Cookieless Attribution: What Is It and How Does It Work?

Cookieless Attribution: What Is It and How Does It Work?

8 Min Read

If you’re a marketer, you’ve probably already heard the big news: Google has announced that Chrome will officially start unwinding its support for third-party cookies in 2024. For years, brands have relied on cookies to collect valuable data about consumers and retarget them with advertisements after they leave the brands’ sites. Moreover, third-party cookies have helped businesses improve their user experience and keep up their competitive edge. Has your organization decided what it’ll do next?

Fortunately, there is life in marketing attribution after cookies. Cookieless attribution, as a data collection technique, offers a more privacy-driven way to compile and utilize user data. Even better, cookieless attribution offers unique opportunities to engage potential customers in a way that more directly appeals to them, specifically through Connected TV (CTV) advertising.

Curious? Here, we’ll break down everything you need to know about cookieless attribution—and how to get started.

What Is Cookieless Attribution?

Cookieless attribution uses innovative technologies and methodologies to track user interactions and secure conversions. It addresses the limitations of cookie-based attribution while still complying with data privacy laws like the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA).

Instead of using cookies, cookieless attribution focuses on collecting data anonymously through methods like device fingerprinting and deterministic attribution. All of these approaches offer their own advantages and align with different business needs.

Though cookie-based attribution has been the go-to for many marketers over the years, its challenges existed long before Google announced it was phasing out the technology.

  • Compliance concerns: Violating data regulations like the GDPR and CCPA can lead to hefty fines and legal action. Ensuring your business meets regulations can be time-consuming and confusing, particularly as they continue to evolve. 
  • Consumer protection trends: Big brands like Apple have increasingly promoted data privacy as part of their user experience, making users more aware of—and outspoken about—how their data is collected and used. 
  • Cookie deletion and blocking: Many users now have the option to delete cookies from their browsers or block tracking cookies altogether, and more and more are choosing to do so. 
  • Device fragmentation: The proliferation of technological devices, including laptops, desktops, smartphones, and tablets, makes it difficult to track users’ actions across a variety of platforms. 
  • Short life span: Cookies tend to have a short life span, ranging from a few days to a few months. This makes it harder to get accurate data and build a complete user profile.

Challenges With Cookieless Attribution

That’s not to say that cookieless attribution doesn’t come without its own difficulties, too.

  • Data accuracy: Cookieless attribution is often not as accurate as cookie-based methods, making it harder to capture user interactions and ensure data is collected at the right marketing touchpoint. 
  • Limited standardization: As cookieless collection techniques are still relatively new, there is no standardized method across the industry, making it more challenging to collect data consistently across platforms. 
  • Learning curve: With new cookieless attribution comes a learning curve for marketers as they embrace new tools, technologies, and methods. 
  • Technical complexities: Getting a cookieless attribution system up and running can be a bit tricky on the technical side. You might need to do some serious tweaking to your current tracking setup, taking up resources and time.
  • Adoption of new models: Some business owners may be hesitant to take on new advertising models, as doing so requires a leap of faith that can be off-putting to some.

Benefits of Cookieless Attribution

We’ve discussed the challenges of cookieless attribution, but what about its benefits?

First, while standardization across platforms might still be limited, cookieless attribution can help you find more consistency tracking across different devices. Users can block cookie tracking on certain websites or switch it off altogether; however, cookieless attribution uses different methods to collect data more holistically and privately, without an opt-out option (for now, at least).

Secondly, cookieless attribution leads to reduced ad waste. With more refined targeting, you can focus your budget on what actually works with the right audience. Plus, you’ll provide an enhanced user experience by sharing more relevant content with your audience, leading to more conversions and maximizing your ROI.

Finally, your business will be at the forefront of innovation by exploring a future in which cookie-based data collection methods are obsolete. It can enhance your brand’s reputation as a forward-thinking organization and build up that all-important customer trust.

How Cookieless Attribution Works

So now that you know the advantages and disadvantages of cookieless attribution, the question is this: How does it work, exactly?

Data Collection and Privacy-First Approach

The digital landscape is shifting, making cookieless attribution a worthy privacy-centered approach. This method avoids traditional cookies, using privacy-conscious alternatives like device fingerprinting instead. By respecting user consent and using more secure data-handling techniques, cookieless attribution maintains that delicate balance between effective marketing and privacy protection, strengthening user trust in the process.

Let’s take a look at device fingerprinting, which allows every visitor to be identified through a specific set of data that their browsers pass on to a website. The data can include:

  • Screen resolution: screen size, resolution, and even the color depth of the device’s display
  • Installed fonts: information on the fonts the device uses, as these often vary
  • Hardware information: details on hardware components, such as CPU type, graphics card, and memory
  • Network properties: specifics about the device’s network configuration, internet service provider (ISP), and proxy settings
  • Browser information: attributes like browser type and operating system

User-Centric and Deterministic Approaches

In this method, user actions are directly linked and attributed to specific marketing touchpoints through known identifiers, such as log-in information or customer IDs. This approach facilitates highly reliable attribution by directly connecting actions to a user’s corresponding touchpoints without cookies’ limitations. Deterministic cookieless attribution is a privacy-conscious approach that aligns with users’ preferences while offering marketers a clear and precise understanding of how their campaigns influence behaviors.

Attribution Modeling and Measurement

Attribution modeling involves determining what impact various marketing touchpoints have on users’ actions. It explores the impact of different interactions across various channels. After that, measurement comes in, with marketers analyzing the data and gaining a better understanding of where they can best allocate their resources, focus their budget, and optimize their marketing campaigns for the ultimate effectiveness.

How CTV Advertising Implements Cookieless Attribution

CTV advertising shows ads on smart TVs and streaming services connected to the internet. As nearly 80% of all U.S. households are subscribed to at least one streaming service, this is a perfect opportunity for marketers to create highly targeted marketing campaigns without compromising consumers’ privacy.

CTV advertising uses a wide variety of cookieless attribution methods to collect user data, including:

  • First-party data: CTV platforms often have access to valuable first-party data, such as user registration information or subscriber profiles. This data can be matched with ad interactions, enhancing accuracy and personalization.
  • Contextual targeting: Instead of relying on user-specific data, CTV advertising may focus on contextual targeting. Ads are delivered based on the content a user is watching, which ensures it’s relevant without directly tracking individual users.
  • Probabilistic data: Similar to other cookieless attribution approaches, CTV advertising uses probabilistic modeling to estimate the likelihood of a particular user or household interacting with an ad.
  • Attribution partnerships: CTV advertisers can also collaborate with third-party providers to access anonymized data. These providers analyze user behaviors across various channels, which then allows advertisers to measure the impact of their CTV ads on overall customer journeys.
  • Google Analytics: Integrate your CTV campaigns into your Google Analytics dashboard to always have the most immediate, real-time data to guide you. You can see the number of user impressions, users reached, conversion rate, and total ad spend, among other data points. 

If you’re looking to engage a specific target audience, CTV prospecting is an ideal strategy. CTV has become a performance marketing platform similar to paid search and social advertising—but with more accurate metrics and KPIs for success. That’s why at MNTN, we call CTV advertising Performance TV.

MNTN’s powerful, intuitive platform takes the guesswork out of performance TV ads. Marketers can easily set up campaigns in minutes by uploading creative material, choosing from tens of thousands of audiences to target, and launching campaigns with zero wait time. Once TV ads are running, advertisers have access to a gold mine of data that can power tailor-made campaigns for customers who are actively interested in the types of products or services they’re selling.

Cookieless Attribution: Final Thoughts

In a world where privacy has become a priority for millions of users, cookieless attribution is a forward-thinking, consumer-driven solution. By forgoing the old, traditional methods of cookie-based attribution, you can track users’ interactions, understand their journeys, and attribute their actions to specific touchpoints, all while prioritizing privacy and trust. You also get deeper insights into cross-device tracking, a huge challenge that the old cookie-based methods couldn’t overcome.

If you’re excited to take on cookieless attribution but aren’t sure of where or how to start, our experts can set you up on the right foot. Contact us to start transforming the way you collect data in a more privacy-focused world.