Increased privacy is one of the most impactful changes in the industry at the moment.
Last year, with the launch of iOS 14, Apple implemented “App Tracking Transparency” which prevents all apps from tracking individual users unless they explicitly ‘opt in’. David, our UX and Conversion Director wrote an in-depth blog post on this at the time, which you can read here.
More recently, GDPR guidelines were updated to clarify that users must actively consent to being tracked before websites can place cookies on their device. Specifically, The EDPB guidelines make it clear that scrolling or continued browsing on a website does not constitute valid consent and that cookie banners are not allowed to have pre-ticked checkboxes. Cookie walls (forced consent) are also ruled non-compliant.
Taken together, this means that the majority of users are no longer tracked, either when clicking on ads, or simply browsing websites.
This leads to a profound lack of visibility on performance marketing results – brands are unable to accurately measure and report on ROI using “traditional” means.
What is the impact increased privacy is having on eCommerce tracking and measurement?
On average, we have seen a drop of around 70% fewer users being tracked on our clients’ websites due to the increased awareness of privacy. For iPhone users, this is closer to 90%. Accurate attribution of marketing activity, as well as audience understanding, has become much more difficult and complex to achieve.
GA4 attempts to address this by “modelling” user behaviour based on those we are able to track. This means they are extrapolating data from a sample size of 10 – 30% of actual users – this is fine for broad considerations, but not for accurate/reliable insights and measurement.
At a basic level, these privacy changes have had an impact on our understanding of who our customers are and how they interact with a website, our understanding of revenue generation and conversion rates, and our ability to attribute ROI to the marketing mix.
Thankfully, this blog post isn’t just written to be all bad news – in the next section I’ll address what you can be doing as a marketer to ensure your websites are GDPR compliant, but also enabling you to accurately report on and optimise your marketing activity and user behaviour.
Consideration: Consent Management Platforms
If your website is serving individuals from the EU and you – or embedded third-party services like Google and Facebook – are processing any kind of personal data, you need to obtain prior consent from the visitor.
A consent management platform (CMP) is a piece of software that can automate the gathering and management of user consent for you.
CMPs prevent cookies from being placed on a user’s device until they explicitly provide consent, and integrate with tracking/tag management platforms such as Google Tag Manager.
There are many CMPs available, and your choice of CMP will likely be led by functionality, ease of use, and cost. At Clicky, our preferred CMP is Cookiebot – it’s easy to use, relatively inexpensive for most websites, easy to modify the design to fit individual branding, and also integrates well with Google Tag Manager for rapid implementation.
Consideration: Cookieless tracking
In light of the ramp-up in the ICO’s GDPR guidance, many brands are just now finding out how difficult it is to track user behaviour online.
As this is still an emerging problem, there is no perfect solution yet by any means. At Clicky, we are encouraging clients to see Google Analytics (and in particular, GA4) as an “optimisation tool” rather than an accurate measurement tool, due to the fact the platform models data.
We are then encouraging our clients to look at other solutions for accurate reporting and measurement.
One part of the solution is “Cookieless” or “server-side” tracking.
Emerging cookieless tracking tools like Matomo, Fathom, and Plausible are ones that are beginning to become popular, as they allow brands to accurately measure website performance.
As these platforms don’t rely upon cookies to operate, they fire and measure regardless of how a user interacts with a CMP – providing a complete picture of website performance regardless of privacy preferences.
However, these platforms are relatively new in the market (Matomo being the exception), and as such don’t offer everything an eCommerce website might need – eCommerce tracking in particular – but new features are being developed and launched all the time.
The privacy and tracking situation across the industry is very much in flux. Nobody has the right answer yet, and there is no perfect solution. No one platform is mature enough to provide a comprehensive privacy solution, but there are large, enterprise-level solutions that are getting close (if you have the budget to afford them). The future for most brands, at least in the short term, is likely to be the use of multiple platforms that do one thing really well, rather than a single “universal” analytics platform.
If you would like to learn more about what you can be doing right now to ensure accurate oversight of your marketing and your users – get in touch with a member of the team today.