How to Provide Server-Side Tracking as a Service Model

This is an excerpt of a masterclass presented by Simo Ahava, Partner at 8-bit Sheep and Co-Founder at Simmer. Connect with Simo on LinkedIn and Twitter.

Here at Data Driven, we’ve been discussing more with Simo Ahava about server-side tracking as a way to help clients bypass some of the constraints around data protection and the coming demise of cookies. We wanted to know whether building expertise as a service provider who implements server-side tracking either as an extra service or even as a specialist could be a good business model. What would a server-side tracking service look like? What are some of the different ways to deliver it? And how much could you charge for that kind of service?

Simo gave us some great insight on these questions and we’d like to share them with you. To watch the full support call where he answers a bunch of questions from the Data Driven community, and to access Simo’s previous masterclass on server-side tagging, sign up below.

The Opportunity

One of the great opportunities around server-side tracking right now is that it is still not widely known. Companies are all concerned about what the future holds with regards to data tracking and are looking for solutions. Approaching them with your expertise gives them a solution to their problem which is relatively simple and which they probably won’t have been approached with yet. In addition, anything to do with cloud computing sounds like a complexity that they won’t want to deal with themselves.

So what should you offer as part of this service? Is this a “set-and-forget” solution or are you able to create a more long-term relationship where you are able to charge a retainer from the client to update and maintain their set-up?

Both models are theoretically possible and you can definitely build a business model offering your services as a server-side tracking specialist, but there are some considerations you should be aware of.

Firstly, it is important to remember that server-side tracking’s key benefit is that it puts the control in the hands of the client. By building a server container in the middle of the data flow, the client has more ownership over what happens to it, rather than it going into the hands of third parties. What this also means is that you, as an external service provider, should ensure that you do not get in the middle of this ownership. That means the setting up of the cloud platform must take place on the client side. It might be tempting to think you can host multiple clients’ data on your own cloud platform, spreading the cost and giving the clients a better deal, but this risks cross-pollution of data and negates one of the main benefits of the process.

Although waiting for the client to do their part of the implementation can often be the most frustrating part of your job, this has to be done on their side. They must own the cloud platform and this means that they have to set it up themselves (ownership can’t be handed over at a later date). If there is too much reticence on the part of the client then it’s a good sign that server-side tracking is not for them.

For more information on how server-side tagging implementation works, sign up to see Simo’s masterclass on the topic where he explains the whole process in detail.

Offering 1: Implementation

However, this doesn’t mean that you can’t play a key role in the company’s server-side tracking strategy and offer them an attractive consultancy service including the implementation and then the maintenance of it.

In terms of the implementation, this kind of service is being offered on the market for around $3,000 but you could go up to $5,000 for more complex setups. The first step in the process would include a meeting with the client where you go through their setup and find out the scope of the implementation. The kinds of questions you would need to ask are:

  • Is there a fresh stack?
  • What is the client’s knowledge of the cloud platform?
  • What is the client’s knowledge of GTM?
  • What is their tagging plan?
  • How complex is their implementation?

Set aside a day for this step. The next steps would be to set up a testing platform and then start building out the tracking infrastructure.

Just this first phase, which is setting things up so that you are collecting data and trying to establish if you have the right implementation to start switching things over, can take anywhere from one day to two weeks.

Offering 2: Enhancement

There are multiple benefits to the implementation of server-side tagging that you can cite to your clients, including more control and conformity with new data protection regulations. However, it really comes into its own when you start adding enhancement features, and this kind of service can net you something more in the realm of $20,000 – $30,000.

Enhancement could include pulling historical customer data from previous transactions to consolidate their profile or adding geolocation data.

Other extras you can offer as part of your service could include migrating data from another source, adding an ecommerce module, etc.

The key is that once the installation is done, these additional services are a natural progression for the client and can provide a very lucrative upsell to you.

Offering 3: Maintenance

If you are wondering whether you can run a more stable, retainer-led model with server-side tracking, then there are certainly opportunities for doing so. Although, from a maintenance perspective, interventions are limited in so far as there are no “breaking” changes to look out for, one thing that you will need to keep a watchful eye on, both following implementation and at regular intervals, is that you have the right amount of instances in the cloud.

The price of cloud storage increases the more instances you have, so you don’t want to burden the client with unnecessary costs. However, if there is a sudden spike in data and you don’t have enough to cover it, then all data is lost. This is why it’s important to monitor data initially in order to gauge how many instances are needed and to keep checking for spikes.

Besides that, as the current implementation is a beta, you will inevitably need to make updates over time. As things change, improve or get added, you may need to respond by adjusting the client implementation. Even if no changes are needed, the client will appreciate having someone who is responsible for keeping abreast of developments to ensure the smooth running of their tracking operations.

Overall, there wouldn’t be a huge amount of work for you to do each month, perhaps no more than 1-2 days per client, so factor that into your hourly rate when offering a retainer.

These are three ways that you could offer your services with server-side tracking. If you want to see the full support call with Simo, where he talks about other issues related to server-side tagging such as unified identifiers and customer data platforms, sign up below.

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