The Age of the Digital Universal ID

10 Aug 2020

The Age of the Digital Universal ID



The browser wars waged against third-party cookies over privacy issues is nothing new. Safari and Firefox are already blocking third-party cookies, and Google plans to phase them out by 2022.  Cookies have long been relied on to link customer identities across various channels and assets and are critical to a deeper understanding of customer behavior that ultimately drives a better brand experience.

The industry is in a frenzy over the eradication of cookies. Without cookies, advertisers will have to scramble to find new ways to track users who have visited their website, retarget users who have abandoned their shopping carts, or target shoppers based on past purchases.   The underlying goals of marketers haven’t changed — delivering the best brand experience to customers continues to be a priority, but how do you do that in a cookie-less world?

Meet the digital Universal ID. 

The concept of universal IDs has been growing in popularity since 2019, but Google’s announcement earlier this year to phase out cookies has accelerated its adoption.

The Universal ID is similar to a cookie in that it provides a shared, persistent identifier to trace a user across the sales funnel - but without syncing cookies. Universal IDs are democratic in nature, which puts them on the same playing field as cookies, where every cookie is equal.  Implementation is similar to cookies except that a key identifier—an email address or a phone number—must be entered when a user visits a brand’s property.

The data that is entered is then collected, along with the source domain, which results in a unique profile.  The website then receives a unique ID token that is used to identify the user when they visit the site, add items to a shopping cart or make purchases, etc.

Universal IDs are also effective at tracking across both desktop and mobile, which has been an area where cookies haven’t always been consistent.  This is important, because according to the IAB, “The habits or search queries for a user on YouTube may be significantly different from their interaction on Instagram, Amazon, 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. In addition, to being exempt from cookie blocking, there are other benefits to using digital Universal IDs including:

  • Better targeting capabilities, since a user is consciously choosing to share their email or phone number with a brand
  • Increased viewability: Cookie-syncing can increase page latency; Universal IDs may improve page load times
  • Less syncing across websites, resulting in streamlined tracking

   Many thought leaders in the tech community think the Universal ID may be the long-awaited change that can finally satisfy the industry by providing transparent and compliant tracking.

The success of a universal ID network will be contingent on industry adoption. Universal IDs will increase match rates across the marketing ecosystem, enabling  deeper customer understanding leading to better brand experiences. Marketers should be excited to embrace the future.