Updating your affiliate program to server-to-server tracking

We’re moving closer and closer to a cookieless world, and companies such as Apple and Google are increasingly limiting dataflows with new privacy updates. As such, there has never been a more important time to move to a server-to-server affiliate tracking solution.

As well as being more robust, ensuring that you’re able to track as close to 100% of users as possible, moving to server-to-server provides a perfect opportunity to review a number of other important areas of your tracking. Here’s some tips to make the process as effective as possible.

Consider new technologies

A full reintegration of your program tracking is naturally the perfect time to consider whether or not you’re on the right network. What was once a great fit for your brand may no longer be so.

As you grow your affiliate program, you may be looking for enhanced reporting capabilities; or the ability to commission against different tracking parameters. Technology that was once out of reach due to budget restraints or costs may now be available due to the shifts in cost dynamics when you scale.

It’s worth exploring the options available to you before beginning the server to server project and potentially tying it into a full program migration.

Review and refine

Once you’re happy with your choice of network, it’s time to review the actual parameters in the tracking. Our recommendation would be to include as many data points as possible – this means that further down the line, the account manager will have much more data at their disposal to optimise the program.

We can be both more proactive, and reactive to demand fluctuations when we have the clearest picture possible of performance, and we can still protect budgets by only setting up commission increases against the parameters that really matter.

Decide how performance will be measured

If you are moving networks, it’s vastly important to consider how you will measure performance across the two networks. Perhaps on your incumbent network you are tracking a gross sales value which includes taxes and shipping costs, but on your new network you’d like to remove these costs and track a net sales value. Still passing the gross value as a custom parameter in the tracking is a great way to ensure you can still measure Year on Year performance against the same metrics.

Actually comparing Year on Year data across two networks can be difficult without some consideration on how the data will be handled. This is where reporting tools such as Affluent become very useful, as they naturally store all historical data across multiple networks.

Review API capabilities

A large tech project such as a server-to-server implementation can be a good time to review how you are utilising your network’s API capabilities. Automation is the name of the game here. Some data may not be available at the point of conversion; Trainline, for example, update the customer type parameter 24 hours post-purchase via an automated process, which then allows them to set commission rules based on new or existing customers. Time-consuming processes such as validations can be automated too, saving hours each month and reducing the risk of any human error.

Consider your server-to-server approach

Considering your actual approach to the server-to-server tracking is one of the biggest decisions to make. Google’s recent Server-Side container option for Tag Manager has placed server-to-server capabilities in the hands of many more brands who perhaps didn’t have the knowledge or resources to complete a server-side implementation traditionally.

This is a great opportunity to also review all of your marketing tags. Moving other trackers such as Facebook to a server-side container in GTM will go a long way in speeding your site up for users. We know how important page load speeds are for SEO, and this is a brilliant way of improving your Core Web Vitals scores.

If you are looking to review server to server tracking at the moment and want to have an open chat on the pros and cons, how to work with developers or need an external solution feel free to reach out to Nic.