Times are changing! The Internet is a fast-paced, rapidly growing global environment, and it can be a struggle sometimes to catch up. Facebook has decided to give online advertising a leg up with Facebook Atlas.
Let's start at the beginning...
How Cookies Track Conversions:
Many of you will be familiar with the story of a successful affiliate commission, either because you've experienced it, or are striving to making it happen.
Up until now, it's gone something like this:
1. Person browsing the web is either looking for a product, or happens to come across something of interest to them.
2. They end up at your website.
3. You promote a product to them, either via your content or on-site advertising, and they click through to the merchant.
4. They buy the product right then and there and you get the commission, or...
5. In a few days' time, when they have the money or have given it some thought, they return to their computer, buy the product, and you still get the commission.
When they clicked your affiliate link, they got a cookie on their browser that tracks them for a time so that the sale can still be traced back to you, even days or weeks after they visited your website. This is how you still get your commission.
So What's Wrong With That?
The flaw in this process occurs when step five goes like this instead, spot the difference:
5. In a few days' time, when they have the money or have given it some thought, they look up the product one evening while browsing the web on their tablet in front of the TV. They buy the product, but you don't get the commission.
Cookies can't jump from a PC to a tablet. The customer learned about the product from your website; heck, your website probably convinced them it was actually something they wanted! But because there's no way of tracking between devices, you lost that commission.
And what if multiple people are using the same computer? Imagine an internet café, for example. All those users share one cookie because they share the same device.
Cookie technology is extremely limited for identifying how many different people are buying through you, or the specific demographics of any one given person. Many of those people might go and buy the product from their own computers later on, resulting in more lost commissions.
How Many Commissions Do I Lose Across Devices?
Imagine your average customer for your target niche market. What is the likelihood that they will use more than one device for browsing the Internet? Desktop computers, phones, tablets... So many brands, so many devices, and people change what device they're using more regularly than a child changes their mind.
Facebook decided to investigate just how much, and commissioned a study via GfK. The results showed that 60 percent of online adults use at least two devices each day, while a quarter use three.
Something of particular interest was that 40 percent of online adults said that they sometimes start an activity on one device, and then finish it on another. And the percentage grows the more devices they have: more than half of people who own two devices do it, and around three-quarters of people with three. Those are some large gaps for commissions to fall into.
If you want to see the variety of devices that people are using to view your website, you can check with AffiloTools. Just connect up your website, head to Traffic in the side-bar menu on the left, go to Demographics at the top on the right, and scroll down to where it says, "OS Breakdown".
This will give you an idea of how many different devices people are browsing your site with. The number of mobile devices is highly likely to increase over time, which is a change to take note of in the Internet marketing world.
People using more devices means more chances for conversions to occur across multiple platforms. The study mentioned earlier has already proven this, so the old conversion tracking with cookies is getting less and less effective.
How Much Does this Matter for Me?
To be honest, it's not that big a deal as far as your website goes at the moment. Yes you lose some commissions, but you'll still make money from those who convert on the same device, and you're not losing any money out of your pocket.
Advertising, however, is a different story. When you're actually paying for these ads, you expect some of the profit made through that to come to you. Every time someone searches your keyword, sees your ad, clicks through, but completes the purchase later on a different device, you're actually paying to get someone else a sale that you don't profit from. Seems pretty unfair doesn't it?
More and more marketers are buying mobile advertising to keep up with the increasing use of mobile devices. An Internet Advertising Bureau study has shown that desktop banner and search advertising percentages have gone down to make way for the growing percentage of mobile ads:
You can see that mobile ads are up 8 percent within a year, while regular search and banner ad percentages dropped to accommodate the change. People use more mobile devices, marketers buy more mobile advertising, it makes sense.
The tricky part is that the tracking process also needs to evolve. We need to be able to track our promotions converting into sales, even across devices. If we can't, we are essentially blind to a growing number of multiple-device conversions.
Up until recently, that was just the way the cookie crumbled, but Facebook is the first to take tracking in a whole new direction.
Facebook Atlas Offers a Solution: Cross-Device Tracking is Born
It's a bold step towards the future of advertising. Facebook bought Atlas in 2013, and has now launched Facebook Atlas. It's described as a place to create, measure and optimize digital campaigns.
Rather than a cookie on a browser, Facebook Atlas focuses on studying the individuals in your market. It claims to track users across devices, which you can read more about here, and it even claims to bridge the gap between online and offline retail, which you can see here.
If you'd like to get a glimpse of how it all works, you can check out the tour video.
At the bottom of any of the "Why Atlas" pages you'll find a button that says, "I'M INTERESTED." If you're thinking about trying it out, that's where you can apply.
There has been nothing quite like this in advertising so far. It aligns with the direction that Internet marketing is going in: multiple platforms, global markets, online vs. in-store. The depth of demographics that you can monitor and target this way is impressive.
It's early days, but it's good to see that advertising isn't going to get left behind in the new age of technology, as it's such a large contributor to the livelihood of many an Internet marketer!
It will certainly be interesting to see where this leads: how it evolves, what competitors come up with, and what will be available to marketers as a result. Leave a comment below if you'd like to contribute on this topic in any way.