Customer journey and commission attribution were mentioned in my previous blog post about a4uexpo and after a few days of “affiliate flu” I’ve been mulling over the talks that covered these issues. Whilst it’s interesting to see stats that prove or disprove affiliate concerns and also to see networks and agencies looking into commission attribution I do think there’s some serious holes in the plot.

If I’ve understood the talks right it’s claimed that cashback shoppers now go direct to their cashback site to shop. What this means is that when studying customer journeys it’s noted that they do their shopping in a single cookie setting session. That on the face of it is quite a revelation, and completely contrary to what many affiliates believe actually happens. The conclusions drawn from the stats may well be right, but stats don’t often paint a true picture.

For example – do the stats analysis take into account that cashback shoppers are encouraged to shop in a single session.

Here are some lines from Quidco’s user guide with regard to best practice for tracking sales:

2. Clear cookies & cache, disable pop-up, ad, & image-blockers.
4. Don’t use voucher or other discount codes unless they came from the Quidco site.
6. Complete your purchase online, all in one session.

Friend of cashback Martin Lewis also has some useful advice for cashback shoppers:

Step 3: Clear your cookies.
If you’ve clicked through to several different sites that collect cookies, which will often include the product site itself, through a comparison site, this site, or another cashback site, it may not track unless you clear your computer’s cookies first.

Could this be a reason for seeing cashback shoppers shopping in a single session?

Now, it may well be that those studying the stats have taken into account this data. My initial inclination is that they haven’t! I’m not sure many people would seriously believe that on significant purchases people would not click around for a good deal, do a price comparison or head to a review site.

The data can’t pick up when people are using different computers (work to home, pc to laptop), reading reviews or doing price comparisons but being careful not to click on any links (so as not to burn cookies).

If, as demonstrated above, cashback shoppers are being told or encouraged to watch their cookie activity, then that in itself throws a significantly large sized spanner into the works. The data for looking into customer journey becomes seriously skewed even if a small number of cashback shoppers are deleting cookies or taking steps to make sure they’re only clicking one link.

The data may well be telling us one thing, but without knowing the full facts about why it’s telling us things means that it could actually be impossible to make serious judgments on bringing in cookie attribution systems over the current last click wins system.

Understanding customer journey and cookie attribution should make for interesting discussions over the coming months.