The impact of ITP on analytics and the user experience
Intelligent Tracking Prevention: what to keep in mind?
- Technical Web Analytics
- Data Analytics
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ITP has been further developed in recent years and the impact of ITP is beyond reducing cross-site tracking. It imposes restrictions in the browser, which do not take into account obtained approval for placing cookies. It can therefore create serious challenges for online marketing and data analysis.
In this article we explain the consequences of ITP for online analytics and the user experience on your website. We do this based on frequently used use cases of cookies.
What is Intelligent Tracking Prevention (ITP)?
ITP has undergone several developments in recent years:
What is the impact of ITP?
When a user visits a website, that website itself can place a cookie. We call this first party cookies. However, cookies can also be placed on another domain, the so-called third party cookies.
What are the current limitations of ITP?
Since iOS14 came out, these restrictions apply not only in Safari, but also on all other browsers that run on iOS (on an iPad or iPhone).
- Here is an overview of the current restrictions by ITP:
- 3rd party cookies are completely blocked
- 1st party cookies with cross-domain tracking capabilities are limited to a maximum lifetime of 1 day
- Local Storage is limited to 7 days lifetime
- Cross-site references are stripped to the source
What are the other browsers doing?
ITP applies to Safari (Apple's browser) and other browsers running on iOS. You may also have to deal with a form of Tracking Prevention on other devices and other browsers, because almost all browsers have now developed their own variant of Tracking Prevention. ITP is the most restrictive variant so far.
- WebKit (Safari/ iOS): ITP
- Firefox: Enhanced Tracking Prevention (ETP)
- Edge: Tracking Prevention
- Chrome: Plans to block third party cookies from 2023
What are the implications of ITP on analytics and user experience?
The impact of ITP on analytics and the user experience: 5 examples
A few examples of the consequences of ITP on analytics and the user experience we encounter in daily practice :ITP
1. Misalignments between new and returning users
In the situation without ITP, you see that users who return to the website after x number of days are recognised as the same returning user.
This is not the case in the situation with ITP. Because the cookies are deleted after 7 days, the user is no longer recognised and will therefore be mistaken for a new user.
Returning users are more likely to go unrecognised and appear as new users in your reports, making these reports inconsistent with reality. So it becomes more difficult to determine whether users come back to your website more often.
2. Accuracy of marketing attribution decreases
This same problem occurs in marketing attribution. Take, for instance, the example in which a user comes to your website through an advertisement. This user is viewing a few products, but is not buying anything yet. The user has spent several days thinking about the product he has seen before and decides to buy the product 8 days later. The user is now familiar with the website and will visit it directly.
Without ITP, you know that this user originally came to your website through an advertisement. The purchase can therefore be assigned to this advertisement, so you know that it has been successful.
With ITP, the cookies in this user's browser are deleted after 7 days. So when the user returns on day 8, you don't remember that this user originally came to the website through an advertisement. The conversion is therefore assigned to 'Direct traffic' and now you don't know your ad led to a purchase.
The accuracy of marketing attribution thus decreases with ITP. This situation can especially cause problems when a website sells products that have a longer cooling-off period (such as subscriptions, training, holidays, airline tickets, etc.).
3. Accuracy of A/B testing decreases
ITP also has an impact on the accuracy of A/B testing,
especially when these have a duration beyond 7 days. With A/B testing
users are often randomly shown a certain variant. Which variant
this is, is then stored in a cookie in the browser so that the user
will see the same variant again on a subsequent visit to the website.
Without ITP, this user is for example assigned variant A on the first visit. The user does not buy anything yet, but returns on day 8. The user is recognised by the previously set cookie and is shown variant A again. Then, when the user makes a purchase, you know that Variant A contributed to this purchase.
With ITP, the cookies in this user's browser are deleted after 7 days. Thus, when the user returns on day 8, a random variant is assigned to the user again. This can again be variant A, but it can also be variant B. If the user then converts, this conversion is assigned to the last variant shown (eg. variant B). Since you don't know that the user originally has seen variant A, the conversion is assigned to variant B.
With ITP, the results of an A/B test are therefore less accurate. As a result, they are also more difficult to interpret and you run the risk of making wrong decisions based on this data.
It is therefore also wise to take ITP into account when setting up an A/B test. You can do this, for example, by considering a shorter duration of the A/B test.
In addition, you can choose to only include results from non-ITP-affected browsers (this also potentially impacts the accuracy of the results).
Finally, you can have the variant determine server-side and put the variant in an HTTP cookie. For the time being, these cookies are not yet bound to a maximum lifespan of 7 days.
4. Limited customisation options
Even if you want to apply personalisation to your website, this is something of challenge because of ITP. For example, in the example below, you want to personalise by showing the user the product he or she looked at on a previous visit when arriving at your website.
Without ITP, after 8 days the user will see a personalised landing page with an offer for product A.
With ITP, the cookies in this user's browser are deleted after 7 days. When the user returns on day 8, you won't remember which products this user has previously viewed. So you cannot serve a personalised landing page or offer.
For such use cases, a DMP (Data Management Platform) or a CDP (Customer Data Platform) is used often to create user profiles. Based on these user profiles, a personalised page or offer is then served to the user.
These user profiles have a shorter lifespan with ITP when they are not logged in or otherwise recognised users. When a user is logged in, or can somehow be recognied, these user profiles can exist longer.
Personalising the landing page is therefore more difficult, because the user often has to log in first before recognition takes place. In that case, there are still options for personalisation, but they have been delayed due to the late recognition.
5. The cookie banner is displayed again and again
This is mandatory according to European legislation, but is experienced as annoying by many visitors. For the user experience it is therefore important not to show these to the user more often than necessary.
Without ITP, the user will see the cookie consent banner once upon arrival on the website. The user makes a choice, which is stored in the user's browser by placing a cookie. Revisiting the website, this choice is retrieved from the cookie and the banner does not have to be displayed again.
With ITP, the cookie in which the cookie preferences are stored is deleted after 7 days. When the user returns after 7 days, the previously made choice is no longer known and the cookie preference must be requested again. The user will therefore see the cookie consent banner again upon arrival on the website.
ITP: keep it in mind!
Intelligent Tracking Prevention impacts web analytics, online marketing and the user experience on websites in several ways. In recent years, ITP has been further developed and has become increasingly impactful. This makes it difficult to develop a sustainable and future-proof strategy for dealing with ITP.
When making analyses and reports, it is therefore important to take into account the effects of ITP and the distortion it can cause in your data.
Put your ITP issue to an expert?
We are happy to find solutions together to meet your challenges in the field of Intelligent Tracking Prevention. Contact us directly.
This is an article by Pamela Greveling, Technical Web Analyst at Digital Power
As a Technical Web Analyst at Digital Power, Pamela focuses on guaranteeing excellent data quality. After all, only if the data is reliable good insights can be obtained. She has helped several clients establish a robust analytics implementation for both their web and (native) app environments.
Technical Web Analystpamela.firstname.lastname@example.org
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