Will There Ever Be Cookieless Tracking

From Wiki

Jump to: navigation, search

The recent introduction of the EU’s e-Privacy Directive, which requires that consent is obtained when cookies are placed on a user’s machine, has produced a fair amount of apprehension and uncertainty amongst UK online marketers. It is fair to say this attitude has been mirrored by the UK government. Its pledge to hold back from enforcing the Directive for a further year is perhaps testament to the confusion around what practically would need to be done to ensure compliance, and a desire that those in the online industry solve the problem for them.

The threat to cookie-based tracking, the most widespread method of online tracking for user behaviour and purchases, is clearly something to take seriously; though as are, of course, concerns around privacy, even if cookies have unfairly been taken to be symbolic of these concerns. After all, the ePrivacy Directive, whilst often referred to as the ‘cookie law’, is actually about ensuring that users have informed consent regarding what is tracked and by whom, and giving them the chance to opt-out if they want to. It is not about cookies as such.

Concerns about the reliability of cookie-based tracking are not new. Fear around over-zelous anti-virus solutions blocking or deleting publisher cookies have been around for years, and in the publisher community commission rates have sometimes been set higher to adjust for this possibility. But cookie-based tracking remains the most reliable form of tracking at present and reliability is the feature that most online marketers – particularly those in the publisher space – need the most. Think of the impact on the perceptions of the end customer who fails to see their cashback track correctly, for instance. It is easy to see why the most robust solution is the preferred one, and why defending it is important.

That said, several solutions already exist to complement or back-up cookie-based tracking. Awin tracks approximately 4% of sales through eTag tracking. 3% of these however would normally be picked up by IP address tracking. Therefore only 1% of transactions are picked up by these backup measures.

Increasing awareness of cookies amongst users unfortunately often leads to misperceptions about what they are used for. Some people still perceive cookies as spyware and this is a misconception which needs to be challenged.

But there is another misconception amongst those in online marketing, one that is often heard in the publisher world: that cookie deletion is rife. This is also not the case. Some cashback sites, amongst the largest publisher s in the UK market, occasionally advise their members to clear cookies prior to making a purchase through their links, but their estimations are that the proportion of members that actually do so are in the single figures. If cookie deletion rates start to rise and tracking of sales that are solely dependent on these start to fall, there could be pressure either for new solutions to be found or for advertisers to take account of this, perhaps through offering slightly higher commission rates. But at present there is little evidence that either of these this is happening.

Cookie deletion is one thing, but whether or not cookies are accepted due to browser settings are quite another. The iPhone, for instance, is by default set to only accept first party cookies (those set by an advertiser’s own server) rather than third party cookies placed by other companies (affiliate marketing networks, for instance). But with browsers like Chrome offering users the ability to delete third party cookies, first party cookies and other tracking solutions such as eTags are perceived as more necessary.

Similarly, mobile devices such as the iPad and iPhone shed cookies very quickly in order to economise on memory. This is not the same as users deleting their cookies – and so cannot be taken as indicative of the user’s own concerns regarding cookies – but produces the same effect nonetheless. The problem is also more one of multiple devices. Without the ability to cookie users themselves we have to rely on means that are, necessarily, imperfect to build up a picture of their behaviour.

So, in short, the answer to the question posted above– will there ever be just cookieless tracking? – is: no, not any time soon. Cookies are an essential part of a functional web-browsing experience. It is in this respect, rather in respect of the tracking and recording of sales for online marketers, that users will accept the benefits of cookies.

View this article live on The Marketing Lounge


Due to new European legislation regarding how websites store information about you, AWIN is updating its privacy policy. You can see the new version of our policy here. If you would like to see the information we capture on this website, please click here for further details. In order to accept cookies on this site please click the 'I ACCEPT' button