Digital identity in a post-cookies world

August 11, 2022

How do we track and target customers without compromising privacy?  

After relying on third-party customer data for years, advertisers face an uncomfortable shift as cookies are phased out. Without these handy little data collectors, how will we identify, target and track customer information online?  

Digital campaigns rely on precise targeting, not just in the initial phases but throughout. This targeting helps advertisers the right people, track their clicks, purchases and activity, and measure overall performance of a campaign. 

That’s why customer identity is still a crucial element of the online advertising ecosystem – not their names or personal details – but links to other data. The information that makes up an online identity can come from various sources in different formats. It all adds up to a profile of an individual that can be used for targeted advertising and wider audience tracking. There are benefits for the customer, too. A smoother customer journey, personalised offers, relevant advertising and more.  

But, with cookies gone and privacy laws increasingly rigid, how do you create these profiles without compromising customer privacy? In short, it’s complicated.  


Gathering first-party identity data  

As cookies fade from view, identity data needs to come from other sources. The best option is first-party data – information gathered and owned by your business. In many cases, this data is also shared voluntarily by customers when they sign up to a mailing list, purchase an item online, join a loyalty scheme or browse on your website.  

Because you own it and often collect it with the knowledge and permission of your customers, first-party data avoids many of the privacy pitfalls associated with third-party cookies and other forms of information gathering.  

Safety, security and sharing  

While identity data tends to be less problematic around privacy, security is still a priority. Personal data should be collected and stored securely, and any data sharing should be the same. After years of stealthy data collection and dodgy data practices, consumers are savvier about their personal data. When it comes to data collection and sharing, the more open and transparent your business can be, the better.  

While you may need to share customer data with your advertising agency or digital team, this must also be managed carefully. You can anonymise personal information or use a secure platform to ensure the data gets to the right place with no chance of a leak.  

What identity brings to the advertising table 

The strength of digital advertising lies in its precision targeting and personalisation. Although there are ways to target content without personal data – like contextual intelligence – identity info makes it much easier. Targeting helps you reach the right audience with the right message, which is far more powerful than a scattershot approach. It’s also a more efficient use of your ad budget. Spend your money where it counts, rather than wasting it on the wrong audience.  

Of course, the benefits of identity don’t end there. Once you have identity systems in place, data collection and the onboarding experience for new customers are automated. Your customers get a seamless, consistent experience with your business, no matter what. When you’re analysing past campaigns and developing new approaches, having a wealth of customer data on hand is invaluable, particularly first-party data inherently relevant to your business.  

Seamless, personalised customer journeys  

Identity management benefits your customers as well. Done right, you can use this type of data to create a seamless customer experience along with personalised product suggestions and offers. Whenever customers interact with your brand, they get the same level of personalisation. Think about interacting with a business online. You might click on an email from your phone and add some items to your cart but not follow through with the purchase. Then you switch to your laptop to reconsider later on. Identity management makes that switch seamless, and the same items are in your cart on your laptop.  

Depending on the system, you can continue that consistency in your brick-and-mortar store. If you have a loyalty scheme, for example, you can use its sales data and personal information to send targeted offers and promotions to individual customers or offer discounts and other services in-store. If a customer buys an item online and then returns it in-store, you have a record of those transactions. Loyalty points and store credits can be stored in the system and used online or in-store for complete consistency throughout the experience.   

Where to start with identity  

Identity is a complex picture with many elements: security, transparency, data sharing, analytics and customer journeys. That’s why it’s smart to partner with the experts. The Acquire team has always been at the forefront of digital advertising in New Zealand, and our identity solutions are no different. We can help you work through the complexities to find the best ways to safely and effectively manage customer identity in your business – get in touch for a chat.