Data and insights into the behavior of users online are one of the keys to maximally successful online marketing and, not least, targeted sales. In fact, however, many companies are not even aware of how they can really use tracking in their business context. In addition to this fundamental hurdle to overcome, there are numerous other conditions that prevent marketers from establishing appropriate processes in their company.

At theforefront here is the General Data Protection Regulation (DSGVO). Because if no DSGVO-compliant tracking takes place, this can result in highly sensitive penalties, at the latest since the ECJ reference ruling on dealing with third-party tracking, which was handed down in October 2019. In addition, the largest browser providers, i.e. Google, Apple and Mozilla, have already severely restricted the storage of third-party cookies, which are important for classic tracking, due to the DSGVO legal situation, among other things.

Apart from this, the playout of specific advertising, which is often directly associated with tracking measures, is now considered largely outdated. Particularly due to the now enormous volume of advertising, many users on the web are meanwhile practically immune to such messages or they are simply excluded via Adblock program.

The solutions to these fundamental difficulties are cookieless tracking and content targeting.

Why are tracking and targeting useful for businesses?

Knowing the challenges or needs of the users very well is undoubtedly enormously important, regardless of the web and the associated marketing and sales options. Only by fulfilling this prerequisite can you offer your (potential) customers the appropriate goods or services.

Online, there are extremely differentiated possibilities in this respect. Tracking offers you the chance to record the behaviour of your users on your website very precisely and to compare this behaviour with the probable problems or wishes which you can solve with your services. The result is highly detailed user and customer profiles, which you can use for your online marketing activities on different levels, e.g. via social media.

For example, this data provides information on the location from which a user arrives at a particular page, which pages are used particularly frequently and extensively, and which are not. Corresponding visitor sources and pages can then be specifically promoted or optimized. As a result, you can make your website more customer-friendly in general, tailor content to your target group and/or place advertisements very efficiently.

The term "targeting" refers primarily to the latter discipline. It describes a playout of advertising measures in the form of ads that is tailored as precisely as possible to your own target group. Without the collection or use of specific user data, there is usually a high level of wastage and, consequently, an immense waste of investment. In fact, the targeting principles can also be applied to most other areas of modern online marketing. Because without a target group-specific orientation, other measures of digital customer acquisition and retention tend to come to nothing more often. Strategic tracking and targeting are therefore among the central premises for the greatest possible success on the web.

What consent requirements apply to companies for
GDPR-compliant tracking?

First of all: GDPR-compliant thrid-party tracking or cookie-based targeting is still possible. However, according to the ECJ ruling of October 2019, this requires the specific cookie consent of your users. It is not relevant whether the information collected has a personal reference or not. Furthermore, pre-filled consents that users are asked to confirm are not permitted.

In fact, since the ruling, website visitors must explicitly consent to the use of each individual cookie. If cookies are transferred to third parties, this must be communicated to users before consent is given. The same applies to specific conditions regarding the cookie function duration.

All cookies for consent in the areas of marketing, analysis and tracking are particularly affected by these requirements or are viewed primarily critically by data protectionists and are thus burdened with increased punishment potential. These are not technically necessary for the operation of a website, but can be extremely important for website owners and their online marketing.


How does advertising stay relevant?

Today, as soon as you recognize a problem or need, your media users also prefer to search the web for applicable solutions. Especially in B2B, this often concerns very complex and often expensive goods or services. As a rule, this results in long-term planning of corresponding purchases and the associated differentiated research into functional scope, development possibilities, prices, support and many other advantages or disadvantages.

A large part of the customer journey is now exclusively web-based. Once the basic options have been identified, people no longer immediately pick up the phone to obtain more detailed information. Today, more than 60 percent of the buying process has already been completed by the time the first contact is made online with a company's sales department. Users now not only prefer to obtain information via online channels such as social media - the provision of specific information by companies is increasingly part of the expectation. Those that do not provide suitable content online will not be able to compete in the market (in the long term).

In addition to the generally higher information requirements for B2B products, B2B purchasing decisions tend to be much more rationally shaped than is the case in B2C. This actually increases the relevance of providing the right facts online.

Under the aforementioned conditions and in view of the advertising resistance of today's Internet users already mentioned at the beginning, it is particularly difficult to effectively bring advertising to your own media users. However, this does not mean that you should completely refrain from promotions. In fact, they can still provide important persuasion in the buying process in many ways. However, it is imperative that they appear in the best possible context to do so. Absolutely critical to success: Whatever form advertising takes on a homepage, it must at best be just as relevant to users as the rest of their content. Only then it will not be perceived as disturbing and annoying. Ideally, promotions or ad marketing and content marketing in the form of content targeting work hand in hand. It is important to give users the impression of an all-round user experience that is tailored to their challenges or needs - in other words, to suggest to them a real user added value with regard to the advertisements that are played. You can only achieve this if you know exactly what your website visitors need or want. Ideally, you can already anticipate their actions. All this is de facto not possible without tracking and targeting.

How does cookieless tracking work or
which methods are recommended?

At this point, it must first be noted that cookieless tracking does not necessarily mean tracking without consent. The DSGVO-compliant consent of the user is definitely required for various methods that do not use third-party cookies. However, the risk of a severe penalty for non-compliance with these GDPR requirements or simple errors can be considered lower, since the alternative methods collect data in a less differentiated manner and, last but not least, are hardly in the focus of the data protection authorities.

Due to the numerous DSGVO restrictions and potential dangers of classic tracking methods, it is quite appropriate to at least think about cookie alternatives to tracking. It is important to keep in mind that not every form of cookie-less tracking is equally suitable for every business context. The marketing methods that work for your business usually depend on your industry, your business model, the resources available and the general behaviour and requirements of your users.

It goes without saying that we can by no means recommend a cookieless tracking method that is certainly beneficial for your business. Rather, the aim is to show you the options that are fundamentally particularly recommendable.

Probably the best known cookie alternative is the so-called fingerprint tracking or device fingerprint tracking, often simply referred to as fingerprinting. In the course of this method, users are identified by means of technical characteristics, such as their location, installed fonts or plugins, the screen resolution used and others. In contrast to classic tracking, this cookieless tracking also works in private surfing mode, which is now offered by all major browser manufacturers and is being used more and more frequently by users. Moreover, it cannot be influenced by do-not-track or adblockers, nor can the user delete data. However, current tracking prevention features offered by major browser vendors now ensure that only a limited technical profile is transmitted. As a result, for some devices or in some business contexts, the method only achieves the desired results to a limited extent. A promising alternative is the so-called Canvas Fingerprint Tracking, where users can be tracked via HTML5 elements and JavaScript.

Advantages of Fingerprint Tracking

  • With this method, no data is stored locally on the user's device. Consequently, they do not have the chance to delete it.
  • The incognito surf mode has no influence on fingerprint tracking.
  • Adblockers, which prevent third-party cookies, also have no effect on the method.

Disadvantages Fingerprint Tracking

  • Fingerprints are subject to consent as they are considered personal data.
  • The lifespan of fingerprint tracking is quite short and the insights gained are not always clear or comprehensive.
  • Fingerprint tracking is not suitable for cross-device tracking, i.e. the consolidation of all devices used by one and the same user into one customer journey.

Somewhat less common than fingerprint tracking, but suitable for cross-device tracking, is the use of a so-called identity graph or ID graph. With the help of this tool, it is possible to create a single customer view. With this approach, you collect all (non cookie-related) data about your users, which you then store in a customer data storage. Corresponding information includes data provided directly by the user, such as addresses, e-mail addresses and other account information. On the other hand, it is possible to supplement this data with IP addresses as well as browser and cookie information. This is therefore only conditional cookieless tracking. No matter how you proceed - you will get more and more meaningful user profiles, because they grow with every user interaction.

In order to be able to use the tracking method across all devices, it is necessary to recognize the respective users - even if they continue surfing with another device. To ensure this, so-called deterministic matching and probabilistic matching are used. With the help of this technology, it is possible to link different user identities and classify them into related (deterministic matches) or comparable (probabilistic matches) profiles. Ultimately, the data is merged into an ID graph.

Advantages of Deterministic and Probabilistic Matching

  • Since the user profiles when using ID-Graphs - and consequently the challenges or needs of the users - become clearer over time, they are particularly suitable for long-term customer retention as well as content targeting.
  • This tracking method can be used in combination with cookies. However, it does not necessarily require cookies, so it can be used for cookieless tracking.
  • One of the biggest advantages is that, thanks to deterministic matching, users can also be recognised on other devices, which means that there is basically a chance of cross-device tracking.

Disadvantages of Deterministic and Probabilistic Matching

  • ID Graphs contain personal data when used to their full potential, which requires prior consent.
  • When this method is used as cookieless tracking, obtaining specific user data comes with relatively significant challenges, which are sometimes weightier than the effort of DSGVO-compliant tracking with cookie consent.
  • Cross-device tracking is not automatically possible - there is no option for profiles that are only based on temporary identifiers.

User ID tracking is undoubtedly one of the most powerful methods for obtaining specific user behavior data. At the same time, however, it brings with it a hurdle that many companies either don't want to take or can't take. The tracking basis here is the eponymous user ID. In order to create such a user ID, it must be assumed that users are given the opportunity to log in to a website and, at best, that they do so for every session or are automatically logged in.

In fact, this is often not only not an option in terms of the technical and associated financial effort involved, but cannot be justified on the basis of the business model alone. Many companies simply don't have the right business case to entice users to log in on every visit.

However, those that do provide a log-in area, which is also heavily used, benefit from detailed tracking, low data redundancy, and cross-device tracking of the entire customer journey thanks to the User ID provided.

Advantages of User-ID Tracking

  • User-ID Tracking is ideally suited for data collection in encrypted member areas.
  • This method enables cross-device tracking and obtaining a complete single customer view.
  • Linking online and offline data is usually possible without much effort.

Disadvantages User-ID Tracking

  • Registration is always required for User-ID Tracking to work.
  • A registration has to be done for every single session and on every device.
  • If there are breaks between two sessions, it is not possible to link them without registration.
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Our support around the topic of web analytics & data protection:

  • Support with the DSGVO-compliant application and implementation of your online media.
  • Optimization of your email marketing and legally compliant newsletter distribution.
  • Design and implementation of meaningful KPIs for the evaluation of your pages or applications. Individual development of dashboards that give you an overview of the relevant key figures.
  • DSGVO-compliant implementation of analysis tools (Matomo / Google Analytics etc.) in your pages / applications.

Benefit from our know-how also in the following topics:

Do you have any further questions?

Oliver Parrizas will be happy to answer any questions you may have on the subject. icon phone+49-800-911-91-91

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