In the effort to quickly collect information from users about their behaviors and preferences online, the third-party cookie used to be king. By simply placing a DMP’s 3rd party pixel on your page, it was easy to capture a wealth of information about the people visiting your site. You could then use that information to accurately sub-segment and target specific users with content and experiences that were sure to increase overall conversion.
However, Safari now blocks third-party cookies by default, and rare is the user that opts to enable this third-party data capture voluntarily. As the online world moves beyond cookies, the ability to track and capture customer behavior using third-party cookies has become less reliable, and businesses must find new ways to capture this data without violating the privacy of their customers.
Using the First-Party Domain
While this may seem to represent a roadblock to traditional data-capture techniques, it actually provides a unique opportunity to find new, more trustworthy, secure, and accurate ways to collect consumer data than the old third-party cookie methodology. As an example, Adobe Analytics operates within the first-party domain. This allows analysts to capture data that might be blocked by a web browser or mobile device, , and ensures that the audience defined by the DMP is 100% consistent with the data collected by your analytics system. Marketers looking to understand and influence the customer journey need to first make sure their marketing tools are capturing the same data and have the same, consistent definition of audience.
The Document Object Model (DOM)
Another source for collecting data from your site is the Document Object Model (DOM). The DOM is the convention for representing objects in HTML, and it describes the way that different pieces of a webpage interact with one another.
The problem with complete reliance on the data layer is that you need your IT / Web Development team to pass specific name-value pairs into the data layer. Changes to your site typically mean changes to the data layer, and over time, some critical information may be missed.
Having the ability to not only well structured information from the data layer, but also raw information directly from the DOM tree can ensure no data is left behind, even if the web development team hasn’t exposed new data to analyst or marketing teams.
This is also valuable because it still represents first-party data that is explicitly relevant to the content that marketers are putting on the screen, yet, it can be captured without violating the customer’s privacy and without relying on third-party cookies.
Software Development Kit (SDK)
While capturing data at the first-party cookie level and using the DOM as a source of information are extremely relevant to web-based browsers, a wealth of information can also be captured from cookie-less environments such as native mobile applications. Cookies are not used in these environments, but rather a marketing ID supplied by either Android or iOS.
What is nice about the Adobe SDK is that it does more than just collect data. Many businesses are hesitant to incorporate multiple SDKs into their apps due to concerns of data leakage, IT resources needed to implement, and so on. However, a mobile app is expected to do a number of different functions such as perform analytics, communicate through push alerts, or personalize the content delivered through it. Businesses can reduce the number of SDKs used to build a single app by incorporating Adobe’s SDK, which supports all of this functionality and more.
SDKs are also the primary method of data collection for Smart TVs, OTT Devices such as Roku or Apple TV, and other connected devices. If your companies’ applications extend beyond mobile phones and tablets, ensuring that you can collect data from the Internet of Things will be critical as more and more connected devices end up in the hands of your customers.
Http Endpoints, Application Programming Interfaces (APIs), and Server Side Files
Another method for capturing data from cookie-less environments involves the use of http endpoints. Apps must contain some sort of http code in them to display content and enable functionality. For businesses that do not want to integrate an SDK into their app, data can be captured via the use of APIs (application programming interfaces) that pull information directly from the http code that has been written into the application.
One more process that can be used to capture data from mobile sites or apps (outside of the use of an SDK or http endpoints) would be the use of the server side file. All of the information about user interactions with these types of sites will usually be stored somewhere on the server that is hosting the application. It is simple to mine these files for information about users’ behaviors as they interact with the content that is presented to them. While this approach does not happen in “real-time”, it’s another approach to ensure that all of your 1st party data ends up in a single data platform, even if IT hurdles stand in your way.
In the end, the use of third-party cookies still exists and still remains relevant in the effort to sync user data with ad servers or demand-side platforms. However, even in a world where browsers and users were not gravitating away from enabling the use of third-party cookies, it would still be important to leverage other sources of information-gathering to have the broadest view possible of your audience. Today, users interact with brands through a multitude of different avenues, and a single method for collecting data about end-users no longer fits with advances in technology or the ways in which consumer behavior is changing. Having a broad range of tools to capture data across a number of different channels increases the accuracy and completeness of your data and improves your understanding of the market as well as how consumers prefer to interact with your brand.