Everything You Didn’t Know You Needed to Know About Cookies and Affiliate Marketing

The future of Cookies: First-Party vs Third-Party

First-party cookies are usually created by a website owner or publisher to understand which users return to sites, and to make sure that the displayed content is tailored to offer them a unique experience. These cookies remember language settings and  analytics data to measure how users browse a website. They aren’t going anywhere.

Third-party cookies, by contrast, are set by external websites. They are set after, for example, a user has “liked” a website. That can later be accessed by companies like Facebook that are seeking to track visitors and understand which websites they’ve visited.

Third-party cookies are quickly being phased out, in direct response to increasing data privacy laws around the world. A growing number of consumers are uncomfortable with how their data is shared and are demanding a greater degree of transparency and control. Pressure from regulators and consumers has led many within the tech industry to mark the end for third-party cookies, as well as the targeted ads that they fuel. 
Apple’s Safari and Mozilla’s Firefox now block third-party cookies by default. Google, with a market share of almost 70 percent, has announced that by 2022 it will also disallow third party cookies.

Why it matters for publishers, and affiliate marketers more generally

Advertisers typically work with affiliate programs to target users on a website. When affiliate embed links into their reviews, ads or other website content, those links typically redirect to an external site  and drop third-party cookies in the process. When a user clicks on one of these links  and converts – which means, makes a direct purchase, registration, deposit money or even submit a lead form – the affiliate will be compensated for it.  Blocking third-party cookies protects users’ privacy and security but has created a problem for consumer tracking and ad serving firms. For years, affiliate marketers have been relying on cookies to collect data on consumers who perform searches and make purchases online. But if a browser blocks third-party cookies, retailers can lose the ability to attribute sales to a specific publisher. Publishers, in turn, lose out on affiliate marketing revenue. Without the capability to track and attribute via cookies, compensation becomes precarious/uncertain and affiliate marketing loses its relevance as a marketing channel. For brands that leverage additional marketing channels, like display banners, marketers need to find other alternatives for targeting their audiences.

What now?

Not all is lost.

In fact, Cellxpert’s platform has long been ahead of the game, as its fundamental design has never relied on third party cookies. We use first-party cookies when tracking clicks and continue to track conversions through advertiser servers, rather than their browsers.

Long before the announcement by Google and other industry leaders, we built our program to allow both online and offline tracking, out of the belief that a flexible and all-encompassing method offers a more reliable and accurate attribution model. Off-line conversion tracking, for example via a phone call, ensures that all of your conversions are accurately tracked. 

With this range of options, you can support more KPIs and a diverse range of business and rewards models, to ensure that your tracking is as comprehensive as possible. 

Talk to our experts now to make sure your affiliate marketing program is ready for the years to come.