ITP can seriously disrupt insights regarding the use of marketing budgets. As a result, you may spend a large part of your money incorrectly. A simple one-off procedure using Cookie Guard can provide the solution.
Intelligent tracking prevention (ITP) is a technique designed to protect the privacy of users of Apple's browser Safari. It was introduced in 2017 and has evolved since then, as a result of a cat-and-mouse game between Apple and major adtech companies (making their money from online advertising and the technology behind it). ITP focuses on limiting cross-site tracking1. This is something that companies like Google, Facebook, and other advertising companies do on a large scale. ITP is trying to restrict the invasion of privacy caused by these large companies, which are everywhere on the internet. However, the way Safari does this has major (unintended) side effects.
The side effects of ITP
The way Safari (with ITP) fights cross-site tracking is, among other things, by limiting the capabilities of cookies and other forms of storage in the browser. This not only protects the privacy of the users. It also limits the effectiveness of tools that depend on being able to identify the user. Important applications that are affected are:
- Conversion attribution
- Marketing and remarketing
- Collecting website statistics
Conversion attribution ensures that you can use your marketing budget effectively
Safari sees this as an invasion of user privacy. And, with ITP, has made conversion attribution very difficult. This makes it problematic for marketers to effectively manage their campaigns.
How ITP blocks conversion attribution
To understand what happens exactly, the following three components of ITP are important:
- There is an on-device list of common tracking domains. This list is based on the user's online traffic and activity.
- The lifespan of cookies and other forms of storage in the browser is limited depending on a number of rules.
- Restrictions are imposed on cross-site requests to domains listed at 1.
The entire toolbox of the modern online marketer [...] is affected
This “special case” is very common in the context of online marketing. A simple example of this is a Google Ads ad. A user searches for your product on google.com and sees an advertisement. When the user clicks on it, he or she will land on a page where the product is sold. The URL in the browser will often look like this:
The online marketer is deprived of his senses
The problem is that the lifetime of the cookie containing the campaign information is only one day, because google.com has been identified by ITP as a "tracking domain" and because the page's URL contains query parameters. Therefore, if the user makes his purchase the next day, it will not be seen as a result of this campaign. This deprives the marketer of her senses. She can no longer rely on the data to make decisions about campaigns.
This is your problem too
The key question is of course: does this also affect my webshop and my campaigns? And how big is the impact? And do I perhaps make marketing decisions based on data that is incorrect or incomplete? The exact answers to these questions are likely to differ between websites. But in general you can assume that ITP does have an impact. There is good reason that ads in Safari have decreased in value since 2017. The CEO of adtech company "Rubicon Project" says: 3
The allure of a Safari user in an auction has plummeted [...] There’s no easy ability to ID a user.
To be able to estimate the impact ITP has, you can look at the percentage of traffic or transactions on your website that comes from Safari. Suppose it is 40%. And suppose that in your industry on average 50% of users wait for a day before making their purhase. This means that potentially 20% of your marketing budget is misattributed. For most webshops this implies gross errors in their attribution overviews, leading to misguided and expensive decisions.
How Cookie Guard solves the problem
By now, every online marketer should ask himself: how do I solve this? How do I prevent 20% of my budget from being misattributed and thus appearing to go up in smoke? The solution lies in the way ITP assesses cookies.
How do I keep 20% of my marketing budget from going up in smoke?
With the Harvest Cookie Guard you can transform your cookies into HTTP cookies, which guarantees their lifespan. A simple and one-off solution, but one that has major consequences for your complete client-side toolbox. In particular for the attribution of your marketing budgets. It contributes to the foundation of all your online activities: reliable data collection. This prevents many uncertainties and errors that can potentially be very expensive.
Would you like to try Cookie Guard one month for free? Contact us.
Or do our test to see if ITP impacts your analytics data.
The blocking of conversion attribution by ITP in action (in Dutch):
1 Cross-site tracking means that information about your visit to one website ends up with another website. By applying this at large scale, some big companies can piece together information about your behavior on large parts of the internet.