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Unfortunately, I use an offsite shopping cart for the actual order entry, so I lose track of them as they leave my site, making it challenging and time-consuming to track orders back to the unique cookie identifiers.
A couple of different thoughts I had:
1) Is it possible to call something (like an image) which cannot be be cached by proxy servers, so I would be guaranteed to get its access logged everytime a user hit a page?
So... This becomes a PHP question.
I'd like to assume you're using a good shopping gateway with all the usual bells and whistles. A lot of shopping gateways have a way to configure a "thank you" page to which it sends the user to after their purchase is confirmed. Sometimes this is done with hidden <input> tags, and sometimes it's configured along with an account. This thankyou page can either be an HTML page that says "thanks!", or you can set it to be a custom PHP script. Do that.
Direct your confirmed payments to a PHP script, then in that script, display all the collections that were sent along with it. Use the code below to see them:
If your gateway is any good, it will be sending some good data along with the request for the "thank you" page. You might see unique order numbers, subtotals, product SKUs, etc. If they do, you can store those in your db.
Some gateway systems also let you SEND some variables through the payment process, and they are returned out the other end. That sounds like what you want - see if they'll do it.
You might do this:
<a href="ht*p://cartdomain.com/checkout.htm?fuzzy=wuzzy"> check out now <a>
<input type="hidden" name="fuzzy" value="wuzzy">
Then see if fuzzy still equals wuzzy when you are returned to your site.