There are two ways to collect the signals that customers send out when visiting a website or using a mobile app. The first method involves getting the browser to execute small fragments of code (tags) when loading pages.
These tags collect and send the data (origin, content, profile, etc.) to the partners who have been authorised by the customer. Therefore, with the first method, everything relies on the browser. The second approach involves sending the data to the server, which will take care of supplying the data directly to the different partners’ servers according to a set of rules. In this case, data are collected, converted and shared from server to server without any involvement from the browser.
Server-side has become the hottest topic of discussion among digital teams when gathered around the coffee machine. Is there any justification for its popularity? Let’s take a look at the opportunities that a server-side strategy can bring.
- Quality of collected data: the server-side model ensures that the data collection process is centralised on a server, instead of being distributed by each browser. An effective server-side platform checks the quality of the data transiting over the server and corrects any identified errors on the spot, rather than waiting for the tech-ops team to develop a patch. All the data teams value this feature since data cleaning is a major challenge. The same process can also be performed with a tag-based approach, but it weighs down the container so much that it can affect the customer experience while making it much harder to install patches. Improving the quality of the collected data also increases the quality of the data that are transmitted, which ensures proper performance from the solutions receiving the data. In terms of reliability, meanwhile, server-side processing is also a way of reducing the discrepancies sometimes observed (due to browser constraints) between analytical and transactional data.
- Team agility: you are all familiar with the term “code freeze”, those times when no changes can be made to the site for fear of creating risks during critical periods. With a server-side approach, it is always the same data streams supplying the first server. When those streams need to be modified, corrected or transformed, the source code is left alone, since the data are manipulated asynchronously when transiting over the server. Patches can now be installed at any time, extra data can be sent, and data can also be modified. This is an especially useful advantage.
- Greater control over data processing compliance: just a single query to the server is required, which will subsequently process, adapt and divide the data among the different partners. The website publisher is therefore able to guarantee visitors that the stated data processing rules really will be applied. This will give the compliance teams an extra safeguard. Piggybacking is no longer possible.
- Improved website performance: reducing the volume of scripts needed on websites lowers the risk of affecting the customer experience, ramps up page loading times and allows techs to comply with internal standards and sometimes objectives. We know just how much performance powers the customer experience. A one-second delay can mean a 7% reduction in conversions (Strangeloop).
- Breaking free from the technical constraints linked to browsers: ad-blockers, with their blacklists that block calls to certain services from the browser, or simply cookie filtering mechanisms like Apple’s Intelligent Tracking Prevention (ITP). With server-side, calls are made from the server, beyond the reach of the ad-blockers. And as the service invoked on the server side can be hosted on a sub-domain of the website (rather than on a third-party domain), it is not intercepted by ITP-type mechanisms. A word of caution however… the server-side model does not exempt organisations from their obligation to comply with consent collection rules. Contrary to what we might hear, server-side does know how to share a consent signal.
- Team productivity: Team discovering server-side for the first time are sometimes caught off guard, since they did not think that a platform could help them take back control of the data streams. Ultimately, a server-side platform simplifies a number of data-based operations which, without server-side, are either flat-out impossible or extremely difficult to perform and require coordination between several teams. Some of the highly useful features that will turn you into a digital traffic controller include real-time quality control combined with alerting, real-time data enrichment with scores (CRM, predictive, etc.) and control over both data sources and destinations.