05 Aug 2020

Publishers Rethink User Data Over Vanishing Cookies

By Ole!Connect

Thanks to COVID-19, 2020 has been a year of big change where businesses have needed to adapt fast, but the underlying goals for marketers haven’t fundamentally shifted. Delivering the best brand experience to consumers remains a top priority, but the question on our lips is, what is the best way to achieve this goal?

According to industry analysts, almost 50% of brands say a better understanding of identity recognition models and capabilities is the most effective technique for advancing their omnichannel marketing efforts. Similarly, 60% of digital marketers say connecting the dots across multiple channels is the task that consumes the most time and resources. These statistics are underpinned by the 30% CAGR of marketer spend on identity solutions over the last few years, more than 3 times the growth rate of overall digital ad spend.

In a nutshell, most marketers are still grappling with the task of linking customer identities to unified siloed assets which is a crucial prerequisite for all that follows – deeper customer understanding which leads to a better brand experience.

Enter the ‘Universal ID’

Universal IDs provide a shared, persistent identifier to trace the user across the supply chain without the clumsiness of cookie syncing or the platform risk of operating system IDs. Simultaneously, from a marketer’s perspective, they share some of the best characteristics of existing methods: the democratic nature of third-party cookies and the simplicity of Mobile Ad IDs.

According to the IAB, “the habits or search queries for a user on YouTube may be significantly different from their interaction on Instagram, Facebook or even when engaging with editorial content. A digital ID on one does not automatically translate to another. And that’s why implementing a universal digital ID could be beneficial.”

How Universal IDs work 

Universal IDs have been growing in popularity since 2019, but Google’s announcement at the beginning of this year regarding the depreciation of third-party cookies has dramatically increased the speed with which they are being adopted by marketers.

The mechanism of universal IDs is not dissimilar to that of cookies and their implementation is simple. When a new user visits a publisher or brand’s platform, their key identifiers are collected in hashed form, along with the source domain. The publisher then receives a token version of the user identifier which can be used for first-party data management.

The publisher-specific universal ID serves 2 purposes:

Unification: The universal ID enables the publisher to unify siloed first-party data under a single user/customer view, essentially the fabrication of a private identity graph. In this regard, it functions as a master first-party “cookie” but one that is persistent and valid across all data collection channels. The same ID can also be used for relevant second- or third-party data enrichment and serves as the backbone for better segmentation or analytics. 

Universality: The second application of the universal ID is in the context of activation. Since all tokenized versions of the ID are derived from the same key user identifiers, they’re all intrinsically connected and therefore effectively interchangeable for the purposes of marketing transactions, including the most prominent use cases of ad buying and measurement. Specifically, and simplistically, the tokenized version of an ID passed by the sell-side can be linked with the tokenized version of the same ID that resides with the buy-side; they both point to the same user record in the master match table.

The downside to Universal IDs

The very design of universal IDs requires users to identify – to login with a key identifier; an email address or phone number, which naturally has an impact on scale. In order to maximise identification coverage, publishers will need to ramp up their authentication across platforms. Here are 3 ways publishers could do that:

  1. Experimenting with consent collection
  2. Wider adoption of the universal ID
  3. Increase in the ability of computer systems or software to exchange information

A sustainable solution to linking customer identities to unified assets requires a model based on collaboration. Universal IDs can be the catalyst to change that can drive satisfactory results with a transparent and compliant manner. Publishers should feel empowered and embrace the future of customer identification.

If you’re looking to create first-party data strategies with deeper customer understanding and start your brand experience implementation, connect with us and unleash your brand’s potential.