The Slow Demise of Tag-Based A/B Testing Solutions

By Jon Fraser

April 5, 2023


Over the past 10 years, there has been a dynamic shift in the way marketers and e-commerce practitioners measure success. It is no longer acceptable to make changes (big or small) to the customer experience without both hypothesizing the impact of changes and also deploying a testing strategy to validate or refute those hypotheses. Over the course of the past decade, the market has been flooded with tag-based A/B testing and personalization tools, tools that track a user using first-party cookies in the browser and firing a javascript tag to deliver an A/B test or personalization campaign. If you’ve been a part of a team that has adopted experimentation as a practice, you’ve likely gone through the exhaustive process of vetting these testing vendors only to discover that there is, in general, parity in the marketplace and a challenge uncovering basic differentiation.

So what, who cares?

The future of digital marketing is the reason to care. As consumers continue to demand more online privacy, restrictions continue to tighten. With Google Chrome joining Safari and Firefox in limiting first-party cookies to 7 days, the value of browser-tag-based personalization continues to diminish. Did you know that today if you’re using any of the tag-based A/B testing tools you are unable to serve a tailored experience to a Safari or Firefox user who returns to your site after 7 days? Think about that, a new customer returning to your site on day 8 is treated as an anonymous, new user. This results in the skewing of analytics for things like loyalty, buyer journey, attribution, and new user acquisition. If you’re highly trafficked on these browsers, the entire digital marketing plan you’ve presented to your executive team is in jeopardy – an entire, sometimes significant segment of users will be omitted from your A/B testing experiments and personalization campaigns. To learn more, read about ITP/ETP tracking prevention.

So what are A/B testing and personalization vendors doing about it?

Different strategies are being employed to mitigate this limitation. I’ll cover a few of them below and talk about the positives and negatives of each.

  • Assigning & Managing a Unique ID: Some vendors have attempted to solve this challenge by asking you as a customer to manage a unique ID process. By doing so, you are responsible for creating your own customer identifier across devices and managing the integration of this path with your chosen testing platform. In theory, this can be effective, but in reality, this is a heavy tech lift from your IT & Engineering group and is often in conflict with the goal of enabling non-technical users to run tests and personalization without limitation.
  • Purchasing a CDP: Customer data platforms (CDPs) have been growing in popularity as data privacy protections have increased. Conceptually, a CDP is a platform to unify customer data into a unique profile that can then be leveraged for all sorts of capabilities like personalization in testing, email, social, etc. It begins to mitigate the risk of ITP/ETP restrictions. The obvious downside here is it is a significant investment that may or may not be needed, based on your choice of testing and personalization vendor.
  • Proprietary Technology: Here’s the shameless plug. Ready? There is only one vendor on the market that has patented technology to mitigate these risks out of the box. SiteSpect was the originator of the A/B testing market over 18 years ago and patented an architecture that allows you to set first-party cookies BEFORE anything hits the browser. This means client-side testing, server-side testing, product recommendations, and personalization campaigns using first-party cookies that NEVER expire. This ensures a consistent customer experience at any point in the customer journey, without limitation.

In conclusion, don’t settle for skewed data, don’t find a laborious workaround, don’t invest in a diminishing return, don’t cobble together a tech stack that you don’t need. Instead, consider your future. Choose SiteSpect for your a/b testing and experimentation solution. You will increase revenue with data-backed insight that enhances the user experience while boosting your CRO.

Speak with an experimentation expert to learn more about us and see a demo. It will be time well spent!


Jon Fraser

Jon Fraser

As VP of Global Sales for SiteSpect, Jon's main objective is to lead and direct the SiteSpect global sales and solution engineering teams to meet and exceed revenue goals and profitability objectives.

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