Cookieless Tracking: Solutions for Accurate Attributions in 2020

With the increasing number of cross-device and multi-location transactions, data analytics are working hard at developing cookieless tracking solutions. 

The phasing out of 3rd party cookies (as announced by Chrome), makes it evident that “data privacy” is an essential aspect of future the digital marketing world. Needless to say, cookies have been a significant contributor to privacy violation issues.

 

Additionally, there has been a rising demand for accurate attribution and visibility across the web, as well as, mobile platforms. This is because precision is required for better placements and distribution, which is also the backbone for long term growth. 

While traditional cookie-based tracking is still being widely used for capturing online conversions, it has witnessed some challenges in the past few years. One of the key reasons for the shift being the change in the mobile shopping behavior of users. 

The requirement for online cookieless tracking has, therefore, seen a rising trend in the past few years.

The article walks you through the concepts of cookie-based tracking and how cookieless monitoring works.

What is cookie-based tracking?

Cookies are text files that work like identification marks(with unique ID numbers)  to track web pages as well as the users who visit these sites. Cookies work by marking the behavioral data like the number of visits as well as the demographics of a user, every time they visit a web page. 

However, that’s where it ends. 

Cookies can not uniquely identify the people behind the user id. And this is what creates limitations in the world of digital marketing where cookie-based tracking systems are conventionally used. 

The drawbacks

The traditional cookie-based tracking system has several disadvantages, as follows:

  1. As mentioned above, cookies track and identify user ids. However, in the real world scenario, these user ids may not be an accurate representation of real people. 
  2. The cookie data stored data can easily be deleted, leading to information gaps.
  3. Cookie data resides only in a single browser and is not accessible in another browser even on the same device
  4. Cookie data has an expiration date
  5. This often creates a misrepresentation of the actual people behind the user id. 
  6. The number of user counts is usually not accurate. 

Effects of cookie-based tracking on user experience

So, do cookies actually have an impact on the experience of users and marketing?

Apparently, yes. 

This is because cookies create data that relies heavily on website visit counts. The flaws of using cookies as a data storage method have always been evident. 

For starters, there are issues with their longevity. Users often clear their browser’s cookies or sometimes even switch browsers. 

Second, there is no guarantee on the accuracy of tracking pixel-based offers (client sidetracking), which relies heavily on these cookies and is dependent on user behavior. 

In addition to purposeful cookie deletion by users, there is an issue with various browser settings. iPhone settings, by default, only accept first party cookies. Mobile devices using iPhone browsing delete cookies automatically after 24 hours. 

Similarly, third party cookies have also been banned by Apple, Microsoft, and Mozilla.

What is cookieless tracking and why is it needed?

While it is widely accepted that cookies have traditionally been an essential part of user’s web browsing experience, the world is fast moving to solutions that rely on cookie-less tracking or atleast going without third party cookies. 

So how does cookieless tracking work?

As mentioned above, cookie-based tracking systems rely heavily on users, which has some serious flaws when it comes to accuracy and precision. 

Cookieless tracking utilizes scripts that run when a user visits a web page. The streaming data/ information captured by the script is then sent to an analytic server for storage. There is hence no requirement of storing information as a “cookie” on the visitor’s browser device. 

Cookieless tracking is, therefore, not just efficient in monitoring the users but does that at a cross-device level too.

Benefits of tracking without the cookies

While it is true that the death of third party cookies in Chrome has not come easy on marketers and ad buyers, the step is being appreciated by major players who are concerned about data protection. 

So, why is there a need to shift to a cookieless browsing world? 

We’ve already enlisted the flaws of cookie-based tracking. Here’s what you get when you go for a cookieless solution:

  • Accuracy: Since the solution generates unique click ids, which are only created when a user clicks on a tracking link, advertisers can precisely track individual transactions. 
  • Privacy and security: Because these solutions utilize serverside tracking, they prevent cookie stuffing conditions, which reduces the risk of affiliate frauds. 
  • Mobile tracking: Tracking without cookies is ideal for keeping track of mobile platforms. As mentioned earlier, various mobiles like iPhone have default browsers that shed cookies automatically. Going cookieless means getting efficient and accurate results on all mobile devices.
  • Cross-device tracking: Irrespective of the device that the consumers use (mobile, desktop, laptop, etc.), cookieless monitoring makes it possible to accurately attribute them and get a real-time picture of their browsing journey. 
  • In-App tracking: Various app environments depend on cookie-less tracking techniques to generate consumer behavior data. 

Various top brands are now changing the way they look at their targeting techniques. Focusing on segmented groups of users is being considered as a preferred option as compared to traditional techniques that focussed on over targeting. 

With death of third party cookies, terms like contextual targeting are sure to rule the advertising world. 

This sheds more light on the relevance of contextual data within the advertising world. It is safe to assume that the death of third party cookies will create data reliability as well as better quality. 

Final words: Moving towards a cookieless future in 2020

With the acknowledgment that it’s time for the “cookie to crumble”, the options of tracking without the cookies have gained popularity. 

While it is true that cookies are still very much alive, the need for accurate attribution and data privacy continues to rise. 

Cutting-edge technologies that offer holistic affiliate integration across all channels are now here. The gap between users and cookies is finally ready for bridging. Non-cookie-based methods are here to stay, especially when it comes to precision tracking for online users!

A viable solution for cookieless tracking by MobileAds

Having discussed the benefits and future of web browsing without using cookies, we leave you with a brief mention of our innovative solutions that offer privacy protected cookieless tracking.

We have been working on our own cookieless tracking since the announcements of GDPR to ensure our tracking is compliant with GDPR. Google mentioned that conversions will be tracked within the browser, not a 3rd party cookie and that is exactly what MobileAds’ cookie-less tracking was built upon.

How our Solution Works

  • Our tracking do not track user-level data but instead track campaign-level engagement data
  • It uses client-side mechanism to read/write information that is specific to that particular user
  • Information stored is anonymous (GDPR compliant) yet we are able to read engagement specific to that user
  • It works across all modern browsers and not affected by Apple’s ITS or Chrome 3rd Party Cookie blocking
  • Here’s an example flow
    • User A goes into Website A and see an Ad
    • This Ad view along with engagements (if any) will be stored anonymously using the client-side mechanism
    • When the user goes to the Advertiser landing page later (clickthrough is not required), our script that is embedded into the landing page will be able to read the anonymous data and attribute the conversion
    • Similarly, using the same idea, when User A goes to Website B and sees the same Ad, we’ll be able to read the data and understand how many times this user sees the same Ad (frequency) and if the user is a unique user

MobileAds’ Cookieless Tracking can solve the following

  • Unique User Reach across different DSPs/Exchanges/Publishers
  • View-through Conversion Tracking to track conversion without a clickthrough
  • 1st party data enrichment with paid media (banner ad)
    • This is a custom-built feature with Tealium
    • Using paid media to display a banner ad (whether it is an image ad, rich media or video), we can track user’s engagement on the ad (including video metrics such as video completion, etc)
    • When the user eventually converts on the advertiser’s landing page, our conversion script on the advertiser’s landing page will read these data and send over to Tealium as pre-conversion engagement
    • Combining Tealium’s 1st party data with our engagement data will helps advertiser understand the pre-conversion behaviour of the user

However, our solution can’t solve the following

  • Retargeting
  • Behavioural Targeting with 3rd Party Data
  • DMP Data Collection
  • Frequency Capping

The future of digital advertising is cookie-less. Building systems, agnostic to browsers like Chrome, Safari, Firefox and the rest should no longer be optional.

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