What Third-Party Tracking Methods for the Post-Cookie Era?

To survive the browser-led hunt for third-party cookies, affiliate platforms are working on two key alternatives that should allow them to pass this course.

Affiliate platforms assure the sustainability of their model in the era of third-party post-cookies. Be careful anyway because the stakes are high since the cookie is at the heart of the model of this sector: thanks to this tracer we know the publisher behind each Internet user converted on an advertiser’s website. We can thus attribute the origin of the buyer traffic to this publisher and pay him a commission.

Among the main alternative methods to third-party cookies, the one consisting in allowing the affiliate platform to use cookies from the advertiser’s website (first-party cookies) is used by 49% of Effinity platform customers, the 600 Advertisers (Boulanger, Carrefour, Nocibé) and 45,000 affiliates between content publishers, influencers, bloggers, price comparison sites, cashback sites, etc. This method is enabled in “Alias” mode via a simple declaration called “Cname”. A type of delegation granted to a third party to use a domain name.

Allowing the platform to track with the advertiser’s cookies is therefore the simplest solution, which explains why it’s widely used in the retargeting and analytics industry. “A canonical name (Cname) record allows you to indicate that a domain name is an alias for another domain, for example to redirect traffic from partner.sitename.com to Effinity servers,” reads an edited document by Effinity introducing this method.

Technically, the Internet user’s browser regards the cookie stored by the affiliate platform for tracking purposes as part of the advertiser’s site for measurement and assignment. Because it is now a first-party cookie and no longer a third-party cookie, the latter is not blocked by the browser. “All of this happens in a closed loop: we are there to measure and correlate within the framework of the data owned by the advertiser,” specifies Christophe Bosquet, co-founder and CEO of Effinity.

“We are dependent on the decisions of platforms and advertisers.”

This alternative is easy to set up. “That doesn’t require any changes on the part of the publisher, but a simple technical configuration for the advertiser,” he says reassuringly. This also explains the very low participation of the publishers in this conversion process. “With the prospect of the end of third-party cookies, the changes to prepare for this transition are mostly taking place on the advertiser side, we are not affected by these tests and have very little insight into these issues,” explains Clément Grandjean , Partnerships Manager at Humanoid, Editor of the Frandroid site, a site dedicated to new technologies whose economic model is particularly dependent on affiliation.

Frandroid generates one million clicks per month and is connected to 20 affiliate platforms. And none of them offered to discuss alternative solutions to cookies. “We are dependent on the decisions of platforms and advertisers. And it’s a problem not being able to predict that date, especially since the market doesn’t offer a standard solution,” he adds.

Clément Grandjean’s concern is justified not only by the importance of this lever in Frandroid’s economic model or by the lack of a market standard. It is also the fruit of recent bitter experiences. “After implementing consent management platforms, we found ourselves with almost 40% of our revenue amputated and faced with significant drops in our conversion rates without anyone knowing why and without really feeling responsible for the situation. Merchants offer us compensation for untracked sales from internet users who have declined to set cookies, but these amounts are insufficient.”

And in fact, publishers don’t seem to be the platforms’ priority. Take Effinity’s example: while the agency ran almost 45 webinars to educate advertisers about new tracking methods being offered as an alternative to third-party cookies, only four were devoted to publishers. Probably because the technical changes do not affect them directly or only slightly. For example, 49% of advertisers have already switched to Cname’s first-party cookies and 8% are now server-to-server.

Because if the first cookie seems to be the most widely used alternative to third-party cookies for conversion tracking, it’s not the only one. The platforms also test server-to-server connections: “This method makes it possible to be independent of changes that occur at the browser level; the downside is that it makes the model even more dependent on the information advertisers want to report. ” analyzes Paul Mazouer, Affiliate Sales Director at Rakuten Advertising. It’s also a heavier and more expensive solution that doesn’t attract the smallest gamers. “The server side requires setting up a technical infrastructure to receive and reroute calls between servers. The set-up costs are at least 500 euros per month,” says Christophe Bosquet.

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