Ad blocking has long been a problem for affiliates and operators to navigate in their digital marketing strategy. Earlier this year there was a significant change implemented on Apple devices called ITP (‘Intelligent tracking protection’).

This is a setting change that enables third party tracking cookies to be blocked as a default set by the user. Currently this feature is affecting only users who utilise their Safari browser but Mozilla may also announce similar planned changes to Firefox which could have the exact same effect.

About the update?

This in depth article written by Paul Koks explains the impact of this change in great detail with examples on the impact on Google Analytics for revenue impact. 

Third party cookies are used by affiliate technologies to identify users as they move around the web to track and assign players and conversion tracking. The implementation of ITP 2.0 prevented the storing of these cookies and means that carrying out these functions in Safari became more difficult.

The release of ITP 2.1 brought about more challenges because the update was decreasing the first-party cookie expiration time even further. Cookies created via the JavaScript document.cookie API are usually set to expire in seven days, regardless of their existing expiry date. Post the release first-party cookies are set via the GA JavaScript library and  will expire after just seven days, unless the cookie is updated in that period.

ITP 2.2. was then released earlier this year on iOS 12.3. It further reduced this cookie life (7 days on ITP 2.1) to just 1 day if the following two conditions were present:

  1. A domain classified with cross-site tracking capabilities was responsible for sending the user to the webpage
  2. The final URL of the navigation has a query string and/or a fragment identifier.

What this means?

In simple terms, affiliates are continuing to drive sales for operators but in Safari particularly you might not be getting paid commission as the sales are not being linked back to your activity based on cookie expiration or default settings now interfering with conversion.

The number of people using Safari to search the internet is growing – so are you potentially missing out on sales? With a reported 10% increase month on month reported for Mobile browsing on WIKI in this chart analysis it might be something you shouldn’t really ignore if you are targeting mobile traffic or brands that specialise in promoting mobile marketing offers?

This gap data could also cause a problem for operators who spend on media and affiliates as they are unable to accurately identify their best-performing channels. They could be making the wrong decisions of where to invest their budget longer term.

What should you do about it?

  1. Look at your website analytics and see how customers are coming to you (how many are using Safari) and assess the risk.
  2. Keep up to date with further data changes and releases taking place on Apple to understand future impact. 
  3. Look at alternative straightforward solutions to relying on cookies for tracking that could overcome the immediate problem.
  4. Talk to your partners and figure out if something needs to change.
  5. Ensure that your privacy notice and any other GDPR compliance measures you have in place reflect any changes to third party data collection on your sites, as appropriate.

Keeping up to date with the latest tracking and technology can greatly improve your earning and ROI even if you are taking care of just a small percentage of conversions.