Cookies are crumbling: Tracking first-party cookies in Eloqua – what you need to know

January 13, 2022 Chuck Leddy

This blog post was co-produced by writer Chuck Leddy and Kelly Newton, Sojourn Solutions Marketing Automation Consultant (Kelly previously worked for Oracle Eloqua). 

The current context

First-party cookies are growing in importance because they’re blocked far less often than third-party cookies. It’s difficult for customers to browse the internet without accepting first-party cookies: they identify you as a returning visitor, remember your information, and help brands personalize the user experience on a domain.

The big problem with third-party cookies (cookies that track across domains) is that they're increasingly being blocked by applications, by browsers, and by default privacy settings. How marketers collect and use customer data is evolving as privacy regulations/restrictions increase and as customers become more sensitive about how their data is being collected and used. 

Apple, Mozilla, and Google have all announced the end of life for third party cookies. First-party data therefore becomes absolutely critical for how marketers build trusting relationships with customers. When marketers get better data, they can build better models and more personalization, and that equals better customer engagement, leading to more and better data (it’s a virtuous cycle). 

Impact of crumbing cookies on Eloqua users 

Many Eloqua updates are coming with their 22A release starting in February (2022), especially as it relates to Google’s Chrome 85 browser. Google made privacy changes as to how its browser handles referrers. The referrer provides information to Eloqua about a visitor’s browsing data and current location on a website. Google is changing their default behavior to be more restrictive as to what information gets shared via the referrer. As a result, Eloqua tracking will only capture the domain name and not the full path of the URL. You can’t track across domains (i.e., third-party cookies) by default. None of that third-party data would be available for segmentation, lead scoring, or reporting.

First-party data around a specific customer action is now the most valuable data there is. Did the customer fill out that form on your brand website? Did they register for and/or attend your webinar? Did they purchase something or abandon their cart? That information helps marketers understand and engage with customers, which is why enabling the tracking of first-party cookies in Eloqua is so important.

Oracle Eloqua Asynchronous Tracking Scripts

Eloqua Asynchronous Tracking Scripts enable you to track visits to your website seamlessly without affecting the page load time for the visitor. So when customers visit a website that has those scripts deployed, cookies are placed in the browser and those cookies help identify a website visitor, according to their specific browser and computer combination in the event they return to the domain. Those cookies remain in the browser until the visitor deletes them manually or for 13 months. 

To implement tracking for first-party cookies, Eloqua users would simply open an SR (service request) with Oracle cloud support. If you're using a secured microsite for your tracking domain, having a secure SSL certificate for your microsite on the tracking domain is strongly recommended. As part of your SR, you would provide all of the relevant information: your instance name, the tracking domain you want to use, and whether it’s secure or not.  When you're doing one domain, it's always easier to do all of them. 

Strict Mode Tracking in Eloqua 

Strict mode tracking enables you to not track visitors from countries based on their IP address, unless they've opted into tracking. This tool helps marketers remain compliant with data privacy regulations like GDPR. It’s strongly recommended for any company with an international footprint.

There are three levels with strict mode tracking scripts: (1) a default that would track all visitors; (2) opt-in for visitors by country – they’d get a pop-up permission request on the bottom of the screen that helps marketers comply with GDPR; and (3) seeking opt-in for all visitors, so nobody gets tracked unless they've opted in via a permissions request. That last one is commonly used by hospitals and for websites that deal in personal private information (likely covered by HIPAA). You don't want to collect any information that you shouldn't have unless it's relevant for you.

How would an Eloqua user enable strict mode tracking? Users would open a service request with Oracle support and would get a link that essentially gives code samples for what they can plug in. Your internal IT team would then take those script samples and plug them in where it's relevant. 

5 tips for optimizing marketing with Eloqua 

1. Understand your requirements for the customer experience/CX across your entire organization. Doing so helps you figure out what types of data you’ll need in order to deliver those experiences. Different areas of your business will require more or less data in order to meet their CX goals. 

2. Bring all your data together so that it can be validated and cleaned, standardized, and compiled to make it available to everyone who needs it, in the form and scope they need it. You need the right level of data governance for the right users of the data, making sure that security settings around your data are aligned internally and externally. 

3. Plan alternative approaches to collecting relevant data that you may soon no longer have easy access to. That might mean adjusting your mindset around having only the data you really need and then deciding how you want to prioritize its collection and use. The tough and essential question for marketers is ‘how do we get the data we need and how do we get users to opt in?’ There's so much to be gained from that conversation, and ensuring that customers have a good feeling about their relationship with your brand. 

4. Take every opportunity to communicate transparently with potential leads and share real value with them. Work to understand why a consumer is coming to you in the first place, then use that understanding to nurture the relationship rather than using it in a transactional way. No customer wants to give you their friends’ email addresses when they barely know you, let alone trust you. Slow down and build those trusting relationships, providing value before you ask for something.

5. Develop the ongoing capacity to test and measure marketing impact. When it comes to marketing, it's never ‘set it and forget it.’ You need to keep tweaking and learning. With Eloqua, you can automate processes and utilize tools to create a network of data coming in, being cleansed, standardized and sorted appropriately. Then you can create campaign canvases that nurture contacts based on decision steps that ask, ‘is the customer engaged? How did they engage with our last email or our forms?’ You can automate responses based on so many specific customer behaviors. 

For more information about implementing and using Eloqua’s first-party cookie tracking, reach out to us.   

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