What is Safari´s ITP impact on your business?
No matter if you are spending millions or a few hundred on digital marketing, Safari´s ITP is still crumbling your cookies and consequently, your marketing spending.
As you look to stay afloat with current browser changes and maximize your marketing spending, it is important to understand what privacy mechanisms like Safari´s ITP are about and how they impact your business by restricting your cookies.
You may not know how cookies work exactly, but you should at least be aware that they are essential components in collecting data. In other words, restricting cookies means restricting your data, which is the backbone of making informed decisions.
What is Safari´s Intelligent Tracking Prevention?
ITP was introduced in 2017 to block third-party cookies. However, later on, other numerous updates (currently at ITP 2.3+) were released to introduce more restrictions.
As of March 2021, ITP impacts:
- third-party cookies,
- script-writable first-party cookies,
- DOM storage.
Contrary to common belief, ITP has never been about third-party cookies, but it restricts all practices that have been classified as having cross-site tracking capabilities.
Summary of all cookie restrictions (updated March 2021)
This has a big impact on advertising, web analytics, and digital marketing in general.
What is Safari´s ITP impact on web analytics?
Normally analytics platforms use first-party cookies as they provide information about the users visiting a certain website. Scripts from analytics platforms, create cookies when a user visits a website for the first time. These cookies have normally a duration that spans from 90 days to 2 years. During this period, the website can learn more about its users and use such data to improve user experiences, attribute conversion, measure the effectiveness of campaigns and performance.
The problem arises from the fact that analytics cookies could be used for cross-site tracking. Hence, Safari with its ITP 2.1 affects analytics cookies too. This compromises the accuracy of first-party analytics.
Customer journey and measurement
The reduction in the lifespan of cookies means a reduction in the amount and quality of that data linked to individual users.
If you have users who visit your website very frequently (within 7 days from the last interaction), you probably will be fine as analytics platforms recognize them as the same user. You can continue to map your customer´s journey. On the other hand, if the same user does not return before the 7 days reset from the last interaction, this user will be regarded as a “new user” by analytics platforms.
Hence, user-level metrics and data will be skewed (increase in new users and decrease in returning users).
Furthermore, ITP 2.2 caps the expiration of analytics cookies to 24 hours if the user followed a decorated link from a known tracker. This is an extremely short lookback window.
Unless you have very active users, this makes accurate analytics impossible because the customer journey is broken and the number of unique visitors on a website is incorrect. At the same time, with Safari collecting data differently from other browsers, all measurements are inconsistent and misleading.
Hence, overall inaccurate measurements and misleading analytics.
Analytics platforms often add a query string of fragmented identifiers in URLs (UTM parameters). However, this may be flagged by ITP as URL decoration.
If the query string or identifiers are added to the URL of the originating domain (through bounce tracking), ITP will flag a referrer decoration and will strip the referrer to its origin or eTDL+1 (all path, query parameters, and fragments are removed).
If the query string or identifiers are added to the URL where the user is navigated, ITP will flag a link decoration and will set an expiry of 24 hours if the referring domain is a known tracker.
What does it mean in practice?
Hence, attribution for any channel or campaign will be difficult, if not impossible.
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What is Safari´s ITP impact on MarTech and AdTech?
The same impact described for web analytics is affecting digital marketing. An overall decrease in quality and availability of data means that marketers struggle to learn about their users and make informed decisions.
However, AdTech is probably the industry that is most affected by ITP, as all third-party cookies are blocked by default. Even if the advertising would be happening in a first-party context, ITP caps the lifetime of script-writable cookies. For known trackers, ITP will also set an expiry of 7 days on all script-writable storage like localStorage.
What does it mean in practice?
Retargeting, view-through attribution modeling, cookie matching, ad-frequency management, and capping, and user profiling are all areas that are going to be affected, as they require storage access in a third-party context.
As it is not possible to identify audiences or measure campaign performances, your ads in Safari will be irrelevant and frequently repeated.
Moreover, similarly to what happens with UTM parameters, unique referral links might be flagged by ITP as link decoration because they contain an identifier in the URL.
Hence, commission-based affiliate marketing is limited to either 7 days, or 24 hours if the referring domain is classified as a known tracker.
Tech companies like Facebook and Google are also affected by ITP, as they will have to go through the Storage Access API to drop third-party cookies.
What is Safari´s ITP impact on user experience (UX)?
Because of the limit on script-writable storage, storages that normally are used to store data about customer preferences are affected by 7 days of expiration in ITP.
Websites are not able to learn much about the consumer and deliver personalized content and/or experiences with consistency. Local settings will also be constantly reset by, for example, constantly asking the user to reconfirm the cookie consent or emptying the cart.
These are some of the areas affected by the unintended impact of ITP.
So far, Safari is leading the privacy crusade with ITP´s restrictions on cookies and other storage data. In this sense, it is the most restrictive browser in terms of tracking prevention. However, other browsers have also started implementing privacy initiatives and more restrictions may be introduced at any moment at your expense.
Action is required now to mitigate the unintended impact of ITP and be GDPR compliant at the same time.