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User Tracking

Digital footprints provide valuable information about customers

The digital touchpoints of a company with its customers are growing increasingly. 58% of consumers inform themselves online during the purchase decision process. Current web tracking solutions not only capture the actual purchase, but are also able to capture the information search of interested parties. Both in the B2C (Business to Consumer) sector as in the B2B (Business to Business) sector, this information can provide the decisive competitive advantage in order to assert oneself on the market. The reconstruction of a user's digital footprint provides important information about him, which can be used for explicit targeting possibilities as well as personalized advertisements. The customer-specific communication and advertising playout thus gets the necessary optimization possibilities for a strong and consistent customer journey.

Through web tracking, also called web analytics, users can be identified on certain personal characteristics such as interest, hobbies, gender and much more. These character traits are crucial to the target group-specific marketing strategy in order to "get to know" the customer. With the help of this information, advertisements and personalized content can be optimally formulated and played out. This gives an online website or marketplace the efficient opportunity to win new customers, retain existing ones and to create upselling or cross-selling opportunities.

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For successful web tracking, JS code snippets are integrated on the website, which can be divided into different methods server-based and client-based tracking systems. Server-based systems store user-specific data on the respective server and are therefore independent of a user's end device. Client-based systems, on the other hand, offer an extended range of services for accurate tracking. However, these are dependent on the user's end device and can be prevented by the browser. Client-based systems allow users to be recorded and informed about page visits independently of changing IP addresses.
First, the so-called log files of the web servers are analyzed and evaluated. This can be referred to as server-based data. On the other hand, there is client-based data, which is used. For example, an integrated pixel with JavaScript tags is used to collect the corresponding data when retrieved. Another possibility is the setting of so-called tracking cookies, which store the user’s behaviour.


Most website visitors currently agree to the cookies intuitively without reading the hint text to the smallest detail. A code is placed on the web page, which creates a small text file when the page is called. The file is stored in the browser of the web user. This procedure is universally applicable. Customer login data, for example, can be saved and lead to a permanent "logged in" status, even if the browser session has been terminated in the meantime. Furthermore, these cookies help to identify new visitors to the website, which makes it possible to track the actual number of visitors. Also, if the users are returning, it is possible to display suitable offers according to their buying behaviour. In addition to that, cookies in affiliate marketing enable the respective commission partner to be identified.


The use of counters is based on HTML pages (Hypertext Markup Languages). A script of the protocol CGI (Common Gateway Interface) can be integrated into these. When the page is called, the counter program is started, which tracks the calls to the website. The advantage of this tracking method is that the counters have a low technical requirement and no installation takes place on the user's terminal device. It only operates on the server of the website.

Web Bugs/Tracking Bugs are tiny images, usually 1x1 pixels, embedded on web pages or in HTML e-mails. This enables to run a log file analysis. The small images are often stored transparently on a website. When the page is called, the images are loaded from the server into the Internet and thus have their measuring functionality. Counter Bugs serve to determine the number of users or the duration of the call. Especially in e-mail tracking, the counting pixels are used to measure the opening rate with soft bounces and hard bounces, delivery rate and the identification of the end device. Signal words can also be tracked and evaluated using algorithms in the mails in order to personalize advertising and plan a more precise content delivery.


Logfile analysis is used to collect statistics on page accesses or key figures via the website on the basis of log files. Log files are files in which process logs with access and time stamps are automatically stored and, when viewed over a longer period of time, provide information about the number of pageviews. Since servers have such log files, data such as IP address, user name, browser provider, the status of a downloaded object and previously accessed web addresses can also be stored. By storing the log files locally, it is also possible to analyze them locally. Disadvantages of log file analysis are caching and proxies since only direct server accesses are measured and the calls via the cache memory of the browser and via proxy servers are not measured.


The IP address is a 32- or 128-digit binary number that is part of the Internet Protocol (IP). It is used to assign unique addresses to terminal devices. It is also possible that the terminal device is assigned to the same IP address more than once. Furthermore, these provide information about a possible location of the terminal device, which is why they are used for closer localization of the computer/terminal device.


App tracking evaluates the use of both native apps and web apps on mobile devices. The collection of data such as downloads, operating system usage, languages, mobile providers and much more serve the performance analysis of the app. For publishers as well as marketers of apps, app tracking is the source of information and the basis of online marketing campaigns for products. The identification mechanisms make it possible to recognize users across programs, which is why approval for location and phone book is usually the rule when downloading an app.


Google Analytics is probably the best known provider for evaluation of web tracking (though there is also Matomo Analytics, formerly known as Piwik). It is used by 56.1% of all websites. Google Analytics does not only offer evaluation of the tracking file, but also the creation of heat maps, the session duration, the bounce rate and the origin analysis of the user are offered by Google Analytics. SaleViewer, another provider for the evaluation of web tracking, tracks the IP address, the IP node and the geo-localization through the evaluation of log files and tracking codes. These data are enriched with information from databases, whereby the affiliation of the visitor to a company can be assigned with a 70% probability.


The different tracking methods make it possible to build up correlation analyses between surfing behaviour and users and thus play out topic-relevant advertising insertions. This way, unnecessary contents can be minimized, since the relevant target group is almost exclusively addressed. Geo-targeting, social media targeting and behavioral targeting form targeting methods that receive the basic data for user-specific campaigns thanks to detailed tracking tools. New users can be generated, existing ones can be retained for the long term and the company's performance and conversions can be optimized.


It should be mentioned that there is no uniform protection standard worldwide that serves as a global basis for tracking. Since its introduction at the end of May last year, the DSGVO (Data Protection Basic Regulation) has required special caution on the part of companies. A so-called ADV contract must be concluded with all parties who come in contact with your personal data, IP addresses must be made anonymous, a DSGVO-compliant data protection agreement must inform the user about all data processing methods and much more. A further point, which has been tightened by the basic data protection regulation, is obtaining the user's consent before a cookie is set on the user's terminal device. This procedure is called Opt-In.


For companies, whether medium-sized or large, tracking provides the basis and transparency about the users of their website. With this information you can adjust the clarity and user-friendliness of your website. The collected data also offers online shops the opportunity to advertise their products to specific target groups via platforms and affiliate sites using various online marketing measures. Content and contributions can also be played out according to their target group. Last but not least, tracking also offers purely technical innovations, for example, storage levels can be collected. This means that no matter whether you are currently configuring a product, putting together your dream trip or just filling up your shopping basket, you can continue at the same level after the session has ended, even without logging in.

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