online shopping

Ghostery, the privacy intelligence company, has released new research to identify and measure the impact that online ad trackers have on retail web sites. Results showed ad-tech stacks are hurting performance and creating negative effects on consumer experiences.

Insights from the company’s report found that many top retailers are “suffering from frivolous trackers.” Among the worst-performing web sites, Ghostery names Everlane, Footlocker and Urban Outfitters. All three had the largest discrepancies between load time with trackers in place and load time with blocked trackers.

The report notes that while these retailers do not have “relatively high numbers of trackers on their web sites among those analyzed, the trackers they did have were attacking performance.”

“Our study confirms that retailers need to better understand the costs and benefits of their tracker ecosystems to not only create a better online shopping experience for consumers, but to also improve their bottom line,” said Jeremy Tillman, president of Ghostery. “While trackers can be valuable, retailers must ask themselves — at what cost? Businesses often focus solely on the benefits of trackers, but fail to consider the hidden costs that come with them.”

Additionally, the Ghostery study finds that piggybacking trackers contribute to poor performance. These trackers are not implemented directly, but instead through other trackers and might be unknown to a retailer. According to the company, piggybacked trackers slow down web sites and put consumer privacy at risk.

A case study with Sears, which had the highest number of trackers and tracker requests, was used as an example in Ghostery’s report providing insights into delays caused by post-load trackers. These trackers are unique in design as they will not send a request until after a page is finished loading. As reported by Ghostery, the effects of post-load trackers include delayed scrolling and slow-to-respond forms which the company has found to create an overall negative experience for online consumers.

When looking at types of trackers with the biggest impact on web site performance, Ghostery says that each “major offender” does serve a variety of purposes, including advertising and functionality, making it a retailer’s responsibility to recognize “hidden costs” when utilizing trackers.

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