Cookies, those little text files websites place on user’s browsers to track their online behaviour, are quickly losing their gold standard as reliable, dependable and simple means by which marketers can better target their advertising. This, for the most part, is due to the proliferation of devices a single person uses and the fact cookies do not work in many mobile environments.

With the exponential growth of mobile devices- not to mention ad blockers- it has become challenging for marketers to obtain a clear picture of behaviour as it relates to their online behaviour. Paul Cimino, VP/GM of CRM company Merkle believes the cookie has four years of usable lifespan left).

But all is not lost for marketers when it comes to the cookie. There are several alternatives to cookie tracking that can help marketers retain what they will lose when the cookie rides off into the sunset as Clint Eastwood so often did in his spaghetti westerns.

Known identifiers, basically username and password, can reliably connect a user’s activity to a website. Facebook login works in much the same way tying the user to their Facebook data. Stable identifiers, such as Apple’s IFA and Google’s new AdID, are proprietary platform solutions which aim to replace and improve upon cookie technology. And statistical IDs, basically cross-device tracking which ties a person to their device attributes such as IP address, OS, device type, fonts or user-agent, can aid in tracking as well.

If you work with an affiliate marketing agency, you will want to be sure they have tracking solutions that will work with and replace the functionality of today’s cookie. One agency, AffiliateTraction, combines cookie tracking with batching and footprinting. Batching is the practice of accounting for missed affiliate sales by batching back transaction to networks so that what was missed can be picked up. Footprinting is a proprietary version of finger printing which is based on the early internet protocol, Finger, and modified to more closely follow Device Fingerprinting. One major benefit of footprinting is that it works on mobile devices where, in most cases, cookies do not. And footprinting leaves personally identifiable information out of the equation.

AffiliateTraction CEO Greg Shepard explains, saying, “Since the cookie is still the most popular we check that first, then if there is no cookie, we check a session and if there is no session, we check the footprint. A footprint is a subset of the data a finger print has. Most networks just use a cookie. For example, LinkShare has a session or a cookie. At AffiliateTraction, we use them all and what we track that networks miss we send back to the network to add those sales lost.”

All of these new tracking technologies will help merchants maintain a complete picture of consumer behavior as they cycle through affiliate channels and the sales funnel. Make sure you have them in place. It is unlikely you will find comprehensive, triple redundancy-like tracking at a network. This is no slam on networks. It is just the way it is.

But if you are a merchant and want a clear overview of what is working and what is not in your affiliate program, working with a third party affiliate marketing agency will give you just that. It is the same thing big brands do on the traditional side. Coke does not work ad networks; they work through an ad agency which oversees the lion’s share of their advertising for them. It should be no different in the affiliate marketing space.