Improving Your Tracking Accuracy, Past, Present, Future: The Grayagency and Brad Redding

Brad Redding guides you through the nuances of Server-Side Tracking, CAPI and ways to pass more data back to the platforms.

Improving Your Tracking Accuracy, Past, Present, Future: The Grayagency and Brad Redding

Heather Osteen

Recently, Andy Gray, CEO of The Grayagency talked with Brad Redding, Elevar’s Founder & CEO, on his podcast, eCommentary, about “all things tracking,” including tracking accuracy and why it could be the best investment you make this year. Following are some of the highlights:

How did Elevar get started? 

Initially (going way back), Elevar started out focused on data ingestion and analysis. We worked to make the process of gaining insights and optimizing faster for marketers – from hours to seconds. But customers soon pointed out that speed was only half the battle; without accurate core data, the insights they gained just weren’t reliable, and didn’t give them the information they really needed to make smart marketing decisions. 

So we listened, and we launched a separate Shopify app to clean up their data, automating the process for our customers. That app led us to realize we had a bigger problem to solve for customers (if not the biggest): tracking accuracy. While tracking accuracy had always been challenging on some level, it became increasingly more difficult due to browser restrictions.

So a solution didn’t exist?

Not really, no. Marketers need to be able to trust in their data and use it to make decisions about product performance in order to choose the right platform(s) for advertising, putting their ad dollars where they’ll get the most bang for their buck, or ROI. But with the introduction of iOS 14 along with the continuing popularity of ad blockers and increasing browser restrictions, acquiring accurate data became much more complicated. 

There was a lot of “fuzzy marketing” from other SaaS companies during the iOS 14 debacle, promising fixes that weren’t possible. Why couldn’t it be fixed? Because at the end of the day, device data was no longer accessible for anyone. This left marketers, channels, and platforms, with only website activity data, which isn’t 100% accurate, and didn’t give anyone a true picture of how their ads were performing. 

Example: Facebook looked at its ad performance and saw that the number of conversions for a given marketer had plummeted – because the only data coming through to Facebook was from website activity, much harder to track accurately than device data. So, naturally, seeing their ROI decreasing in a big way (~30%), some marketers took their ad spend elsewhere. 

How does a tool like Elevar come in?

Elevar ensures 100% of conversion data is sent to any platform you connect through, so they can operate as efficiently as possible with better reporting, targeting, and more efficient ad bids. Our server-side tracking also makes sure the user is identified correctly, and the cookie values and cookie expiration are properly captured, blending data and sending it to the right ad platform. 

In this way, the ad platform is successful, seeing accurate data so they know what marketers to keep and optimize, and marketers can use that same accurate data to make smart ad spend decisions.

So what exactly is client-side tracking and server-side tracking?

Client-side tracking relies on JavaScript from third parties like Facebook and Google Ads. When the user’s URL heads toward the open tracking door, it’s competing against untold numbers of other users’ URLs at the same time, all vying to get that JavaScript-based tracking data at the same time (picture a mob at a Black Friday sale pouring in through the doors the second they open, all clamoring to grab a Cabbage Patch Kid). 

This JavaScript-based client-side data isn’t a direct line to the user’s journey, so it’s not as accurate as a marketer needs. Plus, this type of data can be blocked by ad blockers or even by certain countries, leading to a loss of up to 30% of user data.

Server-side tracking is different. It’s a direct connection – think of plugging into an electrical outlet – from the Shopify admin to different channels, like Facebook, TikTok, etc. This means data is sent directly to marketers, with no chance of being blocked because it never goes anywhere except straight to the marketer’s data warehouse. Server-side tracking also provides more information than just the order, sending customer, attribution, product, and order data to all the platforms a marketer selects.

What issues do you see with tracking in the future?

Data privacy laws such as CCPA, CRPA, and GDPR are becoming increasingly important to consider. So if you have the direct plug from Shopify to your channel, now you have to be sure you’re compliant with the user’s privacy wishes – if a user declines all tracking, the event has to be skipped through the tracking process, or flagged as “opted-out” so it can be un-tracked later. This creates a lot of work for marketers who are trying to do the right thing (plus follow laws) and make money at the same time. This will continue to be an issue we’ll see a lot of discussion about.

For Elevar specifically (without revealing everything, y’all), we want to help our customers recognize their returning users every time – to not only have accurate data, but put that data to work for their benefit. Recognition of returning users is about more than sending 100% of tracking data to channels; it goes deeper into improving personalization for our customers – ultimately helping conversion rates and increasing revenue. 

Listen to the whole conversation on eCommentary, an eCommerce podcast by The Grayagency.

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