July 28, 2005, 12:00 AM

As cookie rejection decreases, analytics tracking accuracy increases

A WebTrends service migrates its hosted analytics customers from third-party cookies to tracking by first-party cookies. Across customers who’ve implemenetd the solution, the accuracy of analytic data is up by 300%.

Retail continues to be the industry sector most affected by the rejection of third-party tracking cookies, with an average rejection rate of 16%, trailed by rejection rates of 15.4% in the health care and 13.8% in the automotive sectors, according to new data from WebTrends Inc. However, the 150-160 hosted analytics customers who have recently migrated to first-party cookies in a service provided by WebTrends are experiencing a more than 300% increase in tracking accuracy, the company says.

Third-party cookies typically are used to monitor customer behavior and measure the effectiveness of marketing campaigns and web site enhancements. Third-party cookies are set on the user’s browser by a web site other than the one which a user is visiting. First-party cookies are served to the user’s browser directly from the domain of the web site the user is visiting.

The problems arise when a consumer refuses to accept third-party cookies. Consumers reject those cookies and that diminishes the ability of the third party that placed the cookie to track that consumer’s online behavior, resulting in a less than complete measure of how consumers navigate the web. Consumers reject third-party cookies out of spyware or pirvacy fears.

Sites use cookies to track needed information-such as user preferences, names and passwords of registered visitors to the site. For marketers using analytics to track campaign success, the fewer the cookies rejected, the more accurate the view of customer behavior.

In the first quarterly update of a study on cookie deletion originally released by WebTrends two months ago, the company found among customers using its first-party cookie solutions – which migrates tracking from third-party to first-party cookies with no loss of historic data – the sites are tracking on average 10%-15% more unique visitors and 13%-30% more repeat visitors than the numbers they see using third-party cookies over the same time period. The analysis also showed an incremental impact on the number of visitors attributed to campaigns, with some sites tracking 10%-30% more visitors responding to specific campaigns.

WebTrends also found that average third-party cookie rejection rates are inching up, by 5.2% from April to June to an average rate of 13.2% across all industries. “Customer data show third-party cookie rejection has a dramatic impact on the ability to benchmark performance over time,” in addition to eroding retention-based metrics,” says Greg Drew, CEO of WebTrends, “We’ve taken a leadership role on the accuracy issue, and have seen rapid adoption of our first-party cookie solution.”


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