring consumer interactions with marketing and advertising is getting more difficult, it’s not impossible —consumer privacy and accurate measurement can coexist to deliver the most personalized experience for the end customer.
How to maintain accurate measurement in the face of browser restrictions
Many performance marketers still rely heavily on cookie-based tracking. However, it is far from being a best practice because the browser restrictions lead to an incomplete view of performance. It’s difficult to accurately measure return on advertising spend (ROAS) and other KPIs like customer lifetime value (LTV), conversion rate (CVR), and revenue per transaction (RPT).
Now is the time to refocus your efforts. Here are two approaches you can use today to accurately measure campaign performance that don’t require third-party cookies.
Server-to-Server Tracking using a Postback URL
Most commonly known as “server-to-server,” but also referred to as “postback tracking,” this approach requires an advanced marketing measurement platform that can assign a unique ID to an anonymous consumer’s interaction.
In place of a cookie, a click ID or session ID can be stored server-side, or in the advertiser’s first-party cookie, until the point of conversion, at which time the consumer’s click on the ad is attributed to their conversion via the unique ID. Since any measurement platform that supports this type of tracking will use its own unique IDs in place of cookies, it’s an increasingly popular approach to meet both performance tracking and data privacy demands.
Plus, since server-to-server tracking does not rely on cookies which can be cleared by the consumer or blocked by customer browser settings, it’s a highly accurate approach for measuring performance.
Though this option is easier to implement than server-to-server tracking using Postback URLs, it still requires the use of a first-party session cookie which is susceptible to browser restrictions. Also, note that it requires that you place a click pixel on the landing page of an offer in addition to the conversion pixel (JSSDK) on the thank-you page.
Bonus: Fingerprint Tracking
While first-party cookies and cookieless tracking can accurately measure performance the majority of the time, fingerprint tracking can be a useful tool to supplement those efforts. It serves as a valuable strategy to ensure nothing slips through the cracks with the deterministic tracking methods you have in place, especially for areas such as the walled gardens and cross-device user behavior that can be difficult to measure with absolute certainty.
Also known as “session tracking” or “probabilistic tracking,” fingerprint tracking is a probabilistic approach to attributing customer actions back to digital advertisements they interacted with. You can use this to achieve the best guess as to the performance of marketing campaigns and dollars.
Fingerprint tracking attempts to match the consumer’s interaction with the ad to their conversion, such as a request for more information, through various attributes such as the device or browser used. It offers you another privacy-friendly approach, as you don’t need to store any data that would risk consumers’ right to anonymity.
Accurate measurement requires flexibility in the face of change
In order to build holistic, integrated, and impactful campaigns, you need accurate performance metrics about which marketing messages and channels are most effective and how they’re working in combination. By leveraging these approaches, you can make strides towards regaining insight into the customer journey, and in turn, more effectively allocate ad dollars and optimize media strategies for the greatest ROAS.
To stay nimble and accommodate changing demands, be sure to regularly audit the type of measurement you have in place and validate that you are using the best approach available to measure success. And when working with technology vendors, ensure they are keeping up with the changing regulations. Ask to see the data privacy and security processes they have put in place, as well as the proper tracking capabilities mentioned above to ensure accurate measurement.
If you’re interested in learning more about CAKE and our tracking capabilities, please contact us.