Marketing in the face of ITP

The Problem: Intelligent Tracking Prevention (ITP)

What is it?

ITP is a privacy feature used by Apple’s Safari browser since 2017. It was established to protect users’ online privacy, by limiting the ways advertisers and site owners can track users across domains to personalize content and advertise. This is intended to ensure that users only have long-term persistent cookies and website data from the sites with which they regularly interact, that and tracking data is removed proactively as they browse the web. Google have also announced a similar feature that they intend to phase in over the coming two years, as well as Firefox who currently have the ETP privacy feature.

 

How does it work?

Any websites that load scripts or images across domains are classified according to a machine-learning algorithm, and cookies that those sites deposit are essentially sectioned off — preventing them from tracking the user 1 – 7 days after they first interacted with the site. The time range here is significant:

Only third-party cookies with cross site tracking capabilities, which are loaded via another domain, are purged after one day. However, if the user interacts with a domain directly, often referred to as a first-party domain, Intelligent Tracking Prevention considers it a signal that the user is interested in the website and will allow the cookies to be loaded in a first party context for 7 days, after which they too will be purged if there is a lack of activity.

This sounds like a good thing, right?

Well, ITP and its ever more restrictive iterations over the past few years are making the lives of marketers difficult. We explain why below:

 

Why does it matter?

Currently the default expiration length for the Adobe Analytics and Google Analytics cookies are 2 years. This means that you could visit a site on 11/12/2020, and a cookie will be set with an expiration of 10/12/2022. You could have zero interactions with the site for one year and 364 days, but when you return on that 365th day, Adobe Analytics and Google Analytics would recognize you as the same user that was on the site on the 11/12/2020.

So how does ITP impact this? If you were to use Safari to visit the same site on 11/12/2020, and there aren’t any interactions with the site for seven days, the cookie will be destroyed. This means that should you visit the site on 19/12/2020 you’ll be identified as a completely new user.

These cookies are how Adobe and Google identify a user who visited your site last month via Google, as the same user visiting this month via Facebook, as the same user six months ago via a double-click ad, so not having them present on the browser results in a whole host of consequences to your marketing metrics, such as not being able to determine your conversion rate for any one particular channel, or not being able to put an accurate figure on the cost of each conversion. Advertising is also adversely impacted, due to users falling out of your remarketing audience rapidly if they aren’t exposed to another ad to renew the cookie’s expiration date.

 

What can you do?

Server-Side Tagging

Google Tag Manager Server Side is a recent development, which allows for the hosting of a server side GTM container. In that container, Google Tag Manager is getting data from the client-side tracking codes, processes it, manipulates it, and then sends to any 3rd party vendors with whom you’re working. This is in contrast, of course, to this happening in your users’ browsers.

This brings with it a number of benefits – one of which being that ITP’s aforementioned cookie expiration limit of between 1 and 7 days can be avoided when the cookie is stored from the server side.

However, for the Server container to work as a replacement for your browser or app-based tracking, the vendors to whom you want to send data need to be able to collect the HTTP requests sent by the Server container. Most of the Google tags are ready to be switched to server-side tags, but other vendors’ tags are not. There are services provided by vendors such as HotJar, for example, that are so tightly coupled with client-side interactions that it is unlikely you will ever be able to run them without having to download their JavaScript.

Therefore, whilst GTM Server Side is certainly a development that should be of interest to marketers looking to tackle ITP, it doesn’t come without its share of technical drawbacks such as the inability to continue providing data to third party vendors. It is also important to point out that this only works with Google cookies, and organisations tend to use a combination of tracking tools. Using Server-Side tagging as an only solution to ITP can create further issues for your organisation regarding capturing consent; compliance requirements for regulations such as GDPR will not be met.

 

Cassie’s Identity Service

Here at Syrenis, we have developed an innovative solution for organisations feeling the effects of ITP on their online marketing. Cassie’s Identity Service has been built specifically to support companies who wish to maintain and persist the consent that their visitors have provided. This persistent feature regenerates the cookies and critically the identifiers by storing their users’ cookie consents, or indeed the actual cookie scripts themselves, in Cassie’s centralised platform. Regardless of whether these cookies have been categorised as first or third party, Cassie’s identity service will assign each anonymous visitor to your site a unique identifier and create a record of the consent provided for each cookie loaded to that user’s browser. Should that particular individual visit the site again at a later date, Cassie will recognise the visitor based on their unique identifier and regenerate the purged cookies.

This innovative solution simply delivers the consent that the visitor originally made. It is compliant and ethical and resolves the inaccurate attribution data caused by ITP. The solution has a low-tech stack allowing you to use your existing solutions so is quick and easy to deploy. With the support of our experienced project management team, who have successfully rolled out Cassie’s Identity Service for many clients, you can defend yourself against ITP’s impact on their online marketing efforts.

 

See how we can help.

If you’d like to see how ITP will impact your organisation you can use our ITP Calculator by clicking here.

Alternatively reach out today to schedule a demo of Cassie and discover how we can help your marketing team tackle ITP.