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What does a cookieless future mean for affiliates?

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Most of you will by now have read that the increased demand for privacy and new GDPR laws mean that tracking via cookies will over time be phased out. Cookies are small pieces of text sent to your browser by a website you visit. They help that website remember information about your visit, which can both make it easier to visit the site again and make the site more useful to you.

Affiliate marketers have been using cookies to track user behaviour pretty much for as long as the industry has been around. Cookies have received a lot of press in the past few years as privacy and security on the internet have been placed in the spotlight. But how do cookies compromise privacy and security? Cookies can be used to follow a user’s behaviour across numerous websites, which might be a possible security problem. For example, if a user visits a website that has been compromised, their cookies can be taken and used to impersonate the user on other websites.

So when will cookie-based tracking stop? According to Seach Engine Journal, Google has delayed the deprecation of third-party cookies in Chrome by another year, with plans to start phasing them out in 2024. Plans changed again last year when Google extended the deadline to 2023. Now the extension is getting an extension. Google needs more time to test its Privacy Sandbox initiative — a less intrusive solution for delivering targeted advertising.

So the good news is that there is still some time before the phasing out officially begins, but to avoid a major disruption to your affiliate marketing business it’s best to start preparing now if you haven’t already. You are probably wondering what the alternatives are. Is tracking and marketing automation without third-party cookies even possible? The answer is of course. There are plenty of ways to track affiliate sales without having to use third-party cookies and you can implement a lot of marketing automation features with only 1st party cookies.

Server-side Tracking – Also known as server-to-server, S2S, server-side, server-based, and server-call tracking, does not require any software installed on the user’s computer and, therefore, can be considered a 100% cookieless tracking method.

Many believe that server-to-server tracking methods are more accurate because conversions are not lost when users disable cookies in their internet browsers. Server-side tracking, unlike cookies, stores information associated with the user, the affiliate, and the offer on a server and links it to a unique identifier like transaction IDs and affiliate IDs used by networks.

Another option to give people a seamless and personalized experience across different websites is Customer Identity Access Managers (CIAMs). These CIAMs are platforms that allow users to create their profile and use it to log in to various websites or applications. A CIAM provides both ease of login for users and the ability to collect metadata from those same users.

Affiliate marketers will need to familiarise themselves with these alternatives, but it’s important to remember that the objective of your digital marketing activities remains the same — delivering the right message to the right person at the right time. The tools may be changing, but the goals and principles are the same. Embrace this change as an opportunity to build a stronger, more transparent relationship with your customers – one based on user trust and consent.

Happy selling!

The AdMarula Team

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