There have been questions coming from affiliates regarding the new Internet Explorer’s ( IE8 ) InPrivate Browsing function and its possible negative effect on affiliate marketing. InPrivate Browsing essentially allows the web user to surf the web in the “incognito mode” or leaving no entries in the browser history, no cookies, and no cached files. Naturally, since most affiliate transactions are currently being tracked from a set cookie onwards, this has raised numerous concerns throughout the affiliate marketing industry. So will the IE8 InPrivate Browsing hurt our industry?
Shawn Collins published an article by Commission Junction’s Senior Product Manager, Craig Battles, where addressing this particular issue, Battles concluded:
Microsoft confirmed during conversations with Commission Junction and ValueClick that its implementation of InPrivate Blocking will identify and block content from specific URLs rather than domains that appear across multiple Web sites. This should not pose a problem for Commission Junction’s publishers because each publisher will use a unique URL including his or her own Web site ID number. . .
InPrivate Browsing and other private browsing features will not automatically block all cookies and will continue to work with most solutions, like Commission Junction, that track cookies. And of the small minority of consumers who may choose to enable the private browsing feature before they shop, the majority will complete their transactions during the same session, which will allow the tracking of purchases through affiliate links.
I have also discussed this issue with a couple more experts in the field, and there seems to be nothing to be concerned about. The function is not turned on by default, and the likelihood of vast numbers of people sacrificing the convenience of “cookied” browsing for the privacy of “cookie-less” browsing, is very low.
Richard Gaskin of the Fourth World Media Corporation, the developer of the world-famous WebMerge data feed import tool, summarized:
It looks like Microsoft is doing a fair job of providing the best of both worlds here, protecting IE users from many forms of cookie abuse while still allowing most legitimate cookies to work. InPrivate Browsing ships off by default, and most users will just leave it that way. But even for those who turn it on, IE 8 allows cookies during a given session and clears them only when the session ends, so most affiliates should be unaffected since folks in a buying mood will likely place their purchase as soon as the affiliate site passes them on to the merchant. [bold font mine]
Since the activated InPrivate Browsing function clears cookies “only when the session ends,” a lot of hope is still left for affiliates. When writing “A Practical Guide to Affiliate Marketing” I conducted an analysis of return days in which sales occurred across the programs that we managed, and the results have shown that over 75% of affiliate-referred sales occurred on the same day as the click on the affiliate link. I have also seen affiliates reporting even larger percentages in the past. It is hard to say what percentage of web users will actually turn the InPrivate Browsing function on, but even in the context of an activated function, most affiliate-referred transactions should still track.