Conversion Optimization, User Experience

How AB Tasty Handles ITP (Intelligent Tracking Prevention)

by Lucas Stewart
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Recently at Apple’s Worldwide Developers Conference they announced Safari version 12.1, which includes the updated Intelligent Tracking Prevention 2.1 (ITP 2.1). This latest incarnation of ITP signals a strong move by Apple to limit advertisers from extensive tracking of users across the web.

Up until this point, ITP (v1.0-2.0) had little to no impact on analytics and martech platforms, as long as first-party cookies were used only in a first-party context. 

While ITP 2.1 most adversely affects advertising platforms, it also affects websites using first-party cookies– such as AB Tasty clients.

Read on to learn more about what we’re doing to mitigate ITP’s adverse effects for our clients, and our views on digital consumer privacy overall.

What are the implications for AB Tasty users, and how are we dealing with it?

With the new changes, client-side cookies in Safari will have a maximum expiration period of seven days. 

Pertinent to AB Tasty users, this means that for visitors who have a gap of seven days or more between site visits, their previous AB Tasty and AB Tasty NPS cookie will not be present when they return, and their existing user identity and state will no longer be available.

If a visitor’s AB Tasty cookie is deleted during the course of an experiment or campaign, they will be subject to a new random variation allocation in any experiment or personalization experience for which they meet URL and audience targeting conditions.

These visitors’ on-site actions will no longer be counted toward metrics based on initial variation assignment. Instead, their actions will be counted as part of their variation assignment as a net-new visitor, or not captured if they do not meet targeting conditions.

Mitigating data gaps for single domain tracking 

If you are running AB Tasty Tag on a single domain, then there is nothing you need to do additionally. The 7-day limitation is handled with an automatic fallback to local storage for all client-side cookie data. This is implemented and works for all visitors using Safari browser (version 12.1 or above).

Mitigating data gaps for multiple domains

The AB Tasty Tag can currently be implemented across multiple domains, thanks to specific settings to set up into your account. 

As for the previous part, the 7-day limitation is handled with an automatic fallback to local storage for all client-side cookie data.

Mitigating data gaps for multiple sub-domains

For sites that are on a single subdomain, there are no limitations and the solution works perfectly out of the box. However, if the campaign is running on sites spread across multiple subdomains, the following are some cases we may find:

  1. If the user keeps visiting any subdomain of the website within 7 days of the last visit, everything works as expected.
  2. However, if more than 7 days have passed since the user’s last visit to any subdomain, things may or may not work as expected.

For example, if more than 7 days have passed since the user’s last visit to any subdomain, it may not have the updated AB Tasty cookie data as was on his last visit. This can cause issues which may include, but may not be limited to the following scenarios:

  • User is tracked as a new visitor if he visits a brand new subdomain.
  • If the user is part of a funnel earlier, he/she might be included again in the funnel.
  • The user may be tracked as a returning visitor, but his conversion might be recorded again.

Looking forward: privacy standards will expand

Being born in GDPR’s home of Europe, AB Tasty believes in a secure, opted-in web that consists of optimized, personalized experiences for users. We’re fortunate to operate in the realm of owned digital properties, as this change primarily affects advertisers whose cookies attempt to track users across many different websites.

However, when it comes to multiple domains or subdomains, this update will impact the reporting and targeting of Safari users if the above workarounds are not taken. According to web analytics firm StatCounter, Safari operates 15.9% of global traffic (and a much higher share of mobile traffic, especially in North America).

Intelligent Tracking Prevention is actually a new feature of WebKit, an open-source web-browser engine that powers Safari and some other minor browsers and applications. Looking forward, other browsers may follow suit with similar limitations.

As always, we continue to develop products and technology that will help our clients create the most optimal, personalized experiences for their visitors. At the same time, we value users opting-in to these processes much as they would opt-in to an email list. 

Ultimately, both our workarounds and our beliefs in digital consumer privacy can agree. We’re committed to delivering optimal experiences for both clients and consumers at large, and plan to evolve in tandem with the market.

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