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Data resiliency: How to move past cookies with server to server tracking

By Dario Villi | No Comments | 28th April 2020

Cookie-based advertising is dying and the way business can target their audience will necessarily have to shift accordingly. 

In the past few years, in fact, the market has been impacted by new privacy regulations, such as the GDPR in May 2018 and California Consumer Privacy Act of June of the same year. During Facebook’s F8 developer conference in April 2019, Mark Zuckerberg famously stated that ‘the future is private’ and that Facebook is becoming a privacy-focused communications platform. The end of 2020 should also see the introduction of a new European ePrivacy regulation that aims to strengthen existing EU law on the protection of personal data.

Data Resiliency
Following this trend, market players such as Apple Safari and Mozilla Firefox have since long developed Intelligent Tracking Prevention (ITP) systems, and now Google Chrome it’s next in phasing out third-party cookies with the goal of improving privacy and security on the web.

In February 2020, with the release of Chrome 80, an updated version of the most popular web browser, Google was meant to enforce a new “secure-by-default” cookie classification system called ‘SameSite’. The SameSite cookie implementation is meant to restrict cookies to first-party access by default and asking businesses to specifically mark cookies for third-party contexts. This is seen as an initial step to eventually phase out third-party cookies entirely. However, in the light of COVID-19, the company decided to postpone its enforcement to avoid creating further instability in the advertising world. 

As Google Chrome accounts for more than half of the global website traffic this change in its cookie policies will have a sizable impact on the online advertising ecosystem. Combined with the other regulations, ITPs, and policies implemented so far this change is significantly reducing – if not entirely blocking – the ability for advertisers to send offsite signals to publishers, which is key to run effective marketing campaigns. 

We already discussed more in detail why browser-based tracking is fading out, so in this article, we focus on how businesses can maintain the ability to pass on signals to publishers without relying on cookies, pixels, and browser-based tracking systems. 

A data resiliency solution

As businesses can no longer track people’s behavior across websites through pixels, it will limit their ad serving or retargeting campaigns based on users’ browser history and behavior. For instance, it will limit the ability to rely on things such as:

  • website analytics
  • conversions tracking
  • marketing personalization for returning visitors
  • A/B-testing to improve performances
  • and more 

However, businesses can still leverage web cookies by turning them into first-party data or ‘server cookies’. In other words, businesses can collect information about their website visitors, leads, and customers by storing them as first-party data and then pushing them directly to different publishing platforms.

A ‘data resiliency solution’ enables companies to maintain a full-funnel tracking system that involves online, offline and off-site events. 

Leveraging first-party data to improve marketing performances is already a common practice for many businesses that do omnichannel retargeting with CRM-based custom audiences and the measurement of offline conversions. It enables companies to achieve omnichannel excellence by optimizing their campaigns based on offline conversions attribution, retargeting high-intent audiences, and surfacing better visibility into ROAS with closed-loop reporting

Leveraging first-party data now will become the norm for any other marketing signal: instead of using browser-based tracking, businesses will share information with publishers through server to server tracking. 

What is server to server tracking?

Server to server tracking is when a unique ID is assigned to a web visitor who interacts on a webpage by clicking on a specific link, filling a form, or visiting a page. The unique ID is stored on a private server and it can be matched later on if the user linked to the same ID interacts again on the same website with a ‘trackable action’. The information stored in the server is private and it can be ‘pushed’ to publishers servers for marketing purposes.  

In other words, a server to server tracking solution allows advertisers to send marketing signals to publishers like Facebook, Google, Instagram, LinkedIn, Pinterest, directly from a private server. As the pixel snippets tracking purchases, items in the cart, and new leads will disappear, server to server conversion tracking helps companies to store important information about their potential customers in a private server. The information can then be processed as if they were browser pixel events and they can be leveraged in order to measure and optimize advertising campaigns. 

server to server tracking

The benefits of Server to Server Conversion Tracking

There are many benefits that come with changing the process of sending information to advertising publishers through a centralized server to server conversion tracking solution. Four are particularly important:  

1)   Data control: first of all, businesses can have much greater control in the data they want to send to the publishing platforms. Selecting and streamlining only the most relevant information to target an audience will positively impact campaign results. 

2)   Privacy compliance: by adopting a server to server conversion tracking solution businesses can “future proof” themselves in a market that is quickly moving away from cookies, after relying on them for 25 years. Not only businesses can be a step ahead and keep their marketing strategies in place, but also be privacy compliant with the most recent regulations of the industry. 

3)   Cross channel resiliency: in order to be data resilient in the changing market advertisers should diversify their marketing strategy across several publishing platforms. With a centralized server to server tracking solution, they can send events/signals to many advertising platforms, without developing a single solution for each of them. 

4)   Accurate mobile tracking: tracking people’s behavior from mobile with cookies has always been challenging for advertisers due to fragmentation of user’s activity between native apps and mobile web browsing. Server to server conversion tracking helps to increase the accuracy of signals coming from mobile navigation (which accounts for more than half of web navigation worldwide).

Server to server integration

It will be up to each business to ‘push’ their server to server tracking data with each and every one of the most important advertising platforms (such as Facebook, LinkedIn, Google, etc), both from desktop and mobile activities. Supposedly businesses will develop their server to server tracking solutions in-house or with an external IT team, but for most businesses, this process is too complex and costly, not to mention that it would take several months to be up and running. 

Server to Server

However, companies will also have the option to rely on middleware software to develop their server to server integration with the publishing platforms and cut the time and the cost of the integration by a large margin. 

LeadsBridge is a cloud-based integration platform developing a ‘Data Resiliency Solution’ in order to help advertisers to go beyond cookies and pixels to pass on important marketing signals to publishers. The solution is not on the market yet, but it will be announced in due time. 

LeadsBridge Data Resilience Solution will help businesses to centralize all operations and data streamlines to a private server, tracking events from both desktop and mobile traffic, and then activate several complex integrations in a matter of weeks, lifting the burden of technical development from the client-side. 

Server to server tracking

Relying on such server to server tracking solutions will give companies both the trust to work with a partner which deeply understands the process, and safe and reliable technology to preserve the efficiency of their marketing performances.  

Conclusion and Main Takeaways

The way companies will be able to do advertising is changing after relying for many years on web cookies. New regulations about data protection and ITP systems developed by browsers to block or partially limit the use of cookies are forcing marketers and advertisers to change their strategy. 

In order to avoid cookie-based advertising campaigns, companies should leverage first-party data collected with server to server conversion tracking technology. This will enable companies not only to stay ahead of the competition by keeping their marketing strategies up and running but also have more control in the data streamlined to publishing platforms. 

However, since most companies won’t have the time and money to develop the server to server integration on their own, they will need to rely on middleware solutions. LeadsBridge is developing its ‘Data Resilient Solution’ in order to help advertisers centralize and streamline their data signals to publishers in the “soon-to-be cookieless” advertising world.

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Dario Villi

I am passionate about marketing and writing. I also like to make videos. I create content for a living!

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