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Overcoming Browser, iOS, and Cookie Restrictions with Facebook’s Conversions API

Updated: Oct 12, 2020

Discover how to improve your marketing performance and attribution despite changes in iOS and browser cookie tracking.

Advertisers have long relied on the data driven approach to optimising brand communications, using customer information. A key source of this information has been based on customer interactions with an advertiser’s business e.g. website visits, app interactions, offline transactions and so on.

With growing consumer privacy concerns, the browser industry has introduced a host of changes that mean it’s a lot more challenging to collect a good chunk of this customer interaction data from an advertiser’s website and thus, limiting opportunities to get better advertising ROI in a data driven world.

Facebook’s Conversions API allows advertisers to overcome these restrictions by bypassing the browser altogether and collecting these valuable customer interaction data in a privacy-safe way.

What are these browser restrictions?

Recent browser changes include:

1. Safari’s Intelligent Tracking Prevention (ITP), blocking all third-party cookies.

2. Safari’s Intelligent Tracking Prevention (ITP 2.2), cutting first-party cookie lifespans to 1 day.

3. Safari’s iOS14 update forcing opt-in user consent to in-app tracking and sharing.

4. The California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA).

5. Google (Chrome) announcing it will block all third-party cookies in 2022.

6. Increasing use of ad-blockers by online shoppers and other web users.

…. And so on!

These changes not only make life more difficult for marketers, but also for your analytics colleagues. It’s tougher now to tie up metrics/ KPIs across various sources and reports e.g. Google Analytics, Facebook Analytics and so on.

Let’s look at a couple of scenarios:

1. A new user sees your Facebook ad on their mobile device and clicks on it.

2. They browse a few pages of your website, and exit without buying.

3. A few days later, they revisit your website on their desktop and make a purchase.

Before ITP2, you would’ve been able to attribute that purchase back to your Facebook ad. But because the Facebook pixel relies on 1st Party Cookies, the user information is not retained after a day, and the attribution opportunity missed.

Let’s take a look at another example:

1. A user has ad blockers enabled on their browser.

2. The same user sees your Facebook ad and clicks on it.

3. They browse your website and visit a few product pages.

4. They exit.

This user doesn’t end up in your re-marketing lists because of the ad blockers. You’ll never know if they came back again to buy or not!

So how do you eliminate these browser and cookie restrictions altogether? Bring on Facebook’s Conversions API.

What's Facebook's Conversions API?

Facebook's Conversions API lets you share key web and offline events directly from your server to your Facebook pixel. This in turn helps you improve the performance and measurement of your Facebook Campaigns.

Let's look back at the earlier example of a user who visited your website on mobile and returned a few days later on desktop to complete a purchase. In this scenario:

1. The user returns to your website and make a purchase.

2. The browser cookie, does not attribute the purchase to your Facebook ad.

3. The transaction details goes into your CRM, along with the customer information.

4. Facebook's Conversions API picks up the transaction details from your CRM and send it to your Facebook Pixel.

5. This gets logged to your Facebook pixel and gets properly attributed to your ad in Facebook Ads Manager.

So you you can see, the conversions API, picks up events that would otherwise have been missed by the browser pixel, because the conversions API does not rely on cookies.

What are other benefits of Facebook's Conversions API?

Full Funnel Visibility:

It lets you track outcomes across multiple channels and lower in the purchase path. So let's say you sell products on your website and also on affiliate and partner channels. Previously you might only have been able to capture conversions from your website, if that's where you have your pixel. With the Conversions API, you'll be able to capture sales and other events from your partner channels and use those in Facebook for your optimisation and measurement.

Strengthened Data Sharing:

The Conversions API reduces the impact of signals drop-off, due to technical issues. For example, if there's a network breakdown, when a user is in the process a completing a transaction on your website, this might get missed by the browser pixel, but will get picked up on the server side by the conversions API. Additionally, issues to do with cookie lifespans, ad blockers, and so on, get thrown out, with Facebook's Conversions API.

Data Control

With the Conversions API, you choose what data to send and when to send. This is in contrast to regular browser events that send certain data points automatically e.g. your user's IP address, User Agent, and other identifiers in the http headers. Therefore, you can construct your conversions API events in a way thats fully compliant with the privacy policy you have in place with your customers and users.

These are just a few benefits of the conversions API, but when you use it, you can expect to see the following improvements in your Facebook Campaigns:

  1. More attributed conversions. (Bye bye cookie lifespan issues).

  2. Lower cost per conversion. Goes without saying as you'll attribute more conversions for the same budget.

  3. Larger Facebook Custom Audiences. With server side advanced matching implementation, you can expect more transactions to be matched to Facebook users, hence larger custom audiences for retargeting

  4. Better Return on Ad Spend. And hopefully more marketing budget for you next year :)

Now you understand what Facebook's Conversion API is, how it works, and most importantly, how it helps you overcome iOS, browser and cookie restrictions, it's time to explore what an integration might look like for your business and ad campaigns. To learn more, book a time in the calendar with us, and we'll be happy to advise you.

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