Vocab for Marketers: Fingerprinting

What is fingerprinting in conversion rate optimization (CRO)?


Fingerprinting is the act of collecting enough data to be able to create a unique profile for identifying individual users. The key phrase here is “identification,” which is why it’s called fingerprinting. A person’s physical fingerprints are unique to them, as is their digital fingerprint.

How eCommerce Marketers Use Fingerprinting in CRO

Fingerprinting has broad applications and implications in CRO. While surface-level (and easily manipulatable) identification includes things like capturing cookies, IP address, and device ID, fingerprinting is a more robust tracking method that’s harder for the user to block. 

For example, our digital fingerprints collect information and data like the following: 

  • Operating system
  • Device make and model
  • Screen resolution
  • Browser type and version (like Chrome, Safari, and Firefox)
  • Location and time zone 
  • Installed fonts and plugins
  • Etc. 

When you look at any of these data points individually, they can’t be used for any type of user identification. However, fingerprints collect a large enough set of data points to uniquely identify users, because the data is aggregated to find a pattern.

Here’s an example: 
10,000 people are currently looking at your website.

  • 4,500 of the 10,000 are on desktop
    • 2,000 of the 4,500 use Chrome
      • 500 of the 2,000 have Chrome version 91.0.4472.12
        • 10 of the 50 have a screen resolution of 1920 x 1080
          • 1 of the 10 has night mode enabled

With this information, marketers can identify which user is looking at a website and track them with their digital fingerprint.

With third-party cookies dying, fingerprinting could be used as a replacement. But marketers need to be careful of privacy compliance laws (such as GDPR and CCPA), as they might be unintentionally breaking the law when creating a fingerprinting data point. 

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