The current state of data collection
The current state of data collection for a typical business likely consists of a tag management system used for tracking user behavior data and injecting third party marketing pixels. The basic functionality of these third-party marketing pixels consists of a URL endpoint, for which it makes an API call out to gather technical requirements for how the data should be handled and where it needs to be sent to. Unfortunately, because it needs to make a call to a third-party service, the data that is tied to this source is linked through a third-party cookie placed on your website. Companies like Meta have started introducing first party cookie settings in conjunction with third party cookies to allow for longer data retention periods, and acceptance on browsers that have deprecated third party cookies.
With the deprecation of third-party cookies upon us, many companies are left scrambling to ensure that their data collection strategy is designed to work for the foreseeable future. Several of the popular browsers have already begun automatically blocking third-party cookies, while Google Chrome has delayed the date to late 2023. As a result, this has given businesses with a dependency on third party cookies time to implement an adequate solution.
As a result of the deprecation, many of these third-party marketing platforms are starting to roll out server-side tracking mechanisms. Tealium explains the process best by stating, “when a pixel or tag sends data into your web server (or a different type of server), then your web server passes that data to the destination system/server.”
Why collecting your historical data now is crucial
With a lot of new changes coming to the forefront in the world of digital analytics, now is the time to be collecting and storing as much data as you can. It is crucial to gather as much of your third-party data as possible so it can be loaded into a data warehouse and used to enrich your first party data. In doing so, this will ensure you can continue to perform your YoY (year-over-year) analysis without any disruptions. Storing this data will also allow your business to import the historical data into any future platforms you utilize down the road.
Designing a data collection strategy ready for the future
There are currently a few options for delivering server-side data, two of them being Google Tag Manager’s (GTM) server-side container, and Tealium’s Server-Side platform (EventStream). Both platforms do carry a cost, with GTM being done within a Cloud platform (based on configuration and setup) and Tealium through a subscription. The tech cost for GTM upfront is higher due to manual setup and configuration by individual(s) familiar with Google Cloud Platform (GCP). Tealium, on the other hand does not require as much technical expertise to get up and running.
Once the initial configuration for your server-side platform has been completed, you will want to research any of the platforms your business uses for marketing to see if they offer a server-side connection. As of right now, the major ad platforms (such as Meta, Google, and Snapchat) are offering this capability, with smaller platforms to likely follow suit within the next year.
Implementing server-side tracking for a marketing platform is also designed to work alongside your pre-existing client-side pixel tracking. Once data from both connections hits the marketing platform, that same data goes through a process known as deduplication, which is when the system identifies the duplicate hits sent from both platforms through an ID (typically known as client_deduplication_id). The ID gets assigned from the client-side pixel and passed through both connections. This will be used to identify each of the hits sent, and to determine if there is any data loss occurring.
CDPs and their prominent rise
As third-party data sources slowly start to phase out, it brings up the question of what can be done to empower your data and improve your marketing strategies. A great way to address this is using a CDP (Customer Data Platform) to enrich your first party data. This tool allows storing of data from various sources and platforms for the purpose of stitching all the pieces together into a user profile.
Closing thoughts and tips
One thing you will want to ensure is that your strategy is compliant with regulations applicable to your business such as GDPR and CCPA.
By future proofing your data collection strategy, your media and overall marketing plans will be ready for any changes to come.