When it comes to getting data that helps us better understand and reach our customers, we’re overdue for an industry course correction. The clock is winding down on cookies, but a path forward to fill the third-party cookie void on the open web remains unclear. As the industry waits to see what cookie-less strategies win out, there are learnings we can apply now in the wake of being overly reliant on a single dataset or identifier.
While Apple rethinks its consent requirement for companies to access its Identifier for Advertisers (IDFA) after creating panic in the mobile advertising ecosystem, we can’t be that naïve to think there won’t be further restrictions on identifiers.
The Silver Lining to a Fragmented Ecosystem
Thankfully, companies have caught on and are already looking at cookie and mobile ID alternatives to create an identity strategy that will reach across a landscape with multiple existing and emerging channels and devices, including social, mobile, advanced TV and beyond. Savvy companies are putting in the work now to diversify their identity footprint to drive a more consumer-centric view, one that is significantly less reliant on cookies and walled gardens, and instead anchors on people and spans coverage of emails, IP addresses, device IDs and more.
Moving the Industry Forward
While it’s clear we need to focus collectively as an industry in taking productive, measurable steps forward to build a more comprehensive understanding of identity that ties more closely to privacy-by-design principals, we still have work to do to get to there.
In its recent report, Identity Outlook 2020, The Winterberry Group identifies several emerging, non-cookie based solutions and cites the industry’s need for multiple solutions, based on the various ecosystem’s preferences and requirements.
My takeaway from these findings is that three distinct approaches have emerged to solve for a future of marketing founded in people with consent at the core and the required scale and connectivity needed to understand and reach consumers:
1. The Walled Gardens: With massive scale of logged-in consumers, these big players already have a proprietary ID based on authenticated first-party data. Inside the walls, advertisers can benefit from the extensive reach and targeting opportunities. However, these are ultimately closed ecosystems that don’t plug into cross-channel activation and an omnichannel view of people.
2. The “Private” Garden: Players with authenticated identity data but not the scaled PII footprint of the walled gardens, may opt to go it on their own and build their own private exchanges or networks with the unique assets they sit on. This move has been popular for retailers like Target and CVS who house massive first-party shopper and loyalty data.
3. The Data Consortiums: Multiple partners “pooling” data together to create a common ID can help solve for the scale issue that those outside a small few face. In this instance, consumer-consented data can become a shared identity resource that is interoperable and accessed by all, with no sole beneficiary or owner in the group. With the right data governance, this strategy can help solve for the scale outside the walled gardens and provide consumers with the appropriate consent and privacy controls.
A Multikey Approach
Moving forward, identity will require a multi-key approach where multiple high-quality identifiers help fill gaps and paint fuller pictures of consumers without an overreliance on a singular key. In the future, members of the ecosystem will need to cooperate to find mutual success as we move away from targeting a device or proxy and toward reaching people.
As people-based marketing grows and privacy regulations evolves, it’s unlikely that many companies will want to try and manage their own PII-based identity graphs. Instead, we need identity ecosystems that enable companies to pick up data on-the-fly so they can tap into the data they need, when they need it. In order for this to work, we need convergence to a handful of non-cookie -based, interoperable identifiers supported by the buy-side platforms.
The Future Belongs to Identity Ecosystems
The future of identity is dependent on multiple identity keys, data sources and industry providers banding together. By taking a more cooperative approach to identity, marketers will be able to connect the dots and overcome the challenges posed by the demise of cookies and other identifiers, not to mention the ever-evolving regulatory landscape.
While we may not have all the answers now, I am confident we can resolve the issues we face as an industry by adopting future-facing principles, forging collaborative partnerships, and developing solutions capable of identifying consumers in a privacy-safe way.