One of the questions frequently asked about attribution is how much cookie deletion by Internet users affects its accuracy. This is an extremely valid question, because proper attribution of digital channels such as search and online display is very much dependent on these little pieces of code placed on users’ computers to collect the data associated with the touchpoints created by your campaigns. So without cookies, the attribution process that’s dependent on that touchpoint data seems as if it would break.
A few different methodologies have been used to uniquely identify Internet users without utilizing a cookie. One such method is using the combination of IP address and “browser header” information on the user, which almost uniquely identifies a user. Another method is using the flash registry information that is secretly written in flash plug-ins installed on a user’s browser.
There could be other methods like these that either secretly write something on a user’s computer without his permission, or use a characteristic of this system to uniquely identify him without his permission. These methods typically won’t give the user an option to remove/opt out of such tracking. Most of these types of tracking methods can be integrated with Personally Identifiable Information (PII) data, which can then be used to target the Internet user with messaging without his permission and without giving any option to opt out.
A final point about these methods is that they are much less accurate than using cookies. For example, there is one such tracking company with a demo on its website showing how well its technology can track you at a given time (at the time of the demo), yet your signature changes every time you make changes to your browser or you get a new IP address from your DHCP service. As a result, this method is changing more frequently than cookie deletion, making the data less reliable.
When it comes to cookies, like anything associated with analytics, it’s purely a numbers game. The fact is that when algorithmic attribution is performed on all the touchpoints associated with all the users who were exposed to your digital assets -- both converters and non-converters -- over a given timeframe, the universe of touchpoints is easily in the millions, often in the billions, and can even occasionally top the trillion mark. So when a percentage of users delete their cookies at some point during their path to conversion, it definitely adds a slight level of inaccuracy to the attribution equation, but given the critical mass of the overall sample size, the degree of inaccuracy created by cookie deletion is miniscule. Using statistical and scientific methods, an intelligent attribution management system can accurately distribute credits using cookie data.
Sweat The Things That Matter Most
Instead of sweating the few missing touchpoints in your data that can easily be compensated for by scientific methods, focus on factors within your attribution initiative that matter the most, such as how much your brand equity affects conversions; how much impact recency, frequency, lag time and the length of your sales cycle have on performance; or whether exogenous factors as the economy, weather, or world events affect your marketing ecosystem. Use your attribution solution to answer these larger, more important questions instead of sweating the small stuff.