I KNOW that when you think about the UPCOMING ITP 2.0 (Intelligent Tracking Prevention 2.0) from Apple on their Safari and Mojave browsers, you can’t eat, you can’t sleep, and you are going crazy with total anxiety because you wonder how your affiliate commissions are going to be affected……OR NOT. Or you are so worried as an Affiliate Manager at a huge Advertiser that your Affiliates won’t get credit for their sales, that you are doing stress eating. OK, probably not. In fact, you might be glazing over on this first paragraph thinking that this has something to do with submitting cover pages on all of your TPS reports.
As an Affiliate Marketer, I want to appeal to your inner Propeller Head (that’s a thing) and let you know that very simply, if you are not paying attention to the upcoming update called ITP 2.0 then you might be missing out on money. That’s right. You may be LOSING MONEY as an Affiliate, and, as the advertiser, you may be losing affiliates or your affiliate program might start to take a nose dive after this update.
OH NO! So what can we do about this? What does this even mean? I’m glad you asked. Your Chief of Chaos at SmarterChaos has your back.
I’m going to put this into very non-technical terms, so any hard-core geeks please do not blast me: ITP 2.0 is the latest idea for Apple to try to protect their users privacy when surfing the web using the Safari browser in light of the Facebook privacy scandals, and all of the hoopla online about the European Union’s GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation). That’s right, there is hoopla on GDPR and everyone was freaking out to get compliant. GDPR DID NOT AFFECT YOUR REVENUE AS MUCH AS ITP 2.0 MIGHT. Apple is looking to update all browsers with ITP 2.0 sometime in late August or Early September. We don’t have exact dates, but there has been speculation and we know it will coincide with the new release in Q4 of iOS 12 from Apple.
There was already an ITP 1.0 that narrowed the cookie window to 24 hours in September 2017, but Apple felt that this was not good enough, hence the latest update ITP 2.0. So basically, this new update to users Safari browser DOES NOT ALLOW THIRD-PARTY COOKIES AT ALL OR THIRD PARTY REDIRECTS like we use to track affiliate programs. This is set as a default in the User’s browser, and likely will remain that way because most people don’t change their settings to be tracked by cookies on purpose. Suddenly the term Intelligent Tracking Prevention becomes very funny and almost ironic given that it makes our intelligent tracking less intelligent. But I digress.
So to recap, here are the changes from Apple in this latest update:
Protecting Users Against Tracker Collusion: Apple introduces a feature to “protect against Tracker collusion” that basically does away with redirects. As we all know, affiliate marketing relies on tracking redirects or affiliate links, and you may or may not know that there are also tracking redirects on pixels on the conversion pages of merchants. Apple is now tracking when a redirect is happening to your merchant’s page, and discouraging or blocking it.
24 Hour Cookie is Being Removed: Third Party Cookies are no longer allowed, even with a 24 hour window. The tracking cookie for a long time has been the cornerstone of storing all of the information to pay the affiliate, track the sale or lead, and basically has held up affiliate marketing over the years.
What about Chrome, FireFox or Netscape (Is that even a thing?). Chrome has been doing some updates and you should look into all browsers, but really I’m only talking about ITP 2.0 with Apple Safari browsers on desktops, iPhones, and iPads. When we looked at one of our largest campaigns at SmarterChaos, we realized quickly that 48% of the traffic going to one of our largest campaigns had users coming through Safari on their mobile devices or on their desktop. That simply means, we would not have tracked affiliate commissions for the affiliates of these campaigns for this Advertiser if proactive attention was not given to this issue.
Yes, that’s right, amidst all of the chaos and confusion around this, you can easily fix your tracking and make it best practices “cookieless” tracking. Each network has a different solution for this, but if you check with your Affiliate Network, or with your Affiliate Tracking Solution, you can put a fix in place. This will cause your affiliates to feel more comfortable, thereby becoming more loyal, and thereby making gobs and gobs more money through your program making you gobs and gobs of money. You will look like a rock star in your Affiliate Program, and a rock star to your Affiliates. We all know how much you want to look like a Rock Star! I know I do.
If you want to see what the various networks are saying, I’ve referenced their blogs and solutions here:
The following platforms and networks I have not seen an update yet, but I hope to and if anyone sees an update please send it to me:
Ask the merchant to have all of your commissions tracked and be sure they are taking all the necessary measures.
Take control of your merchant relationships or the affiliate marketing agencies that represent them, and start demanding that they comply with ITP 2.0 and Best Practices tracking in Affiliate Marketing. Ask them if they are using cookieless tracking and have them explain back to you which network they use, how they’ve instituted the new cookieless tracking, and be assured that they are tracking all of your commissions. Test your own links to track a sale using an updated Safari or Mojave browser on Desktop or Mobile. You work very hard to attract traffic, don’t lose it because your links aren’t tracking.
Reach out to the Affiliate Network that you belong to and ask them which merchants are using this cookieless form of tracking and which are compliant with the new changes. If your network doesn’t know, send them a link to our blog here and have them reach out to me. I’ll update them. Make sure you understand which merchants will track all of your commissions at a network, and make sure that the network takes this seriously.
This new change from Apple and recent changes from Google Chrome are telling us as marketers that users do not want to be tracked using cookies, and they do not want there to be background redirects passing information that they don’t know about. We have to adapt as an industry and follow those wishes so that our livelihood is still there for us as Advertisers and Affiliates in the Affiliate Eco-System. The tracking capabilities are there and we just need to quickly bring our programs up to speed. The best takeaway is that you can have even better tracking in your program, you can get advertisers to track even more of your commissions, and we can all co-exist with users if we just follow the rules being set by the browsers.
WHAT IS SMARTERCHAOS DOING AS A LEADING AFFILIATE MARKETING AGENCY?
SmarterChaos has audited ALL of our Advertiser Affiliate Marketing Programs, and we have begun installing the best practices code so that all affiliates in Smarter Chaos programs will be properly tracked and credited. We have reached out to every Affiliate Network that we work with, and we have alerted them to our concern for our affiliates and our advertisers, and we have asked them for solutions. In addition, we reached out to the PMA (The Performance Marketing Association) and asked the President, Tricia Meyer, to address the topic in a position paper to alert affiliates and merchants about the potential seriousness of this issue. We have had our “chicken little” moments about the sky falling, and then we calmed down, and Chived On. You can be assured that Smarter Chaos is the leader in affiliate marketing and we are leading the way on this issue.
So Keep Calm, and Affiliate On.
Your Chief of Chaos