What Apple's Intelligent Tracking Prevention 2.1 means for marketers
ITP 2.1 stands for Intelligent Tracking Prevention 2.1 and is Apple’s initiative to protect user privacy by limiting the ability of marketers and online businesses to track users across domains via the Safari browser using first-party cookies. Compared to its first iteration in 2017 that decreased the tracking of third-party cookies to 30 days, ITP 2.1 is capping the lifetime of cookies set client side to seven days instead of the possible two years. This means that any cookie tracking carried out through martech and CRM tools or analytics platforms such as Adobe Analytics or Google Analytics are heavily impacted since all first-party cookies set in Safari are now expiring after a single week unless a solution is implemented to extend their lifetime.
Enhanced tracking restrictions through first- and third-party cookies can be seen as a growing trend among web browsers, as Firefox and Brave have already joined the party by blocking third-party trackers.
As cookies are periodically purged, any returning user that revisits a website after a period longer than seven days will be regarded as a new user and a potentially different customer even if, in reality, they may be the same person. In turn, these ‘new’ user identifiers that create duplicates make it impossible for marketers to have an accurate overview of their audiences and build audience segments based on complete and relevant data.
Of course, the ever-looming elephant in the room is the issue of how effective campaigns will be now that this type of remarketing has effectively been cut off or severely restricted.
ITP 2.1 is also bringing significant limitations to how customers journeys used to be mapped. Up to now, first-party browser cookies made it possible to know when users revisited a website within two years, therefore enabling targeted online advertising at specific times in the user journey. With the recent Safari updates, a user that exceeds seven days before revisiting a website is no longer connected to previous behavior in the browser. The user appears as anonymous, and the journey is reset to the start. In turn, this leads to a continuous loop, as the same recurring visitor that waits (again) for more than seven days before checking the website, risks appearing (again) as another anonymous user later on. This renders cross-channel customer journey mapping in analytics and CRM systems almost impossible.
Personalization is hugely going to suffer from this. Obviously not if you are logged in as a user. But how do you build that relationship with a person that comes to your site if every time they come to your site, they are registered as a new user? People actually want more personalization.
With a lookback history now decreased to seven days, it is no longer possible to track conversions beyond the user’s last website visit. This means that attribution models become fragmented, as marketers are facing the risk of attributing conversions and allocating budgets to ineffective campaigns instead of channeling their efforts into advertising that drives value and revenue with an optimized ad spend.
Decreased longevity of first-party cookies means more ‘unknown’ visitors in your analytics platform. While this unknown data might look like a a new influx of web visitors, it is actually giving false signals and altering performance KPIs. The inflated visitor numbers reduce visibility into how content and digital marketing are really performing, making it challenging to create and adapt content and campaigns based on accurate data.
No longer is ITP just attacking AdTech companies who rely on cross-site tracking to build audience profiles. Now cookies set with document.cookie will also be targeted to prevent them from being harvested on different subdomains than the one on which they were set.
A considerable amount of audience behavior is monitored on a website. With less historical data at hand, personalized user experiences through tailored content and A/B testing become inconsistent. If we take A/B testing as an example, tracking and finding out what content works and what doesn’t becomes a blur, since users that revisit a website after the seven-day cap automatically become a part of a new audience pool. As marketers lack the customer journey knowledge previously gained from first-party cookies, they risk building faulty audience segments and are no longer able to bring the same level of personalization that drives customer-obsession and lead retention.