Starting with Apple’s Intelligent Tracking Prevention 2.0 in 2018, major browsers have increasingly limited the ways that cookies can be used to track individuals and events online. By early 2020, Apple Safari, Google Chrome, and Mozilla Firefox were all blocking third-party cookies by default. And recent announcements signal that more restrictions are likely on the way.

It’s time for performance marketers to finally accept a hard truth: the future of digital tracking is cookieless. Soon, technologies such as server-side tracking will mean the difference between success and failure. If you’re still relying on cookies to track your campaigns, it’s time to make a change. 

What’s wrong with cookie-based tracking?

The short answer: A lot.

Cookie-based tracking, also called pixel tracking and client-side tracking, relies on a user’s web browser to track conversions. It works by placing a cookie in the user’s browser when an ad is clicked. That cookie stores information about the user, the ad’s content, and the publisher who ran the ad. If the user goes on to complete a specific action on a conversion page, a tracking pixel on the page collects the information from the cookie and sends it to the advertiser’s tracking platform.

In other words, cookie tracking makes the browser do all the hard work. As a result, it is simple and very easy for advertisers to set up. All they have to do is place a tracking pixel on the conversion page.

But what happens when the browser stops doing the work?

Preparing for a cookieless future

The best way to protect your business and partnerships moving forward is to end your dependence on cookies and adopt future-proof tracking methods that work across mobile and web. These methods include:

Postback tracking

Also called server-side and server-to-server tracking, postback tracking uses an advertiser’s server to track conversions. This method is completely independent of the user’s browser, and therefore unaffected by anti-tracking measures such as ITP. It also works on mobile.

Cookieless tracking

This method uses a JavaScript code snippet and client-side local storage to measure conversions across desktop and mobile web. Cookieless tracking combines the ease of pixels with the accuracy of postbacks, and is most effective when used in conjunction with other methods.

Clickless tracking

Promo codes are a clickless tracking solution that can be used almost anywhere: online, offline, mobile, TV, radio, etc. Thanks to their versatility and ease of use, promo codes have become a mainstay of cross-channel campaigns and emerging channels.

Which methods you ultimately choose will depend on your business model, target market, and other factors. In addition, it will take some time to get your new tracking system set up and running. Ensure your success by securing an expert team to help.

The Boiling Frog

Have you ever heard the fable of the boiling frog? It goes something like this: A frog that suddenly finds itself in a pot of boiling water will just as suddenly jump out of it. But if the frog begins in a pot of lukewarm water, and the water is slowly brought to a boil, the frog will not realise the growing danger.

Don’t be that frog. Now is the time to get ahead of this slow boil. The world of tracking is changing around you — take action before it’s too late. 

To discover more about how you can avoid the boiling water and prepare for a cookieless future, check out this new resource, How to Become a Track Star: Your Guide to Tracking for Performance Marketing Campaigns. In this white paper, you’ll learn more about:

  • Why cookie-based tracking is a growing risk for your business, and how you can mitigate this risk
  • Why accurate, reliable, cross-channel tracking is a game-changer for program and partnership success 
  • How 4 key tracking methods work, the channels they measure, and the advantages and disadvantages of each
  • What technology and partners you need to implement the best tracking methods for your business