The impact of third-party cookie deprecation on affiliate marketing

Published
Jan 29, 2024

Affiliate marketing is an excellent opportunity for businesses to boost their revenue. Similarly, it's an effective strategy for affiliates to earn income through their websites.

However, challenges have arisen in tracking affiliate conversions due to increasing tracking limitations, the prevalence of ad blockers, and third-party cookie deprecation. Affiliates risk losing their sales due to the unreliability of client-side tracking

In light of these challenges, it's becoming increasingly important to consider the adoption of server-side affiliate tracking. That’s why we decided to cover the specific details relevant to the overarching theme of how the deprecation of 3rd party cookies is reshaping affiliate marketing. 

Understanding 3rd party cookiesCopy link to this section

Third-party cookies are small text files created by websites that are not the website the user is currently visiting. Unlike first-party cookies, which are generated by the site a user interacts with, 3rd party cookies are crucial for tracking user actions and attributing them to the correct affiliate. This ensures affiliates get credit for the traffic or sales they generate.

The primary function of third-party cookies is to collect data about users' online behaviors. This data includes information about browsing habits, preferences, and even personal details in some cases. Advertisers and marketing companies use this information to create detailed user profiles leveraged for targeted advertising. These cookies enable advertisers to present relevant ads to users across different websites, enhancing the effectiveness of online marketing campaigns.

However, the extensive use of third-party cookies has also raised concerns about privacy and data security. In response to these concerns, there has been a shift in the digital world, with increasing emphasis on user privacy and the gradual phasing out of third-party cookies. 

Deprecation of 3rd party cookiesCopy link to this section

By the end of 2024, Chrome will phase out third-party cookies, following the lead of Safari and Firefox, which have already implemented Intelligent Tracking Prevention algorithms that block third-party cookies. These changes are driven by a growing emphasis on user privacy and the need for more ethical and regulated user tracking practices.

Deprecation of 3rd party cookies - history by stape

Affiliate marketers must adopt more privacy-friendly practices, ensuring transparency and user consent in their tracking methods. As third-party cookies become obsolete, there's a growing emphasis on first-party data, information collected directly from a company's audience. 

How this affects Affiliate MarketingCopy link to this section

A third-party cookie is placed on their browser when a user clicks on an affiliate link. This cookie stores information about which affiliate referred the user. If the user purchases on the advertiser's site, the cookie ensures that the affiliate gets credit for the sale.

Affiliate marketing strongly depends on third-party cookies for attributing conversions to affiliates. This means that all affiliate networks and vendors who utilize affiliate marketing won’t be able to attribute conversions from affiliates after 2024.

So, now it’s time to adapt to this change and prepare for the total depreciation of third-party party cookies.

Server-side tracking solutionsCopy link to this section

Using server-side tracking is the easiest way to deal with the depreciation of third-party cookies. With s2s tracking and server Google Tag Manager, you can set long-lived first-party cookies instead of third-party ones.

Setting up first-party cookies with sGTM used to be easy. But now, new rules from Safari make it harder because it blocks even first-party cookies if they're set from an IP address different from your website's. So, the question is, how can you still set up long-lasting affiliate cookies using sGTM? There are a few ways: 

2. Set a custom domain. It can be either the same origin domain or a subdomain. 

2.1 If you implement the same origin custom domain, no additional setup is needed to prolong the cookie lifetime. 

2.2 If you choose to use a custom domain, then you will need to implement one of the following: 

Once the sGTM container and custom domain are configured, you must implement server-side tracking for your affiliate network. At Stape, we have created such articles and affiliate tags for a straightforward setup: 

ConclusionCopy link to this section

The end of third-party cookies is a big challenge for affiliate marketing. This shift necessitates affiliate platforms and vendors to change how they attribute sales to affiliates. The most obvious and straightforward way is using server-side tracking, focusing on first-party cookies. 

The future of affiliate marketing is leaning heavily toward server-side tracking solutions. It’s a robust, privacy-compliant alternative to traditional reliance on third-party cookies. It offers enhanced data accuracy and reliability, crucial for precisely attributing sales and commissions in affiliate marketing. 

However, it's essential to acknowledge that transitioning to server-side tracking may involve technical complexity and resource investment. Despite these challenges, the long-term benefits and sustainability of server-side tracking in a cookieless digital world make it a strategic choice for the future.

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