Server-side vs client-side tracking: how to get the most out of your e-commerce data

Tracking your data correctly is an important aspect of your e-commerce business. It not only shows you who is buying from you, but it also makes it easier to optimise your conversion rate. But did you know that if you only focus on client-side tracking, you will lose 10 to 30% of your conversion data? 

Let’s discuss.

What is client-side tracking?

Client-side tracking is at the moment the most common form of data collection. It will collect data from a user’s browser through pixels (e.g. Meta pixel, TikTok pixel, Pinterest pixel, Criteo pixel,...) and tag management like Google Tag Manager. 
- Access to different data before the purchase. Client-side tracking allows you to see where your customer comes from and which pages he/she visited. With server-side tracking you can only see add to cart, initiate checkout, add payment info, and purchase.
- Easy to set up basic tracking. Most e-commerce businesses are able to set up tracking for pageviews, but when you want to track other events, it can be extremely hard to set this up yourself.
- Lots of obstacles. Adblockers and VPNs block a lot of data and internet connectivity issues can cause the tags or pixels to not load at all.
- No more cookies. A cookieless future is coming so third-party data will be difficult to collect and use.
- Loss of quality. Overall not enough data will be available. As we’ve mentioned in the introduction, you’ll miss out on 10 to 30% of conversions when looking at Google Analytics for example. Lower quality of data equals less optimization in your campaigns.

The upcoming server-side tracking in e-comm

Let’s take a look at server-side tracking. This type of data will be extracted directly from the source, which could be Shopify for example. You can send this data directly to Facebook or Google to optimize your ads.
- No more missing events. Your tracking is up to 100% accurate.
- Better event matching scores. For example on Facebook. This leads to better ad performance.
- More control and security. The data you collect remains in your control and remains in your control independent of third-party trackers. 
- Optimised marketing. You can use the data not only for your ads but also for marketing automation and personalization. 
- Increased site speed. A fun side effect is that server-side tracking eliminates the extra code you need for every different pixel (Facebook, Google, Pinterest,...) which improves your site speed. A win for UX and a win for SEO.
- More expensive. You’ll need additional tech infrastructure to collect the data and send it to the correct tool.
- Difficult to manage yourself. It’s best to work with an expert to not only install the tech infrastructure but also follow up on the data. 

When to use which form of tracking?

In most cases, you’ll want to use server-side tracking. It’s the most reliable source of information to use for further marketing efforts like advertising. Besides that, it’s a form of first-party data which you’ll need in the future when third-party data disappears.
On the other hand, when you want to segment your audiences based on demographics or stage in the customer journey, you want to know what the steps were that a customer took on (and next to) your website before they made the purchase. Therefore you’ll need client-side tracking.
But in the best-case scenario, you’ll want a tool that can combine both server-side tracking and client-side tracking. Let’s say you want to connect a Facebook click ID and a Facebook browser ID to your orders. That is all client-side data that can be combined with the order data in Shopify to optimize your campaigns.

Call in the expert!

Server-side tracking is a bit tricky to set up yourself, especially when you want to combine the data with client-side tracking. That’s why we like to call in an expert like Converge
The tool combines best-in-class client-side tracking with the advantages of server-side tracking to get the most coverage you can get. You don’t have to worry about the setup. Everything will be done and managed for you. 
Curious to learn more about Converge? We talked with them in a recent podcast!
Looking for an expert to help scale your e-commerce business? Drop us a line!