Significant changes in how third-party cookies are managed are set to change how affiliate marketing benefits online merchants and the only way to manage loyalty programs in the future will be the use of card-linked loyalty platforms, according to Loyalty Now.

“Last-click approaches mean that the last cookie to be recorded before the purchase occurs determines which partner gets the reward. However, when online shopping is done across multiple devices, understanding which site was the last one clicked can be more difficult,” Loyalty Now CEO, Cary Lockwood said.

“Furthermore, Google and Apple are changing access to third-party cookies, which makes it impossible to track them accurately. Taking away this source of data will further complicate the way purchases are attributed to loyalty affiliates. Programs running on last-click attribution are coming to an end and they may not even know it.”

For example, a consumer may research a product using one device before moving to another device to make the purchase. As a result, the cookies on the research device won’t match those on the purchase device, making attribution inaccurate.  

Some providers are attempting to overcome this challenge by requiring consumers to download a widget to install on their browser that will automatically assign and track the attribution. While it may appear to promote brand loyalty, it creates an additional step in the process which can impact engagement. It also introduces perceived cybersecurity risks for consumers in terms of data sharing and they may not have the ability or inclination for the required software downloads.

With consumers looking for ways to streamline their interactions with brands while still maximising their rewards, organisations need to find ways to improve engagement and lower the barriers to entry for consumers, according to Lockwood.

“The cookie approach has gone stale. With cookies becoming an unsustainable way to track engagement, merchants and program operators need to find a new platform. Card-linked platforms are an ideal solution because they link the consumer’s nominated credit or debit card with the loyalty program,” she said.

“This completely bypasses the need for cookies and can be used interchangeably between online and offline purchases, giving both consumers and merchants a more cohesive and comprehensive experience.

“Using a card-linked platform means that every single transaction is captured correctly, and the merchant can then determine where they want to make the attribution among their loyalty partners in a semi-automated process. If the merchant elects to offer two attributions for one transaction, they can have full visibility into that process. This eliminates the issue of double-dipping, where previously merchants were potentially charged for the same online transaction by numerous programs; or either they or the program provider had to make a decision after the event regarding which program to allocate the reward to.”