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The Future of Attribution: Unique Identifiers

Volume 5, Issue 9 - September, 2015

Anne Curtin, Sr. Director of Marketing, Visual IQ

The volume of anonymous, user-level data available to marketers presents a wealth of opportunity. When harnessed correctly, it can turn every marketer’s dream – delivering the right message to the right person at the right moment – into reality.

Third-party cookies have long been the standard for collecting this data, feeding the attribution process by recording a user’s online browsing behavior and the digital touchpoints they were exposed to on their path to conversion or brand engagement. But cookies don’t know much about users beyond the particular websites they visited and what they clicked. Moreover, cookies pose challenges when it to comes to tracking the same user across devices and browsers, and capturing online to offline conversions. For marketers, this means fewer targeting options, less personalization, and ultimately, less effective advertising.

So what’s the alternative? Unique identifiers have emerged as the answer, providing an enriched profile of each user that has been exposed to a brand’s media across online and offline channels, as well as devices. When used to supplement cookie-based tracking for attribution measurement, unique identifiers enable more accurate insights, more effective optimization, and more efficient activation of audience-oriented marketing strategies.

How Unique Identifiers Work

Most companies leverage a number of technologies to manage their marketing campaigns, ranging from ad servers, email platforms and CRM systems, to cross-device solutions, third-party data providers, media buying platforms, and more. Each of these disparate systems uses cookies, pixel tags, and/or other type of tracking technology to create their own unique IDs, so they can identify the same user across multiple touchpoints. While these IDs contain valuable user interaction data and insight across online and offline channels, as well as mobile devices, they are stored separately and are unique to each system, making it difficult for marketers to use the data effectively to target audiences or maximize the impact of their campaigns across systems, channels and devices.

Advanced attribution platforms help marketers unlock the value of this data by consolidating these IDs, reconciling millions of users, and mapping their IDs to a single ID— without using any personally identifiable information (PII). The result is an enriched profile of every user that interacts with your brand.

What Unique Identifiers Mean For Marketers

For marketers, supplementing cookie data with unique identifiers for attribution measurement means being able to target valuable audiences with greater precision than ever before. With access to robust audience profiles, marketers can carefully coordinate the customer experience across their paid, owned and earned media channels, delivering the right message, to the right person, at the right time and in the right channel in order to drive a conversion or brand engagement. By enabling more personalized, one-on-one interactions, marketers can maximize return on ad spend and increase the lifetime value of each customer relationship. Moreover, through tactics such as look-alike modeling and predictive segmentation, which draw on an understanding of the characteristics and behaviors of high-value customers, marketers can uncover new high-value prospects and target them with relevant media.

Finally, since advanced attribution solutions provide a closed-loop of campaign measurement, optimization and activation, new audience and media performance data are continuously fed back into the platform. Armed with the most up-to-date user-level information, marketers can modify their online, offline and cross-device campaigns on an on-going basis to maximize performance for each specific audience.

Cookies have long been the status quo for tracking customer engagement. But in today’s multi-channel, multi-device world, look for unique identifiers to supplement cookie-based tracking as a way to turn the promise of ‘right person, right message, right time’ audience targeting into a reality.

Learn more about our cross channel marketing suite of products.

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