Nick Morris, VP Engineering at Tradedoubler, writes about the importance of first party tracking in performance marketing and Tradedoubler’s solutions to help advertisers upgrade their integrations.

 

Apple’s Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC20) is always subject to much hype, and this year was no different. 

There were several rumours in the build-up of the event on how Apple would extend its privacy focused Intelligent Tracking Prevention (ITP) and the impact for the wider AdTech/performance marketing community 

Rumours started that Apple was dropping its own Mobile Ad Id (IDFA) and following the event there was also confusion from a demo of the MacOS that Safari would stop Google Analytics from tracking.

What’s changed

Apple is changing the way its own Ad ID IDFA can be used across apps. 

This brings apps closer in line with the web with regards to thirdparty tracking and ad personalisation. Apple plans to send just-in-time notifications to alert them when an app wants permission to track them across sites and apps followed by two options: “Allow tracking” or “Ask app not to track.” It will be interesting to see what impact this has on developers that rely on in-app advertising and mobile ad tech on the whole – especially given Apple’s mobile market share of just under 29%. 

For the web, it seems there was an overreaction to the MacOS 11 Safari demo. New functionality allows users to see which trackers are loaded (something that’s been available using browser plugins for some time). The confusion came when Google Analytics (GA) was shown as a tracker, but it has been confirmed since that Safari will not stop GA resources (essentially GA JavaScript libraries) being loaded and it will still work using firstparty cookies, but that thirdparty cookies will not be available in cross-site requests. 

Why does this matter for Performance Marketing? 

At Tradedoubler we have been a big proponent of First Party Tracking long before the third-party cookie browser backlash. With a more privacy-oriented user behaviour, the rise of ad blocking and browser privacy solutions clearly show that First Party Tracking solutions should be a must for all advertisers.  

Before starting this blog, I took a look through our data to review our conversion validations and see the impact on browsers over the last 12 months. The results were rather interesting.

We took a simple snapshot of June to date of this year versus last year. The results are the percentage of conversions (leads or sales) validated by each method by browser (we’ve only included third and firstparty cookie validation, ignoring some offline validations and via cookieless tracking, hence why it doesn’t sum to 100%). We took the three largest browsers over Europe. 

As you can see, from 2019 to 2020 for Chrome there is a small change in the reduction of validations using thirdparty cookies. To some extent, this can be explained by Google’s approach with a staggered phase out of third-party cookies in 2022. The same-site upgrade also meant there would be support for the near-term so long as certain conditions were satisfied – such as ensuring cookies were explicitly set to allow access over third party (sameSite=lax) and only available over HTTPS (secure).  

Firefox is perhaps the most startling result with a drop of 82% of conversions validated by third party cookies in 2019 to just 7% in 2020. This is largely explained by Firefox roll out of Enhanced Tracking Prevention in 2020. We see a similar if less dramatic impact of Safari’s much publicised Intelligent Tracking Protection.  

What does it mean for Advertisers?

Being a panEuropean Affiliate Network, we are acutely aware of the impact this has on each country. For instance, based on browser usage stats, we can see that countries such as Germany and Poland have a higher usage of Firefox than average, whereas UK and Sweden have a high Safari usage (over 30%).  

On the whole, Chrome is still the most widely used browser across Europe by far and it will be very interesting to see how Google manages the thirdparty cookie phase out – with the COVID-19 pandemic, Google temporarily rolled back its sameSite roll out program to avoid disruption. 

What we’re doing at Tradedoubler

We have supported first-party cookie tracking since the last decade. The results from our data show that the browser privacy changes that have been reported for a while now are clearly having an impact and all advertisers should be prioritising upgrading their tracking solutions so that they support first-party cookies.  

We understand that this is sometimes easier said than done, which is why we have developed a range of solutions to help our clients upgrade to first-party without significant development/engineering, with new tags and server-side solutions to suit the complex needs of our clients. 

Additionally, we are investing in building plugins for all major e-commerce platforms which should make upgrading your tracking a simple plugandplay process. 

If you have any questions, please reach out to me or your Account Manager. 

Nick Morris 

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