How Browser Privacy Updates Are Affecting Influencer Attribution

Measuring influencer attribution is already an issue for marketers, and the recent privacy updates on browsers like Apple’s Safari and Google Chrome aren’t going to make things easier.

According to a survey conducted by influencer marketing platform Zine, 57% of brand and agency professionals worldwide believe measuring return on investment (ROI) is the biggest challenge in influencer marketing.

The Zine survey was conducted in January 2019, before Apple’s Intelligent Tracking Prevention (ITP) 2.2 update limited Safari’s first-party cookie tracking to 24 hours and Google released its own privacy updates regulating cookie tracking on Chrome.

These privacy updates now make it even harder to measure ROI in attribution marketing. On Safari, for example, link decoration (a method of URL information tracking) and other cookie-based tools won’t be able to attribute purchases to influencers or other affiliates when a purchase is made more than 24 hours after the link is clicked.

“Conversion attribution and measuring accurate ROI are some of the biggest challenges in the influencer marketing industry,” said William Gasner, co-founder and CMO of Stack Influence. “Apple’s new ITP 2.2 and Google limiting Chrome’s third-party cookies only make matters worse for online brands pursuing social media influencer campaigns.”

Influencer marketers will now have to rely on alternative attribution options, like giving influencers referral coupons to share with their followers or including prompts on checkout pages that ask customers where they heard about a product.

Coupons and other referral methods create an extra step in the path to purchase, and it’s a manual process that can be easily bypassed by consumers. But it can also give brands working with influencers a leg up on their competition.

“Coupons incentivize consumers to follow through with an influencer’s suggestion, instead of buying a competitive product elsewhere,” Gasner said. “Coupons that expire also induce time-pressure psychological motivation on consumers, encouraging them to promptly take advantage of a fleeting opportunity.”

Gasner’s Stack Influence works primarily with microinfluencers who refer their followers to Amazon using affiliate links and coupon strategies. Amazon accredits product sales only to affiliate link conversions that occur within 24 hours. But if a customer adds the product to their shopping cart within that timeframe, the affiliate link will remain valid for 90 days.

It’s likely that other alternatives for utilizing link decoration will also be put forth in the future. When ITP 2.1 first limited the use of third-party cookies, ad tech platforms created ways to circumvent tracking limitations—and that cat-and-mouse game between vendors and browsers will probably continue.

However, measuring ROI will likely always be a challenge for marketers, as the very nature of influencer marketing is rooted largely in brand awareness, rather than performance marketing.

“Aspects of influencer promotions are homogeneous to word-of-mouth marketing,” Gasner said. “And many sales derived from influencer campaigns are untraceable and unattributed.”