The Role of Server-Side Tag Management in Enhancing CDPs

Discover why server-side tagging is the ideal companion for your CDP. Enhance data accuracy, privacy, and performance in your modern data stack.

The Role of Server-Side Tag Management in Enhancing CDPs

Share with others

Server-side tagging is an essential part of the modern data stack—and we believe it is the best friend to your Customer Data Platform (CDP). While it’s true that some client-side tag management tools have tried to rebrand as CDPs and some CDPs have attempted to “bolt on” data collection capabilities, the truth is that a CDP and a tag management system are very different but equally important components of a modern data stack.

Server-side tag management has a critical role to play in enhancing your CDP’s performance and extending its capabilities . Yes, we’re being deliberate in separating server-side and client-side for a few reasons. The efficacy of client-side tools is waning as JavaScript blockers become commonplace, the impending (but often delayed) death of third-party cookies in Chrome, and the implementation of privacy and data protection legislation.

Server-side tag management is the way to future-proof your customer data infrastructure in the modern era. Let's explore the role of server-side tag management in CDPs to see how this future will play out. 

Server-Side Tag Management vs Data Collection

Server-Side Tag Management vs Data Collection as pipes in sci fi landscape
Data pipelines are key to the future of marketing technology.

CDPs are designed to be the centralized platform for storing and managing customer data. CDPs often integrate with multiple data sources to create a unified customer database accessible to other systems. Sure, CDPs may have some data collection capabilities, but they are not inherently optimized for tracking client-side web interactions. 

Tag management systems, particularly server-side systems, are specifically designed to collect data from websites and other client-side environments, such as web or mobile apps. Server-side tools collect events, user interactions, and attribution data, as well as stream all data into other tools in real time. 

So, let’s not bury the lede here: a huge benefit of server-side tracking is that it is inherently first-party data. Unlike most CDPs or all client-side tag management systems, you don’t load a third-party script onto your website to set up tracking. Server-side tagging uses a first-party approach by default.

This has a myriad of benefits, but the main two for enhancing CDPs are as follows:

  1. You get way more data from your website because browsers are less likely to block or otherwise obfuscate data tracking
  2. You can better align with privacy and data collection regulations enhancing user trust and staying compliant

Technical Insights into Server-Side Tag Management

Technical Insights into Server-Side Tag Management in a Sci Fi Lab
In SSTM the server holds the keys to data collection acting like a control room for web-based data collection.

Server-side tag management moves the majority of the data collection and processing from the client-side (aka, the user’s browser) to the server. This has benefits such as improved page load times and a better user experience; it also changes how data is collected and handled compared to traditional client-side solutions.

Instead of relying on the browser to run scripts and send data, the server itself manages these tasks. As mentioned earlier, this benefits by reducing the chances that your event data is blocked by browsers or ad blockers. In addition, server-side management allows you to have full ownership of the data collection process.

You choose precisely which events to track on your website, and then you decide how those events are distributed to other services. You can enforce compliance at the point of ingestion, before vendors even see the data – third parties only receive client approved data. Data can also be hashed in transit as another lay of data security. Integrating a server-side tag management system with your CDP can supercharge its functionality.

Data integrity and uniformity

By having a centralized data collection and processing system, you can ensure all user interactions are captured uniformly. The client-side environment, in which data is collected, is an afterthought and has no bearing on the integrity of the data. This consistency is critical for extracting accurate and consistent insights from your data and distributing real-time data to your CDP.

Enhanced data security

CDPs offer benefits for enhanced customer data security. CDPs offer a centralized data management platform that can act as the single source of truth for customer data. Server-side tag managers work extremely well with CDPs when it comes to data privacy and security.

With a server-side tag solution like Metarouter, compliance is built-in to help ensure privacy and security before data hits the CDP. This allows you to set up a data pipeline that meets the highest data compliance requirements reducing risk and making it easier to audit the entire process. As an example, with MetaRouter if someone gives consent for analytics but not advertising, then MetaRouter would only share data with your analytics provider and not your ad partner.

CDPs can offer benefits for enhanced customer data security. By centralizing data management and creating a single source of truth for customer data, organizations can maintain a consistent approach to data security. Features like data encryption and access controls help maintain high security standards.

Server-side tag management complies with these high standards. Customer data is safely handled on servers, away from the browser where it can be accessed in transit. Pairing a server-side tool with a CDP is a smart choice for organizations looking to minimize their exposure to potential data breaches.

Scalability

Server-side tag management systems are inherently more scalable than their client-side counterparts. Instead of processing data in the user's browser, which drains resources otherwise dedicated to ensuring fast page load times, server-side solutions handle that processing on your dedicated server. As your business grows, you can scale up your resources on the server, while client-side solutions are limited to the browser.

Real-Time Streaming

Real-time data processing is mission-critical for e-commerce, financial services, and online advertising—delays in data processing can significantly impact user experience. Server-side systems like MetaRouter utilize event-driven architectures to react to data changes in real time and enable immediate processing of incoming data.

Server-side tag managers and browser-based data collection limitations

Server-side tag managers and browser-based data collection limitations like a lighthouse in the fog
Server-side tag managers are like lighthouses seeing through the thick fog of browser restrictions to keep your data collection on track

When the first client-side tag managers were released, they had a bounteous volume of data to choose from. However, escalating restrictions imposed by modern browsers on third-party cookies and tracking mechanisms have reshaped digital analytics. Regulations like GDPR and CCPA have made compliance with new, stricter privacy and data standards mandatory for any brands operating internationally.

Server-side tag management operates within those key legal frameworks and can overcome many limitations of client-side tag solutions. A key point here is that data collected via server-side is, by definition, first-party—which means it's not subject to the same browser-based restrictions that affect third-party cookies. The data you track comes from a script you own, manage, and is hosted on your own server.

This is a key factor in overcoming the limitations posed by Apple's Intelligent Tracking Prevention (ITP). Apple developed this privacy feature primarily for its web browser, but along with link tracking protection, Apple has signaled its willingness to be a leader in protecting consumer privacy. ITP addresses concerns about user consent, particularly when it comes to cross-site tracking.

Vendors, such as advertisers, have used scripts installed on websites to build detailed profiles of users' browsing habits and preferences. This is how many advertisers are able to generate detailed profiles, even leading to rumors that smart devices listen to our conversations.

The ethics of cross-site tracking and Apple's stance sets a clear precedent: we're increasingly living in a privacy-conscious world. This makes collecting data through first-party methods like server-side tracking more important than ever.

The Strategic Benefits of Integrating Server-Side Tag Management with CDPs

Together, CDPs and SSTMs help map out the customer journey

CDPs solve an important modern marketing challenge: how do you consolidate all your customer data into one platform? And just as importantly, how do you make that data useful to everyone in the organization?

Server-side tag managers are a complementary offering that benefits your CDP by providing a robust data collection mechanism. While CDPs are great at ingesting data from multiple sources, server-side tag management excels at data collection and distribution. Here are the benefits of integrating a server-side tag management system with your CDP: 

  • Enhanced data quality and accuracy
  • Improved data compliance and privacy
  • Improved site performance and user experience
  • Real-time data processing
  • Expanding the reach of marketing tools
  • Better personalization through enhanced user profiles

Enhanced data accuracy

We don't need to belabor the point too much but it bears repeating: server-side solutions provide much more accurate data for a few reasons:

  • They are setup using first-party endpoints and are therefore less likely to get blocked by browser restrictions
  • You have precise-control over how the data is collected and distributed 
  • Reduced data loss because you bypass client-side rendering issues

This means your customer data is enhanced by accurate data that you can trust. This is critical for enhancing your CDP and enriching customer data.

Improved data compliance and privacy

A server-side tag setup ensures you have better control over data and reduce exposure to vulnerabilities associated with client-side scripting. You know exactly what data you collect, where you send it, and you can provide a clear audit trail. This is key for complying with global data privacy laws like GDPR and CCPA.

Part of the promise of CDPs is better adherence to privacy and data protection laws – it just makes sense to have a system that seamlessly fits into your existing system. Unfortunately, client-side systems carry risks and vulnerabilities. 

Improved site performance and user experience

Server-side tag managers are well known to improve website performance, and can help improve user experience. This is a key benefit for your marketing efforts as slow, clunky websites discourage users and cost revenue. A better experience results in more revenue opportunities, and more opportunities to collect data.

Real-time data processing

CDPs offer omnichannel personalization at scale – a huge benefit – but you can't truly deliver on this promise without real-time data collection. The lag time between data collection and distribution needs to be imperceptible to end users, otherwise you risk losing their interest.

Think about an ecommerce website with thousands of visitors viewing various different offers. As they browse your online catalog, their actions could be influenced by dynamic pricing, next best offer promotions, or personalizing their journey. By pairing your CDP with a server-side tag management system, you get the benefits of real-time data processing to power your personalization strategy.

Expanding the reach of marketing tools

Your CDP is only as powerful as the data that is provided to it. This fuel is essential for setting up integrations with other marketing tools to enhance their effectiveness. Tag management systems provide the web and application data to complete your user story which is essential for understanding attribution, analytics, and the entire customer journey. Server-side solutions and CDPs are also highly customizable meaning they can integrate with almost any marketing toolset.

Better personalization through enhanced user profiles

The goal for most marketing teams with a CDP is to develop real-time personalization capabilities. An essential piece of the customer journey is the events and interactions that occur on digital properties. These behavioral data signals are used to complete the customer profile and enable personalization capabilities like product recommendations, next-best offer, and customer services strategies. Combining a CDP and server-side tag manager is a proven strategy for enhancing user profiles and developing a competitive advantage.

Elevating CDPs with Server-Side Tag Management

Elevating CDPs with Server-Side Tag Management is like data fuel for a rocketship
Server-side tag managers are the data fuel for your CDP

Implementing a server-side event management tool as a means of fueling your CDP with more and better customer data isn't just a technological upgrade–it’s a strategic move that addresses the data challenges facing today’s enterprises.  It offers a configurable and secure control plane that ensures your CDP is working off of the most consistent, accurate, and compliant customer event data possible, all while conforming to the enforced privacy posture unique to the organization.

Additionally, regulations like GDPR and CCPA have made customer privacy and data security a top priority, and they are part of the reason companies buy  a CDP in the first place. Server-side tagging addresses the vulnerabilities of client-side tagging and provides meaningful upgrades to this decades-old technology.

CDPs enable enterprises to do more with their first-party data but often rely on third-party, client-side scripts to send event and web browsing data. Enhancing your CDP with a server-side tag management system is about making all your data first-party. This unified approach to centralizing data management is table stakes in the modern digital era: delivering personalized, real-time, and trustworthy user experiences requires a modern approach.

We believe that server-side tag managers are your CDP’s best friend. Ready to experience the difference? Get in touch with us, and we’ll give you a demo of MetaRouter, a server-side tag manager trusted by top enterprises.