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Cookie-less tracking for online marketers
The possibility to track users using flash is relatively new. It is available from flash player v6. The possibility to use flash tracking on classical (i.e. without flash) websites and it's high reliability, makes it a compelling competitive advantage for online marketers.
Standard tracking software (used to track ROI, affiliates, visitors etc) typically relies on classical cookies. This method is already a bit antiquated, and has several drawbacks:
1. Significant amount of users delete their cookies(and thus cannot be tracked)
2. Cookies cannot be tracked between browsers
Jupiter Research report from 2004 says that "as many as 39% of internet users may be deleting cookies on their primary computer monthly". Therefore with this method, you never know for sure what income each marketing campaign generates. Reliable tracking is also crucial in affiliate programs - affiliate software that tracks 95% to 100% of your visitors brings more sales to your affiliates. Affiliates really get commission for every single customer they referred to your website. Affiliate program is thus more motivating and honest towards affiliates - which is considerable advantage over other programs.
Accurate tracking is also important for PPC/CPM, banner or link exchange marketing.
As for PPC, competition is getting stronger year by year and profit margins from PPC advertising are tightening. Marketers need to know conversion of each campaign. With classical tracking and tight profit margin you can never be sure whether you are losing or making money. Although big PPC ad publishers such as Google or Yahoo offer conversion tracking, it is much more effective to have own system that tracks reliably and allows you to compare different PPC campaigns immediately (without having to login into another merchant accounts).
As for the other marketing, there is usually no implicit tracking involved. This can result in cost-ineffective ad campaigns or non-profitable partnerships.
FLASH TRACKING - THE TECHNICAL BACKGROUND: Tracking by flash utilizes local shared objects, so called "flash cookies" to store data on visitor's computer. Default settings allow to store 100kb of data without prompting the visitor. Flash cookie can only be read from domain that set the flash cookie. Flash cookies are stored in special directory within .sol files. This creates another huge advantage over classical cookies - flash cookies work crossbrowser.
To achieve best results, marketing software vendors need to combine classical tracking methods with new ones to ensure maximum accuracy.
Flash tracking will work only for those users who have flash player installed on their computer. According to Adobe, vendor of Adobe Flash Player (formerly Macromedia), flash player penetration (capable of tracking) is 97.2% in so called "Mature markets" (US, UK, France, Germany, Japan) and 93.9% for "Emerging markets"(incl. China and South Korea).
Flash tracking is present and future of online marketing for ROI, affiliate tracking and personalization. It is available also for small and mid-sizes of businesses. Until internet offers other options, it is the best way to understand your traffic and advertising online.
About the Author: Martin Melisek is marketing executive at QualityUnit vendor of affiliate software Post Affiliate Pro with cookieless tracking