How to Select the Right Universal ID: A Guide for Marketers 

As third-party cookies fade away and device manufacturers continue to limit the use of mobile advertising identifiers, universal IDs have emerged as a viable replacement to allow for privacy-centric addressability.  

Authenticated universal IDs offer marketers all of the benefits of people-based marketing while respecting consumer privacy. This includes reaching a consumer across multiple devices, person-level frequency capping, and cross-device measurement.  

They also don’t drastically change the way you currently reach audiences and measure performance. For audience targeting, you’ll still use an identifier in audience segments. And for attribution, you’ll still associate the ID in an impression on a publisher’s site to the ID in a conversion on your brand’s site.   

There are many ID solutions available today, so let’s take a deeper look at how to evaluate their unique capabilities and the steps you can take to implement the right solution.

Six questions marketers should ask to evaluate universal IDs 

As marketers look to unravel some of the mysteries of identity after third-party cookies, one of the questions we hear most often is: which universal ID is right for my business?  

There isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution, and some marketers might choose to use multiple IDs. To select the best ID for your business, a good starting point is to assess the types of customers you’re trying to reach and the audience data you’ll use. 

Here are six questions to help guide your decision. 

1. Are you looking to reach existing customers?  

Data type: First-party customer database 

To reach existing customers, first consider what type of first-party data you have in your customer database. Are you looking to reach customers based only on their email address, or will you use other types of data, such as phone numbers, physical addresses, and first and last names?  

Most authenticated universal IDs are based on email addresses, so there is little to distinguish providers using this feature beyond scale in supply. However, only some authenticated IDs can onboard and activate other offline PII and associate that to an online universal ID.  

You’ll need to evaluate and confirm what type of offline data an ID provider can support to be sure it’s compatible with your customer data.

2. Are you looking to reach customers who visit your website?  

Data type: site visitors 

The right solution depends on whether your site visitors log in or not. To reach logged-in site visitors, you’ll want to use an authenticated universal ID that offers identity infrastructure. With these IDs, the ID provider is able to create an identifier based on an email address or log-in information from your website. 

If your site visitors don’t log in, consider an inferred ID. These IDs use statistical inferences to create a device- or browser-level identifier that can be pushed to audience segments and used to retarget visitors on publisher sites where the ID is integrated. 

Confirm if an ID provider can create audiences from visitors to your website. If so, you’ll then need to integrate some type of identity infrastructure to create IDs in an environment without third-party cookies, basing the decision on whether your visitors authenticate or not. 

3. Are you looking to reach new customers? 

Data type: third-party audiences 

Another area to consider when selecting universal IDs is reaching new customers with third-party audience segments. Some ID providers will offer their own marketplaces of data providers. Others will partner with DMPs and third-party audience providers.   

Once you’ve identified which third-party audiences are most important to your busienss, ensure that potential ID providers can support that third-party data segment.    

4. Are you advertising on connected TV (CTV)? 

More and more consumers are streaming CTV, creating an opportunity to engage your audiences with a lean-back viewing experience. However, only some universal IDs offer associations to these devices.  

If you plan to run CTV campaigns, confirm that ID providers offer this capability.   

5. Do you use any universal ID providers for other ancillary data services? 

Some marketers are deeply invested in the data ecosystem of certain providers, using a range of services that may include:  

  • First-party data segmentation  
  • First-party data enrichment   
  • Offline and online measurement 
  • Customer database identity resolution 

If you’re already using these services from a universal ID provider, it’s very likely that you’ll gain efficiencies from staying within that provider’s data ecosystem.    

6. Should you use multiple universal IDs?  

It is possible that your business will need to use multiple IDs. There are two likely use cases:   

  • Global operations: One universal ID might not cover all of the regions where your business is present, so you’ll need to use more than one provider to ensure global reach.   
  • Retargeting: Do you have a relatively equal share of logged-in and non-logged-in users? If so, you would use an authenticated universal ID that is capable of retargeting to reach the logged-in users. You can then also use an inferred ID to reach non-logged-in users. 

Start validating universal IDs today 

Though preparing for the eventual demise of third-party cookies and device identifiers is important, there’s already a significant opportunity to use universal IDs to reach audiences across the cookie-restricted web today.  

Browsers that restrict the use of third-party cookies, such as Safari, Firefox, and Edge, account for 35% of browsing on the open web and offer lower CPMs than Chrome. Using universal IDs in these environments can help you get more from your media budget, while benefiting from improved performance or more efficient reach due to the lower cost of impressions in an environment where audience targeting is limited.  

To begin validating universal IDs, follow these steps: 

Work with your strategic publishers  

Ensure that campaigns validating universal IDs include the top publishers you work with and confirm the level of scale they have with these identifiers. By signaling intent to use a universal ID, marketers can incentivise publishers to integrate IDs and work to get their own audiences to authenticate. 

Validate people-based marketing  

Test the performance of people-based marketing against cookie- or device-based marketing. Compare the performance of a cookie-based audience segment to one based on a person-level authenticated ID.  

When enabling frequency capping on both, the universal ID should perform better due to the ability to limit the number of ad impressions across multiple devices, not just one browser. This should result in improved cost per acquisition (CPA) and ROI.  

Target audiences in cookie-restricted environments  

Test universal ID performance in cookie-restricted browsers, which offer lower CPMs than Chrome, helping you reach your audiences more efficiently.  

To learn more about how to evaluate new solutions and evolve your addressability strategy for a privacy-first world, download our guide, “Preparing for the Future of Addressability.”  

Jamie Penkethman

Jamie Penkethman

Product marketing director

Jamie Penkethman leads product marketing for addressability and deals at Index Exchange, where he is responsible for developing and maintaining the marketing strategy and positioning of these solutions. Prior to joining Index, Jamie led identity product marketing at MediaMath. He has also held roles at Publicis Media, Verve, and the mobile publisher Gameloft.

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