Intelligent Tracking Prevention: What it Means for eCommerce

Learn how to cope with Apple's ITP policy and upcoming data privacy demands. 

Nikole Wintermeier | May 11, 2020

intelligent tracking prevention

As an online retailer, you probably use a program like Google Analytics to track your customers’ behavior. You A/B test on-site. Have a social media strategy in place to re-target your shoppers.

Plus, you re-target on-site, by recognizing returning visitors. 

But what if I told you that everything you do to personalize and retarget your shoppers is about to get a lot harder? 

All of the above relies on customer data. And I hate to be the one to break it to you, but data privacy for consumers is growing. 

But, of course, you already know this. With the GDPR in Europe and more stringent data laws taking shape, your company has already taken the necessary measures.

So what about intelligent tracking prevention?

For eCommerce, Apple’s intelligent tracking prevention (ITP) is making it harder to profile, segment, and target your online shoppers. Although ITP is Apple’s policy, other big tech companies are already following suit. 

This article will help you understand ITP as a way to future-proof your business against growing data concerns. Working within ITP is the first step. 

In a cookie-less future, in-session personalization will take lead. The focus will shift to product-driven customer experiences. And, eventually, customers will truly own their data and be more empowered as they shop online. 

Here’s what we’ll cover:

  1. What you need to know about ITP for eCommerce
  2. What you can do to start addressing ITP on your webshop
  3. Our prediction for customer data in a cookie-less future

 

What is Intelligent Tracking Prevention?

What you need to know about ITP for eCommerce

 

intelligence tracking prevention timeline

 

In layman’s terms, Apple’s ITP is a seven-day cookie policy. This means that a visitor on your webshop will be registered as a new user seven days after they initially visited. 

Before ITP, cookies didn’t reset for two years, giving ample time to synthesize the billions of data points and touchpoints your customers had with your products and brand. 

Now, ITP blocks third-party advertising. Your customer’s cookies will be purged on any site after thirty days. 

This means that after seven days, no software (Google Analytics, Facebook, etc) will be able to track. After thirty days, about 15-30% of your conversion data disappear unless a shopper is logged in, according to Savvy Revenue.

This obviously affects ads on third-party sites as you won’t be able to target your customers on social media or search based on their behavior on your webshop after seven days. 

But what about the user experience on your webshop?

Well, after thirty days, it will be harder to identify returning customers if you’re using Google Analytics (you can still place first party cookies as a webshop - read this post about first party and third party cookies for more). 

 

intelligent tracking prevention ecommerce facebook

For example, say I bought a jacket from TWOTHIRDS. Two weeks later I see this Facebook ad and decide to click on it, I’m then redirected to the TWOTHIRDS webshop. 

But instead of welcoming me back and showing relevant product recommendations based on my previous purchase, TWOTHIRDS will actually register me as a new user. They may even promote the same jacket I just bought two weeks ago!

Or imagine that your customer clicks on a Facebook ad for a product on Friday. But they decide to take a week to think about buying it. 

When the weekend shopping day comes around, the cookie won’t be around to register when the person returns directly to your site to buy that jacket. Meaning you’ll be unable to track the full effectiveness of your ads.

To sum it up: 

  • A visitor who returns to your website after seven days is seen as a new rather than returning (if they don’t interact with you in between), if they’re using a third-party software
  • Google Ads, Facebook, and any other third-party site won’t be able to track cookies across sites to optimize ads
  • Segmentation will be affected as you won’t be able to segment based on previously observed behavior
  • According to Sjoerd Mulder CTO at Crobox, A/B testing will also be impacted by the ITP (so it’s better to have the same user in the same group so your results are cleaner!)

Let’s take a look at some more ways of dealing with these new data privacy measures. 

 

What you can do to start addressing ITP on your webshop 

 

Many people are already dramatizing the impact of ITP. For now, however, the policy only affects Safari browsers. Globally, Safari accounts for 16.4% of the market share. And according to Awin, most Safari sales already convert within seven days, meaning the effect will be minimal.

intelligent tracking prevention ecommerce

 

But before you start rejoicing that this won’t affect you, you should actually start preparing for the inevitable. Chrome, Mozilla, and Firefox are already dialing up their privacy protection policies. 

In the future, data will only continue to be increasingly more protected. The sooner you start addressing ITP, the more prepared you’ll be for what’s to come. 

With that in mind, how do you get started?

Here are a couple of things that will help you get your feet off the ground: 

 

1. Analyze Google Analytics to track changes

 

Google Analytics will struggle to track customers without first-party data, so the first thing you should do is analyze how this new policy is already affecting your conversion rates.  

Calculate the revenue and traffic from Safari users, and experiment with GA filters to see any changes the policy might engender. 

Have a read of this article for more information on how this is done.

 

2. Personalize the customer experience in-session

intelligent tracking prevention ecommerce zooplus example

Zooplus could go one step further with their recommendation engine based on the pet I have, and the magazine I downloaded to personalize my experience in-session.

 

Once you’ve analyzed what areas of your targeting and measurements will be affected, it’s time to focus your personalization in-session. This is a first-party data collection strategy since you control the data pipeline on your webshop from start to finish. 

How do you do this?

Well, you track your shopper’s in-session behavior depending on what content your site has to offer: 

  • What links did they click on?
  • Which information did they look at (did they download articles, brochures?) 
  • Which products have they viewed and in what order?
  • What filters did they use? 
  • How did they navigate your webshop and what areas did they interact with? 

For example, imagine you’re selling pet food. Different food categories are suited to pets of various sizes and ages. So you have to be specific with your onsite promotions according to the user. 

Tracking behavioral data will probably enable you to figure out the types of pets your shoppers own. With that, you can show your customers relevant products throughout your website. 

According to Rodger Buyvoets, CEO at Crobox, In-session personalization will enhance your onsite product promotion - as long as the action remains within the current browser session. 

 

3. Log-Ins


intelligent tracking prevention ecommerce log-ins

 

Another way to work within ITP is by optimizing your log-in offers. But make sure these don’t interrupt the customer journey: they should be non-intrusive nudges that offer an opportunity to delight your customers. 

For example, Amazon and Facebook have user log-ins which means they can avoid many side effects of the ITP. Nurture your browsers into buyers by providing an incentive if they are to log-in and create profiles with you. 

This means having a holistic digital experience that is worth logging into. The customer data you have from logins is first-party data that you can hold on to and will enable you to build better customer profiles for better on-site targeting. 

 

4. Product intelligence 

 

product intelligence itp for ecommerce

One great way to continue to personalize the customer experience and collect valuable first-party data is through product intelligence. For example, imagine you’re selling a desk chair. The chair has many characteristics: e.g., adjustable height, easy to assemble, durable quality, multiple colors, recyclable material, etc. 

By testing these attributes with Dynamic Product Badges on the PLP, you can measure which qualities of the chair help convert your customers. 

For example, you may find that your shoppers in the UK tend to click on the product badge “easy to assemble”. You can use this information to optimize your product descriptions, emphasizing this attribute.

More than this, according to Janelle De Weerd, head of marketing at Crobox, you can create entire campaigns around the ease of assembly for further targeting of that specific segment in emails, social media, or text ads. 

Refocusing on in-session product data will protect the customer’s privacy. Because where customer data belongs to the shopper and is subject to ITP laws, product data belongs to you as a retailer. 

 

Our prediction for customer data in a cookie-less future

 

We believe that ITP is only the first step in protecting customer data. More stringent data protection policies will follow. Eventually, according to Rodger Buyvoets, we’ll see a future where customers will truly own their own data. 

For eCommerce to stay relevant, understanding how to work within ITP is only part of this new direction for eCommerce personalization.  

Below are a few predictions that we have for the future of retail and personalization.

 

Customers will own their data


intelligent tracking prevention for ecommerce cartoon

As you already see with data protection legislation and policies, the ownership of data is being transferred to the consumer.

Technologies such as private browsing, blockchain, and encryption are catering to the growing privacy demands. According to Janelle De Weerd, we are heading into a direction where consumers won’t only own their data in theory, but also in practice.

When that day arrives, we imagine that much of consumer data will be personally managed by the individual in a personal data management app or wallet.

This digital wallet will contain all the information retailers would drool over having today: clothing sizes, color preferences, favorite brands, etc.

This will be a curated digital identity that would allow the shopper to create an image of themselves that they could share with their most trusted brands. 

intelligent tracking prevention customer data wallet

For example, let’s say you have your digital wallet that contains all your preferences as well as previous purchases from a wide array of brands. 

You browse your favorite clothing shop and you will see a notification pop up that asks you to share your wallet for a enhanced and personalized experience.

If you decide to share, the webshop will be able to take your data identifiers to serve product recommendations that are in line with your previous behavior and preferences.

This situation is not only a goldmine for retailers, it’s ideal for consumers, who demand a personalized (but data safe) shopping experience. This is as “win-win” as it gets.



Product personalization will answer data protection 

intelligent tracking prevention ecommerce product personalizationBut before we get to this future where products find the consumers, rather than the other way around. We have a bit of time and technological capabilities to bridge over.

To get to this tomorrow, the first step will be putting more focus on Product Intelligence: actionable product insights that can be used to personalize your shoppers’ experiences.

Product personalization is the way forward for eCommerce because it brings the worlds of product and customer-centricity together. It does this by tailoring the way products are promoted to the individual needs and desires of the person looking at the product.

This means you need to understand what attributes or behavioral characteristics of your products are sought after by different customer segments.

intelligent tracking prevention ecommerce prodocut personalizationStarting with your products’ qualities will help you understand your customers’ psychographics, behavior, and shopping goals. This will feed back to you a continuous data loop that you can control. 

The future of eCommerce will aim to deliver product-driven customer experiences online and across multiple channels. 

"Product Personalization brings back several elements that retailers have neglected since the shift from product to customer-centricity. By understanding and properly communicating the characteristics of your products to the right person at the right time, you are catering to both goal-oriented and browsing shoppers while reducing choice overload." - Janelle De Weerd, Head of Marketing at Crobox

 

Conclusion

 

The future of data privacy is at the doorstep of retail. 

This article has provided you with a few strategies to get you thinking about what’s to come and how to deal with ITP. 

But ITP is only the first step. 

In the future of eCommerce, when customers own their data, it’s all about optimizing your product data in the most actionable way. It’s about already creating meaningful relationships with your shoppers so that, when the time comes, they are ready to share their data with you. 

 

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