Tracking Customer Data Across Multiple Domains
There are lots of different ways to collect and assess customer data online, but many businesses fall at the first step. The most important aspect of any analytical endeavour is to ensure your data is accurate and reliable. Without this, any insight will be worthless, and your decision makers won’t have access to true results in order to make informed decisions.
Another factor is that change is afoot. Intense competition in most sectors (and consumers’ willingness to shop around) are raising the importance of creating meaningful consumer experiences. Organisations and their marketers are under pressure to protect and reach new levels of loyalty and brand awareness, or risk falling behind their competitors.
But how can you create meaningful customer experiences? To do this you need a holistic view of all your data. You need a comprehensive understanding of your customer journey and all their touch-points along with the insight to match. In 2017 over $40bn was spent worldwide on CRM software; this is predicted to increase over the next 5 years.
Larger organisations often have multiple site domains and channels for different aspects of their offering, and all with different tracking. These could include retail sites who have a different domain for e-commerce; or even large finance companies who require multiple domains for multiple languages and locations.
Although these structures might make sense when developing the offering, they can cause huge issues for the development of analytical suites and databases. They can certainly make it hard to view the customers’ full journeys to your site or indeed their conversion.
Quite often we see businesses facing problems with double counting and inaccurate data capture across multiple systems. This can be due to a system or process registering the same person twice, once on the first domain and secondly on the second domain. In this scenario, a session will be split and possibly over exaggerate the main KPI’s on a site. Whilst this might initially look good, it’s not real, and ultimately is presenting false results going forward.
So, in this article, we will be discussing some of the pitfalls and solutions for tracking customer data accurately across multiple domains. This will help you to get more meaningful insights and results in your decision-making.
Is cross-domain tracking impossible?
Cross-domain tracking will be required if you have a mature site with more than one domain or if you have multiple sites. Below is a typical business example using one of the most popular platforms: Google Analytics. For the purposes of the article the business is fictitious but the challenges they face are very common.
“I use Google Analytics to view my customer’s online journey” – Charlotte Thompson – small flower shop owner
An everyday problem
Charlotte has implemented GA (Google Analytics) over the last year. Since then she regularly checks for new insights about her audience and where her online customers are coming from. Further to this, she uses advertising channels such as AdWords and Facebook to bring in new customers to her digital storefront.
However, Charlotte is struggling to understand her full customer journey – particularly as online purchases take place on a different domain.
Charlotte’s normal domain: cflowers.co.uk
Charlotte’s purchase/ecommerce domain: buy.cflowers.co.uk
Due to this issue, she is seeing more unique customers than she would expect – as one is counting on the standard domain and also on the purchase domain. Charlotte also isn’t able to see the true source of the visit per conversion as her reporting indicates all the visits are direct from the cflowers.co.uk source.
Charlotte wants to see accurate results, so she can adapt her marketing strategy for the best Return on Investment (ROI).
Finding potential solutions
Platforms such as Google Analytics work at a user/visitor level meaning each user/visitor gets a specific ID. With each domain, this ID will change, and Charlotte has two meaning Google Analytics is going to register this as 2 not 1. So, for Charlotte to see the customer journey correctly the ID needs to be the same and represent a single person.
Why fingerprinting isn’t the answer
Other platforms have different ways of collecting this information, some of these are more advanced than others and others have more room for error and or speculation. One of these is ‘fingerprinting’. This is a relatively new method of tracking someone’s journey online, however, it works on the basis you have the same IP address, user agent, device and settings – which is not always possible.
This programme will then look out for these connections and relay this back to a single person. The problem with this is that people will often change their device and many of aspects of their online experience; something this method relies on. And because of this you risk double-counting a single customer and other issues faced without cross-domain tracking.
Another thing to bear in mind is that companies like Apple are now actively trying to block tracking methods like this. New updates coming to Safari will soon try and mask your online fingerprint to make methods like this increasingly obsolete.
What about cookies?
Third party cookies are another alternative that Charlotte could use. These are more intrusive than your normal cookie and will stick with the user no matter what. Be aware that a lot of browsers and applications block this feature. You also need to ensure your cookies are in line with your GDPR policy.
Rest easy – there’s an easier solution
An alternative more independent and objective solution is WebFusion. It:
- brings your data together
- ensures you will never lose your previously held data
- consolidates your data from multiple systems
- comes with the insight and support of Fusion’s analysts.
It means you can start to make actionable insights from your data. For Charlotte she doesn’t then have to worry about losing her data, she can have a stress-free experience; as our analysts and developers will do all the boring coding side, leaving Charlotte to focus on doing what she loves; flowers.
Setting up WebFusion is incredibly easy, it works by adding a small bit of code to your site, and then that’s it. For more in-depth event tracking we need to create custom events using Google Tag Manager, but for many people this isn’t needed. You will then be given access to your dashboard and start to receiving periodically sent insights whenever you want them!
How WebFusion tracks customer data across multiple domains
WebFusion largely works through cross-stitching devices and domains in order to give you one session/user view. It means if someone views your site on mobile, desktop and their tablet you’ll only see one user in your tracking and analytics.
Further to this, our granular data allows you to specifically target this user. This is because a large proportion of the WebFusion platform also works on the use of logins and PII (Personally Identifiable Information). It means your sales team can use this; if the user has given consent, to further personalise their sales messages and approach. In Charlotte’s case, she can stay in contact with her customers and update them on important information such as a sale or new type of flower coming to the store.
You may be wondering, how does WebFusion combat the issue of third-party cookies being blocked. In short, it adapts to the users’ settings. So, if third-party cookies are blocked, it automatically reverts to first-party cookies. This ensures you’ll never miss a user’s visit to your site – unlike other platform providers who are unable to adapt.
If Charlotte leaves her GA account as is, she will be unable to see the source of visits to her buy domain and she’ll have to accept the data being collected may not be fully accurate
This forces Charlotte to compromise on her tracking. However, with WebFusion Charlotte won’t lose any data, she’ll be able to view her customers’ journeys across domains and gain more helpful analytics and insights. All without having to lift a finger or touch a bit of code.
Can we help?
We help businesses of all sizes solve their customer data analytics conundrums. If you would like to learn more about how WebFusion could improve the way you’re tracking across multi-platforms, please contact us on T: 0203 2875387 E: firstname.lastname@example.org