People-based marketing refers to the ability to deliver targeted ads and messages to individuals across any screen, on any device. While the concept is relatively new, it has caught on quickly. In fact, 68% of marketers are putting a significant amount of budget towards it.

However, marketers have historically faced challenges when attempting to identify consumers and their behaviors across devices. In the pre-mobile era, cookies were the standard for identifying and targeting individuals browsing on desktop computers or laptops. However, cookies aren’t reliable for mobile devices like smartphones and tablets, and certainly don’t tell the entire story of a consumer or their journey to conversion.

To address these challenges, the industry has started to move towards an anonymous identification approach that protects consumer privacy while still providing marketers with a deep understanding of their prospects and customers so they can deliver relevant ads and experiences. Referred to as unique identifiers, these anonymous IDs combine third-party cookie IDs, device IDs, CRM IDs and offline IDs to create an enriched profile of each user that has been exposed to a brand’s media and marketing across online and offline channels, as well as across devices. When these enriched profiles are used to feed the attribution process, marketers can uncover and optimize the effectiveness of each channel and tactic in driving conversions and other desired business outcomes by audience segment, across all platforms and devices.

Unique Identifiers: How Do They Work?
Today’s marketers use an ever-growing number of technologies to connect with consumers. The typical marketing technology portfolio now consists of dozens of disparate systems, ranging from ad servers, email platforms and CRM systems, to mobile solutions, third-party data providers, point of sale solutions and more. Each of these systems use cookies, pixel tags and/or other tracking mechanisms to create unique IDs that are associated with each individual. For example, a unique ID created by a CRM system might be identified as a loyal, high-end customer, while a separate unique identifier for the same individual from a third-party data provider might reveal this person is a female, age 35-50 with a household income of more than $100,000.

While these unique IDs provide valuable insight into individual attributes, preferences and behaviors, they are stored separately and are unique to each system, making it difficult for marketers to use the data effectively to target specific audiences or maximize the impact of their efforts across channels, touchpoints and devices. Fortunately, technological advancements are now enabling brands to piece all this disparate online, device and offline point of sale data together, reconciling millions of unique IDs into a single unique identifier for each individual. All personally identifiable information (PII) is removed to safeguard privacy, leaving an enriched, anonymized profile of each individual that interacts with a brand.

What Do Unique Identifiers Mean for Marketers?
The industry’s evolution toward the use of unique identifiers is the key to delivering on the promise of true people-based marketing. By assigning a unique identifier to each individual, marketers benefit from a comprehensive, end-to-end view of the consumer journey and how customers and prospects engage with their brand, regardless of where that interaction occurs. Moreover, marketers can organize individuals into customized audience segments based on relevant actions or desired characteristics, such customers who have made in-app purchases or those with the greatest lifetime value.

When these robust profiles are used to feed the attribution process, marketers receive an unparalleled view of marketing and advertising performance by audience segment. With visibility into which channels and tactics influence a specific audience, when and to what extent, marketers can orchestrate the optimal customer experience, and optimize their spend within and across channels to drive conversions, brand engagement, revenue, and other desired KPIs.

Cookies will likely continue to play an important role in tracking audience engagement. But as consumers continue to interact with brands across a growing number of channels and screens, marketers and advertisers should look to unique identifiers as a way to move beyond simply cookie-based tracking. When used for attribution measurement, unique identifiers make the promise of people-based marketing more achievable than ever.

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