On September 17, 2018, Apple released the 2.0 version of its Intelligent Tracking Prevention (ITP) as part of the new iOS 12 and macOS Mojave, bringing with it new challenges for affiliate marketers and impacting the entire industry.

The original release of ITP – introduced in September of last year – put restrictions on third-party cookies, limiting cross-domain tracking capabilities to a 24-hour window. ITP 2.0 removes that 24-hour tracking window – meaning that affiliate marketers still reliant on third-party cookies cannot track and pay publisher commissions on Safari browsers.

“Time’s Up”: ITP 2.0 Changes

The removal of the 24-hour window for tracking creates a gigantic shakeup for affiliate marketers on both the advertiser and publisher side. Previously if a publisher referred a customer to a brand’s site, and the customer made any time within the 24 hour period using an updated Safari browser, the purchase would be attributed to the publisher. If the customer were to take more than 24 hours to make the purchase the cookie would expire and the publisher wouldn’t earn a commission for the sale. Not ideal, but the 24-hour window still afforded publishers an opportunity to earn commissions.

With the removal of the 24-hour window in ITP 2.0, third-party cookies will no longer be read in any capacity. That means that if a publisher refers a shopper to a brand’s site and the shopper completes a purchase, the publisher will not get credited – even if the purchase occurred immediately.

This impacts affiliate advertisers who utilize cookie-based tracking, affiliate publishers who rely on these cookies and any shopper who uses Apple’s Safari browser on desktop, tablet or mobile devices.

How Affiliate Advertisers and Publishers are Impacted by ITP 2.0

  • Advertisers: Advertisers are now at risk of losing links and publishers from their program. Advertisers who fail to take action in response to ITP 2.0 could see Safari links removed from their publisher programs or – worse yet – being removed from publisher programs outright. Simply put, publishers will not want to work with advertisers who do not take action in response to ITP 2.0 because it means they will not be able to earn commission on sales they’ve rightfully made.
  • Publishers: Publishers run the risk of losing commission due to ITP 2.0 because advertisers will not know how to attribute the sale. Simply put, ITP 2.0 could mean publishers make less money. Publishers should look to see how much traffic comes via a Safari browser and communicate with their partnered advertisers about the importance of implementing a solution.

The Solution: How Rakuten Marketing is Addressing ITP 2.0 for Affiliate Advertisers and Publishers

Rakuten Marketing is working to help affiliate advertisers and publishers address and mitigate the challenges of ITP 2.0 with two solutions: the Single Point of Integration (SPI) container tag, and the Enterprise Web Services. These two solutions are as follows:

  • SPI: SPI helps marketers take advantage of additional tagging via first-party cookies that tracks consumer activity, even on ITP-imposed Safari browsers. As an added benefit, adopting the SPI tag opens up new opportunities, such as multi-touch attribution, without extra development work. The SPI tag can also be utilized to implement a Consent Management Platform wrapper code that aids in GDPR compliance.
  • Enterprise Webs Services (EWS): EWS is a server-to-server tracking process that is not affected by ITP. The EWS process is the most robust method of reporting Rakuten Marketing offers because of its security, reliability and flexibility, which includes real-time reporting. Ideally, we recommend implementing both SPI and EWS as each presents their own advantages.
  • If you’re looking to learn more, please reach out to the Rakuten Marketing account team, or get in touch with us today to find out how to implement these solutions, or to learn more about how they can help address ITP 2.0 challenges.

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