Written by Erin Wadley, Senior Account Executive
Cross-domain tracking with third-party vendors sounds like a bunch of marketing words mashed together to sound like a major overtaking. Spoiler alert: it’s actually quite simple and can help your business properly track your customer’s journey.
When we’re talking about cross-domain tracking in the financial sector or banking industry, we’re primarily focusing on your first-party website data and the website data from the third-party vendors you use for loans.
Having quality data on your customers is important, but also having quality data on the customer journey is a key recipe for success. As privacy becomes more private, and third-party cookies go away, the ability to track and house data directly from consumers on your site will be more imperative than ever. So how do you ensure that you’re tracking your entire customer journey when it comes to them applying for loans?
Allow us to introduce you to cross-domain tracking.
What is cross-domain tracking?
Cross-domain tracking is the ability to track the customer journey as they navigate through two or more websites. The ability to do this creates a holistic view of the user experience and allows companies the ability to gain insight into the flow of the customer journey, as well as highlight potential roadblocks. In doing so, data can pinpoint what might be costing your company and what might be the key to improving your marketing efficiency.
In order to track the entire customer journey, implementing third-party cross-domain tracking is vital. And yes, we know it can seem overwhelming. It’s cumbersome and it can take a bit of time to get it set up. But, it’s important as this allows you to track a single user across the two sites (your website + third-party vendor) instead of tracking what will look like multiple users on multiple sites. Cross-domain tracking streamlines the data so you can configure it in real-time applications and make better-informed decisions with the customer journey data you are collecting.
There’s a lot more that goes into this, but for the sake of time and efficiency, let’s discuss why this is important to implement and not so much how to implement. Although, we’d love to talk about that with you as well and you can contact us here.
Why cross-domain tracking is important for marketing campaigns
Let’s pretend you’re running a campaign with the goal being that a customer sees your ad, comes to your site and completes an application for a loan. Once they arrive, you want to know if they’re taking action by clicking the “apply now” button on your site and if they successfully complete the mortgage application on your third-party vendor site. Without cross-domain tracking, you will only be able to see that the user clicked the button to apply, but you won’t know if that specific user completed an application. So, how can you track this entire process if you’re sending users away from your website to complete the form on a third-party vendor site? You can’t. This is where cross-domain tracking comes in.
When a user arrives on your site and goes to the third-party site, the user leaves your domain “www.mywebsite.com” and goes to a different domain “www.notmywebsite.com.” Now, your user may not be able to tell the difference between the two sites if you’ve done a good job of branding the application to look and feel like an extension of your website. But, since the change of domain occurs between the two sites, the data stops getting tracked.
In order to follow the entire user journey, you will need to implement cross-domain tracking on the third-party site you are using for your form applications and completions.
Since you are only tracking and paying attention to your website analytics, you might go look at that customer journey and become concerned about time on site since that user came to the one page about mortgages and left. What you might be interpreting as a poor user experience may not actually be the case at all. You could be offering a great experience, one so great that the customer immediately gets the info they need to make a confident decision to apply for a loan with you. And they do (hoorah!), but you can’t track that. This is exactly where cross-domain tracking comes in handy and either confirms that hypothesis or shows you why those original insights might not be the case and how you can fix it.
So while that data showing you the low time on site is technically accurate, it’s not the whole picture. The user very well could have left your single session page to take the action you wanted them to take, which was leaving and completing a form on your third-party vendor site. But even that still doesn’t give you the whole picture.
Let’s go back to our customer example. You’re following the journey of this user who came to your website. In order to track where your user originally came from, you first need Google Analytics on your site, which answers those important questions you have about your customers. This data can be incredibly helpful. But you don’t want to stop there with the information you are collecting. You care about the source/medium in Google Analytics which tells you how the user came to your website, whether that was from an organic search or a display ad. So this user is now on your site and has been looking at your mortgage page, gathered info, and clicked the apply now button – which is exactly what you hoped they would do – but, how can you see if that user completed their application? You can’t. You want to be able to really understand the customer journey and how they are interacting with your site and the third-party vendor site.
Essentially, without cross-domain tracking, you have tracked everything up to the “apply now” click on your site. But, why would you want to stop there? You want to follow this user to gain the data needed to understand, for example, why your bounce rate might be high on the third-party vendor site: did they leave because of load time? the application is too long? they have to fill it out in one sitting and can’t return when they have more time? etc.? This is where cross-domain tracking is incredibly beneficial to know when that user leaves the third-party vendor site and then comes back to your site. That’s a lot of steps… well, three to be exact. But, that’s three opportunities to lose data that could be informing you of important business insights that could be costing you lots of dollars if you had the customer data.
Now, when a user completes an application, they may be redirected back to your site. If you don’t have cross-domain tracking set up, it could also look like you had a significant amount of referrals from the third-party vendor site when, in reality, that user is just coming back to your site after completing their application. They are users who went to your website first, filled out their application on the third-party vendor site, and came back. They aren’t true referrals.
And since you can’t follow the customer journey, you can’t see if that user were to come back and look for the FAQs page for example. Would having the information on a specific FAQ on the application form help the continuity of their application process? That’s just one insight you might get. The insights and innovation, as a result, can be endless and save you a lot of dollars. (And you don’t have to be worried about the data you are gathering. Contact us here to learn more about how we use and execute content security policies and pattern protection practices.)
Not only can this information inform your business and website decisions, but it can also help you fine-tune your messaging to your customers. This information can help your ads become more relevant when you know what might be a hindrance in their journey to completing your goal or event. When you have insight on what those roadblocks might be, you can tailor your message to address and communicate with your audience that you have a solution. This improves your relationship with your customer too as you provide solutions and build trust using your data insights, which in turn allows you to further customer relationships. Your first-party data is the main ingredient. Cross-domain tracking is the secret ingredient.
And we would imagine you probably have more than one third-party vendor for mortgages, credit cards, etc. that need to have a tracked user journey. Having the tracking is one thing, but ensuring it is set up properly is another key step.
The one thing you don’t want is data that causes you to misinterpret the customer journey because the setup is goofed up. Data can and should be guiding your decisions but, if it isn’t tracking the right things (or painting the entire picture), it isn’t informing the right things either. Cross-domain tracking is key to ensuring your data is working for you, and that’s data you can bank on.