Server-to-server (S2S)
Server-to-server (S2S)
Server-to-server (S2S), also known as server-side tracking, is a method of collecting and sharing app or web data between servers. S2S is also how app owners communicate with mobile measurement partners (MMPs) and send event data in a secure way, without having to rely on the user browser and asking for tracking requests.

What is S2S?

In S2S tracking, when a user clicks on a tracking link or creates an ad impression, a unique identifier such as a click ID is created and stored within the app. When the user converts, the click ID identifies the activity and traces the conversion back to the user, and app owners can confirm this information by checking if certain user information from both impressions match. This data is then shared with measurement tools like MMPs that analyze the data to perform attributions. 

S2S tracking serves a similar purpose as website cookies and app software development kits (SDKs). It collects user activity like click data from ad platforms and sends it to marketing analytics tools to interpret it for attributions. While the process is similar, S2S is rising in popularity as more privacy regulations are being enforced and advertisers are hanging by thread to continue tracking conversions and acquiring valuable user data. 

Why is S2S important?

The term “server-side tracking” stems from the idea that advertisers are the “servers” and browsers and mobile app pages are the “clients”. Hence, server-side tracking works in favor of advertisers and aids their ad measurement process. With server-side tracking, they are able to gain more control of user data and collect valuable information that third-party tracking tools may not. Hence, advertisers are more likely to detect conversions that are difficult to spot when privacy framework barricades are in place. 

S2S is used directly between two servers to exchange data, and in mobile marketing, app owners can share information with attribution partners without having SDKs get in the way. Using their own secure server, app owners can directly transmit data to another server, which is much safer and time-saving than passing it through multiple SDKs to deliver information. S2S also gives more control to advertisers over what type of data they would like to share with attribution partners and can exclude data points they would like to keep secure. 

S2S tracking and mobile marketing 

While the S2S tracking method is compatible with both web and app platforms, it can provide notable changes in app data transmissions and streamline the attribution process. 

Mobile apps & SDKs 

In order to track in-app user activity, apps are required to embed a software development kit (SDK) that can perform this function. SDKs are often bulky and require extra resources to develop and manage, overall complicating the user experience and data collection process. Furthermore, every app and its corresponding ad functions and attribution partners also use their own SDK, so app owners have to integrate multiple SDKs in their apps in order to receive and share user data with each other. Having multiple SDKs in place may increase the chances of slow-downs, errors, and postback fraud, as there are stops to make at each SDK before the data reaches attribution partners. 

Apart from the fact that S2S tracking provides more transparent data, app owners are reluctant to go through this tedious process every time data is shared. The fact that they have to install a bundle of SDKs in their apps also does not benefit them, because it takes up more storage and causes frequent system lags. As a result, many app owners and mobile marketers have been leaning more toward S2S tracking which is a simple and reliable alternative that streamlines the sharing process.

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