Replacing Pixel Tracking: Simple, Straightforward & Worth It

Most marketers know that pixel-based tracking faces increasing challenges as a measurement methodology. As some browsers implement third-party cookie management policies that impede or limit pixel-based tracking, and as more consumers periodically delete their cookies, there’s a growing and understandable sense across marketing that pixel-based measurement must eventually be replaced with a more reliable tracking methodology. Writing exclusively for ExchangeWire, Si Fung (pictured below), head of deployment, Performance Horizon, explains why API integrations may be the answer, and aren't as complicated as you may think.

My company is focused on partner marketing, where use of pixel-based tracking has historically been quite common. Pixel-based tracking is also very common in paid digital advertising and ad serving. Whatever the use case, pixel tracking faces the same environmental impediments.

While companies like ours work hard to mitigate the effects of browser policies and cookie deletion, among other challenges, most experts say that companies will eventually need to move beyond pixel-based tracking.

Enter API integrations.

A better way to track 

The best way to mitigate the current challenges facing pixel-based tracking, and to safeguard tracking and data integrity, is to build API integrations with your marketing technology solutions providers. Benefits include the following:

- There are no third-party cookies used, so browser policies will no longer affect your data flow.

- You can improve data security in transit and at rest with more secure information transfers.

- You can track and measure all conversions in a more robust and secure manner, without missing any transactions because of cookie deprecation or deletion.

Given these advantages, lots of marketers would love to replace their pixel-based tracking with API integrations. But, historically, many have decided to delay API integrations out of a misconception they are difficult and time-consuming to implement.

Let me assuage those concerns. As head of deployment for my company, my team works with a multitude of global clients every year to help them implement their choice of integration methodologies. While most companies begin the integration process thinking they want pixel-based tracking, many change paths when they learn how advantageous and straightforward API integrations can be. 

APIs have simplified the process

Si Fung, Head of Deployment, Performance Horizon

API integrations are quite simple, straightforward, and more reliable than their pixel-based alternative. Here’s just how simple, using the partnership space as an example:

  1. With an API integration, a link redirect is processed first by the martech solution.
  2. The martech platform then creates an unique identifier. We call it a 'clickref'. The identifier enables the solution provider to tie the user to the referring link and publisher.
  3. The clickref is then passed to the advertiser, which creates a first-party cookie. This enables the advertiser to more persistently connect that user to the previous marketing actions.
  4. When a user makes a purchase, the advertiser checks for the existence of the clickref within its first-party cookie and invokes an API connection to the martech platform.
  5. The connection returns all transactional information, along with the specific clickref that referred the sale. The first-party cookie is unaffected by browser policies like Safari’s Intelligent Tracking Prevention (ITP), which affect only third-party cookies.
One coder, one or two sprints

With API integrations, you do need tech team resources to implement. But how much? I’ll bet dollars to doughnuts that it’s less than you think. The key tasks are setting up the APIs to transfer the necessary data and inserting a single line of code into store pages to capture the clickref value into a cookie.

How long does it take? Well, when a company has a coder ready to dedicate to an API integration, the process takes as little as one or two two-week sprints. For some companies, it takes longer because there is no coder immediately available. But resource demands are usually fairly modest.

How to make the switch

Coder availability depends on tech team resources and the importance your company places on API integration. To get API integration on the tech team’s priority list, I’d recommend supplying four key sets of information:

  1. Why pixel-based tracking faces growing challenges and will eventually need to be replaced
  2. How pixel-based tracking is already missing some sales because of browser policies like ITP and consumer behaviours like periodic cookie deletion
  3. How an API integration offers a far better solution by improving data completeness and quality, as well as information security and consumer privacy
  4. An outline of key tasks and the advantages of APIs so your internal leadership can understand the investment required. Your tech providers should be able to help there.

API integration offers a more robust, secure, and accurate method for tracking online conversions – whether from traditional advertising or from partner programme activity. Book a conversation with your tech team to discuss API integrations today, lest you be under the gun tomorrow.