How to Gain complete Customer Journeys with Data Tracking in 2024

A headshot of the author of the article who's name is Laura Dorfner
Laura Dorfner
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5 min read
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February 10, 2024
An illustration that shows the user session data that is used for customer journey tracking

If you want to succeed in ecommerce, data tracking is the key to success. Afterall, you want to know by which marketing channel and campaign you find the most new customers at the cheapest costs and grow your business, right? But how do you accurately track and use high quality data in 2024? You’re not alone in wondering. 

A study from Ascend2 showed that 50% of marketers see the collection of quality data as their biggest challenge when it comes to adopting a data-driven approach. In 2021 the Apple iOS14 update limited cookie data drastically and it’s not getting easier. 3rd party cookies are set to an end by mid 2024 on all major browsers.

This guide is for anyone who wants to master customer journey tracking - an essential skill in ecommerce. 

What is data tracking?

Data tracking is the process of collecting and analysing data related to specific metrics and events that are important for your business. It involves the use of technologies like cookies, digital fingerprints or behavioural patterns. This enables you to record data related to user interactions with your online advertising or website visits. Anything related on the journey to an online purchase.

A defeinition of data tracking for online marketeers

What is Customer Journey Tracking?

What is Customer Journey Tracking? An essential part of data tracking for ecommerce marketers is Customer Journey Tracking. It connects and analyses every touchpoint that a customer has with your business, making it key to understand how your customers interact with your business throughout your complete marketing mix. Customer Journey Tracking is done across multiple channels and shows your customers behaviour throughout the complete funnel.

Why is Tracking Important?

Having access to accurate and reliable data lets you make more confident and better decisions, that allows you to grow your business in many ways. The right data lets you leverage a lot of benefits. 

Here are some of them:

A summary of the 3 most important reasons for data tracking
  1. Understand and Target Your Audience

Did you know that most European consumers love being treated like VIPs by brands they shop from? 51% said they will become repeat buyers after a good personalised experience. To deliver highly personalized and targeted advertising that resonates with your audience, you need the right data to gain valuable insights into your customers' preferences, behaviours, and needs. Once you have identified trends and your customer’s behaviour patterns, you can refine your targeting across the entire funnel with data-driven decisions. 

  1. Optimise Your Marketing Mix

Track the sources that drive traffic to your website and evaluate their performance. Test new channels and allocate your advertising budget to the most effective ones. You can also see how customers find your website and what keywords they use, which can help you improve your SEO.

  1. Measure and Improve Marketing Spend

Data tracking enables you to measure customer actions and identify the effectiveness of your marketing spend from ad to channel level. By leveraging these insights, you can optimise your marketing budget, focusing on channels, campaigns and ads that generate most conversions from new customers at the lowest costs for example. Diversifying your channel mix based on data insights expands your reach and eventually lets you achieve better ROI for your ecommerce business.

By embracing data tracking and leveraging marketing analytics, you can gain control of your marketing funnel. Through a data-driven approach, you'll have the insights you need to optimise your strategies, make informed decisions, and achieve your business goals. 

However, if you collect and use poor-quality data it does more harm than good. Data quality is directly related to customer experience, brand perception, and the financial performance of your business. On average businesses waste 15 Million Dollars a year on bad data. Make sure to regularly check for inaccuracies, incomplete data, or outdated information.

How to Track Customer Data?

Don’t fall into the trap of collecting data that will never be used. To avoid this, have a well-thought-through tracking strategy that focuses on collecting useful and reliable customer data.

5 Steps on how to track customer data successfully

Step-by-Step Guide on How to Track Properly

  1. Set Clear Objectives

Before starting, it’s important to clearly define your data tracking objectives. Establish goals that align with your business objectives, such as evaluating website features or identifying the most effective marketing channels. Ensure that your goals are SMART.

  1. Choose Relevant Metrics

Next, you can identify the key metrics that align with your goals. Choose metrics that help you understand user behaviour. Don’t forget to measure the impact of your strategies and track progress towards your objectives.

Relevant metrics for ecommerce: 

  • Customer Acquisition Costs (CAC)
  • Customer Lifetime Value (CLTV)
  • Cost per Session (CPS)
  • Costs per Order (CPO)
  • Conversion Rate
  • Retention Rate
  • Ad Spend
  • Revenue
  • Return on Ad Spend (ROAS)
  • Contributions Margins 1,2,3
  • Profitability on Ad Spend (POAS)
  1. Implement Tracking Tools

Utilise data tracking software or services to effectively collect and analyse the data. You can also integrate tracking tools like Google Analytics 4 into your own website to capture user interactions and behaviours. To understand the customer journey accuracy of tools such as Google Analytics 4 you can compare the conversion path to industry benchmarks here. 

  1. Analyse Full Funnel Data

Finally, Understand the customer journey by analysing data from your marketing funnel. Identify stages where users drop off or fail to convert, and optimise those areas for better performance. Utilise tools like Google Analytics 4 or more advanced tracking and attribution platforms to gain insights into your marketing funnel.

  1. Continuously Monitor and Refine

Regularly review your data analytics reports and track changes in performance. Stay on top of data analysis to spot trends, patterns, and areas to improve. Let the data guide your decisions and adjust strategies accordingly. Also, time is key: When you're ready, consider investing in automated martech/n adtech to save time and streamline processes.

Once you start following these steps, you can start collecting and utilising customer data more effectively to gain valuable insights and make informed decisions that will improve your ecommerce business’ performance.

What Are the Best Tracking Methods?

Let’s explore three key methods that empower marketers to track and create a complete picture of their customers’ journey: cookies, digital fingerprinting, and customer behaviour patterns.

Cookies

Cookies are bits of data that websites store in your browser when you visit them. They help websites remember your preferences and collect useful website visitor information. As an ecommerce marketer, you can use cookies to track your user’s browsing behaviour, interests, past purchases and identify them when returning to your website. This way, you can tailor the customer experience and boost conversions. 

A comparison of Pros and Cons for using cookies

There are different types with different purposes and limitations. Here’s what you need to know: 

Third-Party Cookies 

These cookies collect information about the same user on every website they are implemented that a user visits. The principle is easy: Distribution to as many websites as possible to track users across the web. Does the Meta Pixel sound familiar? This third-party cookie measures the effectiveness of your advertising campaigns on Meta and target users based on their interests with the data collected about your users on your website. 

Due to rising privacy concerns, third-party cookies are heavily targeted by tracking regulations and therefore becoming increasingly unreliable. On top, many browsers block these cookies by default. You always require user consent first to set these types of cookies on your website. However, 19-42% of users will opt-out and 30% of US consumers use ad blockers to prevent them.

First-Party Cookies 

These are cookies that your own website bakes and eats. You might have seen them as a pop-up that asks you for cookie permission when you visit a site. They help you remember user preferences, such as language settings and shopping cart contents. They also enable you to offer personalised recommendations and smooth the purchasing process.

Although first-party cookies are considered less intrusive than third-party cookies, they are still subject to privacy regulations in the EU. 

An important note - advertisers such as Meta increase the lifetime of their 3rd party cookies by masking them as 1st party cookies. By firing their cookies from your website domain they trick tracking blockers to classify these cookies as first party. The result: Tracking preventions get stricter. The lifespan of 1st party cookies is reduced to a maximum of 7 days by Apple’s Intelligent Tracking Prevention (ITP).

To make the most of your cookies, here are some tips:

  • Use both, session and persistent cookies to track short- and long-term user interactions respectively
  • Focus on pure first-party cookies (no masking) to ensure data accuracy and build up user trust
  • Be transparent with your cookie policy, explain their purpose and offer opt-out options, to comply with privacy regulations and create a positive user experience
  • Consider combining cookie tracking with alternative tracking methods, such as digital fingerprinting, to overcome the limitations of third-party cookies

Digital Fingerprinting

Digital fingerprinting is an advanced tracking method that involves collecting various information points about a user's device, browser and internet connection to create a unique profile. It captures details like device type, screen resolution, operating system, browser settings and IP addresses to name a few. By analysing these fingerprints, it’s possible to identify and track individual users, even without cookies, making it a perfect cookie alternative!

A comparison of Pros and Cons for using digital fingerprinting

A comparison of Pros and Cons for using cookies

How to leverage digital fingerprinting effectively?

  • Respect your users’ privacy and protect their anonymity when you use fingerprinting technologies
  • Mix fingerprinting with other tracking methods for better results
  • Respect user consent by being transparent about your tracking practises. Offer clear choices and options to users for controlling their data.

Behavioural Patterns

As a marketer, you can use machine learning to discover how customers behave on your website and create movement patterns. When customers look at or add certain products to their cart, you can use this information to stitch sessions with similar behaviour. The more pages e.g. product details pages you have, the better you are able to build unique movement patterns for every website session that correlate with follow up sessions. 

Imagine one customer repeatedly looks at a specific product in a specific configuration, let's say blue skinny jeans but doesn’t convert. 7 days later you notice a session where a user lands on your website with exactly that product in the same configuration and makes a purchase within 30 seconds. Would you consider this user to be the same user as detected with the behaviour of the previous session ? Maybe your digital fingerprint will add some hints in combination.

A comparison of Pros and Cons for using behavioural patterns

How to make the most of customer behavioural pattern tracking?

  • Set up custom event tracking to monitor specific user actions, such as adding items to the cart or completing a purchase.
  • Utilise machine learning user matching algorithms to identify and connect patterns to build accurate customer journeys.

The Challenges of Tracking

The major challanges for tracking in 2024

Browsers vs. Advertisers

The most impactful tracking preventions are introduced by browsers such as Firefox or Safari. It's no secret they aim to reduce the data webs of advertising platforms such as Meta and Google. No wonder Chrome always lags behind. They fear for their own advertising dollars.

What’s important for you as a marketer is to remember: The bigger the browser user base the bigger the impact on your data tracking accuracy. It's obvious that new introductions to tracking preventions from Apple's Safari and Google Chrome browsers hit you the most.

Companies like Safari, and Mozilla have changed how they use cookies. Mozilla started the ETP program and Apple followed with ITP regulations, Chrome announced to phase out 3rd party cookies by Mid 2024 (lets see if they can stick to it). Browsers use different ways, but they do the same thing: to use less or no third-party cookies for tracking in 2024. They do this by either making cookies expire sooner (e.g. 24 hours) or preventing third-party cookies completely. 

In short: they are less reliable and scarce.

But it doesn’t stop with cookies. In 2023 Apple announced its new IOS 17 privacy updates introducing tracking link prevention. The target: Click IDs from Facebook, Google and other ad platforms in landing page urls. Don’t worry your UTMs will remain.

The fight between Browsers and Advertisers will remain a never ending battle pushing marketers to find new ways to data tracking while putting the users privacy first.

Tracking Ethically in 2024

We all love eating cookies, and personalised ads can lead to the desired VIP-treatment. After all, if we have to see ads, why not make them match our interests? But there’s a catch: our privacy. To show us the right ads, our information needs to be stored. According to a report by Twilio, every fifth European consumer is uncomfortable with sharing their personal information for personalisation purposes. Why? Because data leaks and scandals scare us. 

Customer data collection is essential for success, but it also carries significant responsibilities. Respecting customer privacy, complying to data protection regulations, and using data ethically are crucial. Failure to do so can result in fines, lawsuits, and, worst of all, the loss of customer trust. In fact, the ethical reputation of an organisation is the primary factor determining the trust level of customers. But can you imagine that just half of European consumers trust brands with treating their data responsibly? 

Now, you might be wondering, how can you ethically track customer data in 2024? Here are some valuable tips to guide you: 

  1. Know the Data Protection Regulations

Make sure that you’re complying with all relevant regulations and laws. 

The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) is a regulation on data protection and privacy for all individuals within the EU and the European Economic Area (EEA). It also covers the export of personal data outside this area. 

Another important law for the German market is the Federal Act on Privacy in Telecommunications and Telemedia (TTDSG).

Overview of data privacy laws in the EU and Germany
  1. Be Transparent

Users are sceptical of tracking. Prioritise building trust and be transparent with your users about what data you’re collecting and why. 

Have a clear privacy policy that outlines:

  • what data you’re collecting
  • how you’re using it
  • who you’re sharing it with
  1. Get Cookie Consent

No consent - No tracking. Give your customers autonomy over their data. Make sure that they have given their consent for you to track them. This includes having a clear opt-in process on your cookie banner. Read our step-by-step guide on how to create the best cookie banner and get more insights on this crucial part.

  1. Only Collect Necessary Data

There’s no point in collecting data just for the sake of it - you need to have a clear idea of how you’re going to use the data to improve your business performance or customer experience.

Final Tracking Recommendation

You know how important tracking is to grow your business. But you also know how challenging it is to do it right. You want more data and insights to optimise your ROAS, but they are hard to come by. 

Imagine using a software that gives you more data than Meta and Google, with higher quality and reliability. A software that adapts to the changing tracking landscape. A software that lets you focus on growing your ecommerce business. 

Sounds good, right? 

While we’re not here to tell you what to do, we still want to give you a chance to make your life easier and your business more successful. Do a quick 14-day free tracking test yourself and follow the footsteps of brands like Girav or Athletic Greens. You’ll see for yourself how advanced tracking software can help you take your data tracking to the next level.

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