What Are Universal IDs Or Unified IDs And What Happens When Cookies Go Away?

Cookies, line of code used to track users across the internet and target ads to them, are going away.  Apple’s Safari browser already uses Intelligent Tracking Prevention (ITP) to limit companies’ abilities to track users by blocking third-party cookies that collect this type of data.  Mozilla’s Firefox browser has “Enhanced Tracking Protection” set on as default, blocking all “known third-party tracking cookies.”  And Google has announced that it will block third party cookies on Chrome by 2022.  Firefox and Safari together have about 21% market share and Chrome has 61%.

Why does this matter?
Cookies allow advertisers to target specific people based on behaviors and show them ads they hope the users will be interested in seeing.

Should I go run and hide under my bed now if I’m a digital advertiser?
No, not yet. Here’s a couple of things you should know.  Google, Facebook and Amazon are unaffected by this issue because they are “walled gardens.” This means they don’t have to use cookies because they already collect vast amount of information about their visitors because you login to use their products. So they have what is referred to as “first party” data.

Secondly, this issue doesn’t affect contextual targeting or what we would call Keyword Targeting.  That is, targeting specific webpages because the content matches up with the type of person you want to reach (i.e., showing an ad on a fishing article for a fishing retailer).

So what is the solution in a cookie-less world?
There are many solutions in the mix but the one gaining the most traction as a replacement for cookies is called Universal IDs. The Trade Desk, the largest demand side platform (DSP) is spearheading this technology and their version of it is called Unified IDs.

Universal IDs use hashed and encrypted email addresses for opted in users as the basis for identity and as a replacement for third-party cookies.  This is similar to what Facebook, Google and Amazon do. For example, when you go to website or app and have to login to access the content, your collected email is anonymized and encrypted as an ID. This ID is shared across the network of publishers (websites and apps) that have adopted the solution.  Advertisers can use this ID to target advertising but crucially, from a privacy perspective, this ID is never transmitted.

Email addresses themselves are considered personally identifiable information (PII), which means they can’t just be freely traded between any ad tech companies without consent. To solve this, the Universal ID technology uses hashed emails which have been passed through an algorithm which converts them from a readable email address to a 32-digit long string of numbers called a hexadecimal string (feel free to trot out that term at your next company meeting!).

Email-based identifiers also have one big advantage over cookies – they work across multiple devices and browsers. Cookies only sit within one web browser on one device, meaning advertisers can’t use cookies to identify the same user on their laptop and on their phone. Hashed emails can link up any devices and browsers where users are signed on via email.

The bigger issue is whether consent to use email addresses can be achieved at large enough scale to meet demand for advertising inventory. Email will have a role in the post-cookie world, probably a significant one. However, it will also coexist with other solutions, such as first-party data, opted-in GPS location tracking, and contextual (keyword) targeting.

How Are You Reaching Consumers Impacted by the Pandemic?

I was at the grocery store the other day and as I was waiting to check out (six feet behind the person in front of me of course) I caught myself staring at the cashier. I was thinking that he looked familiar, but I could not put my finger on who it was or how I knew him. The more I kept looking at him trying to figure it out, the more I realized that he was doing the same thing to me. Now, for me not to be able to place a finger on how I know someone is unheard of. I might not remember someone’s name, but you can bet that I can remember how I know them, so this whole process was driving me nuts. When I finally got up to the register, we were still looking at each other and trying to place it. Finally, it clicked; it was my next door neighbor! I have seen this kid every day for over 4 years, but because he had his mask on, I couldn’t tell who it was.

It has been a year, right? I have heard the words “unprecedented” and “social distance” more times in the last 8 months than I have in 33 years combined. Also, if I had a dollar for every time I have said “Oh shoot, I forgot my mask”, I would be on a white sandy beach with a margarita. I have gotten used to elbow bumps, not shaking hands, and not standing next to people too closely. While we have all had to make changes in our personal and professional lives to accommodate for COVID-19, businesses owners have had their lives flipped upside down with all of the mandates that are provided on capacity, staffing, procedures, etc., but another thing that they have had to shift their mindset on, is advertising.

There are so many ways that business owners can advertise their business with digital advertising. They can utilize strategies on the more traditional side with product like Google Pay-Per-Clicks ads or Display Ads, or they can get a little more targeted with sophisticated products like Amazon Targeting and Mobile Conquesting. One of the more popular products that is out there is Mobile Conquesting, and there is good reason for it being as popular as it is. This is a product that allows for advertisers to reach consumers in multiple ways like Behavioral Targeting and targeting them with Online Behaviors and Offline Behaviors, Address Targeting, Geo-Fencing, and Cross Platform Targeting.

The first step with Mobile Conquesting is to determine the geographic area that you would like to reach. One of the great things about digital advertising is that it can go anywhere and you aren’t limited to the town or city that your business is located in. So if a business has started selling online, due to COVID-19 restrictions for in-store visitors, they might want to reach on a more regional or even national level.  You can target by certain cities, zip codes, states, or even by a radius around a particular location. This is where it gets fun because you don’t want to target EVERYONE in that designated area, so the next step is to determine who we want to target by using Online Behaviors and Offline Behaviors. Targeting by Online Behaviors is where we are targeting people who have shown specific behaviors online, or are in a certain demographic. For example, Baby Boomers (people born between 1946 and 1976), Discount Shoppers (people who shop at discount stores), Veterans and Military (people involved with Military forces at some point), and Young Professionals (working professionals under 35 years old). Offline Behaviors are targeting people by where they have been tracked with their phone recently such as a location, business, or specific brand name stores in the last 30-90 days. Some examples are Agricultural Construction, Animal Shelters, Dick’s Sporting Goods, or Holiday Inn. If someone is within that geographic target area and has shown specific behaviors or has been to certain locations, they now have the ability to see your ad.

One thing that I mentioned above for Offline Behaviors is that we are looking at people who have recently been to certain locations in the past 30-90 days. Now, I don’t know about you, but the past 30-90 days I haven’t ventured too far from the living room, kitchen, dining room, basement, or bedroom, so what good is it for advertisers to target people based on where they have recently been the last 30-90 days since people haven’t been able to go many places due to the pandemic?

Just like business owners have had to shift gears to navigate how to continue to run their business in this time, the Mobile Conquesting exchange has done the same thing and they have added new categories into the mix that are based around peoples activity during the pandemic. These categories were created to compare how people moved in January to mid-February 2020 compared to now, and then updated in real-time as things open up. The new categories are:

  • Shelter-In-Place: High Movement: Comprised of individuals whose devices show that they are moving at or near pre-stay-at-home order activity levels. Indicates that users have been active, moving at near pre-shutdown visitation levels.
  • Shelter-In-Place: Moderate Movement: Comprised of individuals whose devices show that their movement patterns are beginning to trend upward, approaching pre-stay-at-home order activity levels. Indicates that users are becoming more active, reemerging toward pre-shutdown visitation levels.
  • Shelter-In-Place: Low Movement: Comprised of individuals whose devices show that they are moving at a substantially suppressed level relative to the pre-stay-at-home order time period.  Indicates that these users are limiting their activity as much as possible.

So how can these new categories help business owners? Using these categories can help highlight portions of your business that are going to be attractive to consumers based on their movement history over the last few months. For example, targeting people who have high movement is a great way to let people know you are back to business and that you are open. These are people that are getting back a sense of normalcy and are looking to physically get back in stores, so you can use this as an opportunity to promote in-store specials.

If you are a business that has adopted curbside service, targeting people that have shown moderate movement is a great way to promote your that particular service. These are the people that are starting to show that their movement is increasing, so maybe they are looking to get back to shopping and eating out, but don’t necessarily want to physically go into stores. Curbside pickup at retail stores is a service and convenience that has surged during the pandemic, and it is likely here to stay, so even as things get back to normal, it is a great service to promote to let consumers know that it is something that you are offering.

For businesses that are offering delivery services, you are going to want to incorporate targeting people with low movement into your advertising. These are people that are not moving too much with their devices, so a service that they might interested in would be delivery. Pre-Covid-19, local businesses largely distinguished themselves through the value of their products and services. They may have offered delivery as an add-on service, but traditional, in-person service was likely a core tenet driving their operations. This is another example of how businesses have had to pivot to figure out an angle to keep business running as smoothly as possible under the circumstance. Just as with curbside service, delivery service is something that is on the rise with businesses and likely isn’t going anywhere. Some of the industries to really thrive during the pandemic with delivery services is not only restaurants, but also meal delivery services, and grocery delivery. People don’t want to go to the grocery store, so they are turning to having meals delivered to their house or their groceries delivered.

Another way to utilize the new categories that have been added to Mobile Conquesting is Cross Platform Targeting. By using this strategy, advertisers can still target people that have shown low movement, moderate movement, or high movement, but that same person can then see your ad while they are browsing online, across ALL their devices – not just their mobile phone, with a regular Display ad, Native ad, Video Pre-Roll ad, or while they are on Facebook and Instagram. The way that it works is you select your geographic area that you want to target, you select the behavioral targeting categories that you want to utilize, and then when someone is served that ad, whether they click on that or not, they then have the potential to see that same ad while they are on other websites or while they are on Facebook and/or Instagram. This is a great option because people might see an ad on their phone, and maybe they want to look at your dinner menu or they want to order groceries, but they are more likely to do that on a bigger device like a desktop or a laptop. With Cross Platform Targeting, that allows for that person to see that ad on their mobile device, but then also see it again on a larger device.

Here is an example of what a Mobile Conquesting Cross Device Platform to Facebook ad might look like. BJ’s Wholesale Club is targeting all the Shelter in Place categories and promoting their curbside pickup, ship to home option, and same day delivery services, and since that person was served an ad on his mobile device and they are using the Cross Platform targeting, he is now seeing that ad on his Facebook News Feed across any device he uses:

Being able to cater to consumers and allow them to do business with you in a way that they are most comfortable with is going to set you apart from your competitors, and using digital as a platform to get your message out to the targeted audience you want is a win/win situation for everyone.

How Does Mobile Targeted Advertising Work?

Let’s face it…people love their smart phones. Really! And…they can’t really live without them. What would consumers give up instead of their smartphones? Here’s what the Boston Consulting Group found in their survey.

We have our phones attached to us at all times, in some form. Whether it’s in your purse, in your pocket, in your bag, or, in most cases, in your hands, we carry our phones with us every where we go. That’s why Mobile Advertising, or Mobile Conquesting as we call it, continues to evolve so quickly. These advertiser-friendly upgrades and additions make it one of the top products used by our clients across the country. These updates include Cross Device Targeting and Cross Platform Targeting.

Not everything has changed with Mobile Conquesting though. The targeting options and how the ads are served are still the same. Once you have a geographic area in mind to target, you then can utilize both online and offline behaviors to reach your potential customers. Online behaviors target people who have shown specific behaviors online or are within a certain demographic. Offline behaviors target people based on where they have been tracked with their phone recently (i.e. business, location, or specific brand name store). The placement of ads continue to be served on apps and mobile websites that people browse/use while they are on their mobile devices.

Geo-Fencing and Geo-Retargeting

One of the most utilized functions of the Mobile Conquesting ad product is the use of Geo-Fencing and Geo-Retargeting.  Geo-Fencing, a term you have probably heard many times, is where you can target people inside a tight radius, in real time while at a specific location. You could target them while they’re at your competitors’ locations, certain businesses, or events. With this function, a virtual fence is placed around your desired list of locations. Then, when someone enters the fenced location with their mobile device, you now have the ability to have an ad served to them if they are browsing apps and websites that accept ads. At some point, we know those people at those Geo-Fenced locations are going to leave. That’s where Geo-Retargeting comes into play. This function allows us to continue to target those mobile devices that were within the Geo-Fences, much like retargeting follows people online after they leave a specific website. This strategy allows us to continue to target those potential customers that visited your set of locations.

Now, we can take this one step further. Ever hear the expression “Keeping up with the Jones”? I’m not sure who the Jones’ are, but everyone wants to keep up with them. Utilizing a function called Geo-Retargeting Lookalike, not only can we follow people after they leave the Geo-Fenced area, but now we have the ability to also target people that live near them. Basically, on the premise that people that live in the same neighborhoods are typically of the same socioeconomic level, we want to be able to broaden our reach. For example, Car Dealership A wants to Geo-Fence Car Dealership B and serve ads to people that go to that dealership. We can Geo-Fence car dealership B. Then, with Geo-Retargeting, we can follow those people after they leave car dealership B. Maybe they haven’t bought a car yet? Then, when one of those visitors to Car Dealership B gets home, we can start serving ads to people in their neighborhood in case someone else may want to buy a car.

Weather Trigger

For businesses that are impacted by weather, like a roofing company, or a car wash, Mobile Conquesting also offers Weather Trigger Targeting. With this function, a business’ ads would be served only when a certain weather condition takes place. Let’s say a car wash wants to promote their services and special pricing to entice car owners to get a wash after it rains. They could set a weather trigger campaign in place to only show their ads when it rains. This would allow the car wash to focus on that special.

Evolving. That’s what Mobile Conquesting does best. Here’s where a lot of these upgrades and enhancements come into play.

Address Targeting & Address Retargeting

Do you have a database of customers? Past customers? Leads? What if you were able to take that list and target 100% of them with your ads on their mobile devices? Address Targeting does just that. We can target people from your list of home addresses and serve ads to them when they are at that address. Then, we continue to follow them after they leave and show them your ads while they’re on the go, that’s the Address Retargeting.

This process works by submitting an excel list of your households you want to target with ads . As long as the list is your data, a minimum of 100 addresses, and if you do purchase a list, you’ll need to make sure it is an “opt-in to be marketed to list,” we can make it work.  The coordinates of each address are mapped, and then the ads are served to the users at that address when on their mobile devices on apps or websites containing ads. And..continues to show them ads when they are outside of their home.

It’s 100% privacy compliant because individual household information is not seen. The system sees it as a group of people to target – an audience. It’s also 100% match rate (well.. with the exception of individual apartment units and office suites, along with PO Boxes).

Cross Platform Targeting

Here’s another enhancement! Cross Platform Targeting. What if you could start by targeting someone on their mobile device, then continue to follow them onto other ad platforms on ANY device they use?! This is a really cool feature!

When the potential customer is served a Mobile Conquesting ad, a “universal pixel” is deployed with it. It organizes digital device IDs associated with an individual across all of their devices. It’s built when a user does something online to connect their IDs to other IDs associated with them, across multiple digital devices, using mobile device IDs, IP Addresses, and cookies. Basically, the “universal pixel” is finding that user on other advertising platforms by identifying the user on other devices being used by that person.

Think about this. You are Geo-Fencing a competitor. You start serving ads to potential customers that have been in their store. With Geo-Retargeting, you’re also serving ads on their mobile device after they leave your competitor. Now, what if you could also start serving ads to them on Facebook while their on their laptop? That’s exactly what Cross Platform Targeting can do.

You can utilize Cross Platform Targeting to reach people with Social Media ads, Native Display Ads, (regular) Display Ads or Video Pre-Roll ads. You’re targeting the same people and behavioral categories that you choose from Mobile Conquesting; but now have the ability to target them on ANY device the person uses (not just mobile).

On-Site Visits

On-Site Visits. Being able to track ROI is important to every business. Being able to track on-site visits of people who have been served the mobile ad, is one of the methods that Mobile Conquesting offers to be able to do just that. We can track people who see your ad and then come to your business within two weeks after seeing it. We can’t track everyone that gets served your ad and visits your location. On average, we can track about 25% of the traffic. Here’s why. In order for us to track someone that has been served your ad and comes into your business, they must meet the following requirements:
– Visit your store within 2 weeks of seeing your ad
– Have their GPS function on their mobile device enabled
– Browsing on their phone while at your location

But, the good news is that every month you’d be able to see those verified visits on your monthly report as well as the estimated visits.

Lastly, medical companies and medical targeting have always had a lot of restrictions. However, this industry has also been allowed to expand its ability to utilize Mobile Conquesting. You can now target using job titles, specific diseases and other medical terms and categories. This is huge for this industry and they also can now target people on their mobile devices.

As a business owner, the goal is to be able to target your potential customers wherever they go. Mobile Conquesting has proven to be a multi-faceted tool to be able to accomplish that. It’s almost like the Swiss Army Knife. It’s got a solution to basically every challenge. As you’re looking to reach your potential customers, our Mobile Conquesting should definitely be one of the tools that you use.

The Ultimate Amazon Ad Buying Guide for Small Businesses

Historically when it comes to ad buying you have two giants fighting for business ad dollars: Google and Facebook.  Globally, Google is the largest digital ad seller in the world in 2019, accounting for 31.1% of ad spending, or $103.73 billion. Facebook has cut the Google lead in half with $67.37 billion in net ad revenues.  In 2019 Amazon netted $14.3 billion in ad revenue, mainly from managed and small pay-per-click accounts within the storefront platform on Amazon.com.  However with the launch of their Self-Serve Amazon DSP (demand-side platform), the third sleeping giant has awoken. 

ST Digital has been beta testing the Amazon DSP since mid-2019.  There are big barriers to entry to get access to the DSP, the biggest being the cost. From Amazon: “the managed-service option is a great solution for companies that want access to Amazon DSP inventory with white-glove service or those with limited programmatic experience. The managed-service option typically requires a minimum spend of $35,000.”  That is just the cost for Amazon to manage a campaign for you. Using their DSP in a self-service capacity increases the minimum spend to six figures.  Because the DSP is so new, they can’t train you on it, or give you collateral, and would require you to have the navy seal team of ad buyers on your team to learn it yourself. And we did.

We are very proud that starting May 13, 2020 we are offering Amazon account buying to all of our clients, for a fraction of that cost! We are amongst the first digital marketing companies in the nation to offer this level of buying across Amazon along with thorough training, collateral, reporting, and optimization.  And it’s such an important time to be on Amazon as their stats are absolutely staggering:

  • 96% of consumers surveyed had visited Amazon within the last year
  • Amazon averages more than 200 million unique visitors per month
  • Amazon makes up 49% of all online retail spend in the US
  • Amazon had over 2.01 billion combined desktop and mobile visits
  • 50% of U.S. internet users start product searches on Amazon compared to 35% on Google

That last stat has a lot of people paying attention. Amazon has massive data accumulated about its users which we can use to target ads both on and off Amazon. We can target with display ads on and off Amazon.com and video/OTT on Amazon owned properties and partner websites and apps.

Whenever you talk about a new DSP, its important to understand their terms and definitions.  Non-endemic is a term Amazon uses to refer to businesses that do not have e-commerce on their site, or do not sell their products on Amazon.  This is verticals like automotive, law offices, colleges and universities, financial institutions, and medical facilities.  All are considered non-endemic but can greatly benefits from the targeting Amazon has to offer.

If you do have e-commerce on your site, Amazon doesn’t let you show your display ads on Amazon.com, however you can utilize your display, video, or OTT ads on Amazon owned properties and thousands of other websites and apps Amazon has partnered with, across all devices.  This is what we call Amazon Premium, which is a combination of:

  • Amazon.com (also called Amazon proper): About 5-10% of your display ads will run on Amazon.com, targeting the types of people you want to reach.  Why that low? Only display ads can be purchased and they are often at the bottom of the page.  But the power is in the targeting data, which we use to find those people in other places such as Amazon owned properties and the Amazon Publishers (see below).

  • Amazon Properties: We can target users on properties that Amazon owns, including Fire TV, IMDb.com and IMDb TV.  IMDb.com (owned by Amazon) is the world’s most popular searchable database for info on movies, TV, and celebrities with 83 million users. Ads are display or video and use Amazon Targeting.  IMDb TV is its FREE “Over The Top” (OTT) streaming service to watch movies and TV series. Viewable on computers, mobile devices, Fire TV, Echo screen and Apple TV.  Fire TV (owned by Amazon) is a device that plugs into your Connected TV and enables access to hundreds of video streaming apps that contain movie or TV content.

  • Amazon Publishers: We can use Amazon data to target on over 5,000 websites and apps Amazon has partnered with to reach their users with display, video, and OTT.  These comScore 100 publishers and high-quality sites that have a direct partner relationship with Amazon including Reddit, BuzzFeed, BBC America, Realtor.com, Web MD, and Tubi to name a few.

How We Target Ads Using Amazon Data

When it comes to the Amazon DSP there are four major products: Amazon Behavioral targeting, Amazon Product Targeting, Amazon Custom Audience Matching & Lookalike, and Amazon Retargeting.  This is not to be confused with advertising for your own storefront on Amazon with sponsored listings or $1 per day minimums on pay-per-click advertising.  Rather this is specific to advertising for businesses that do not sell their products or services on Amazon.  

Here is a breakdown of each:

  • Amazon Behavioral Targeting: Showing your display, video, or OTT ads to specific consumers based on their Amazon purchase history, searches, and browsing, across Amazon properties and thousands of partner websites and apps.  There are thousands of categories you can target with Amazon data including presence of children within a specific age in your home, recent movers, home owners, income levels, in-market for a variety of things like automotive (Polk is the 3rd party provider of Amazon’s automotive data), weddings, home improvement, jewelry, careers, etc.  You can even target by interests on Amazon Prime video.  For example, I could target by anyone who watched a show or movie with Brad Pitt in it in the last 30 days.

  • Amazon Product Targeting: We build an audience of consumers who have searched, browsed or purchased specific products on Amazon, and show them your display, video, or OTT ad across Amazon properties and thousands of partner websites and apps.  Every product on Amazon has an Amazon Standard Identification Number (ASIN) which we pull from each listing.  This is a massive amount of first party Amazon data is gathering through product views, product purchases, and product searches.  From there you can tell us three products of interest on Amazon and we custom create the audience who are interested in those products.  For instance, if you wanted to reach new parents, we could go after a specific diaper size, infant cars seats or baby books.  If you were interested in a bride-to-be, we could target by wedding invitations, wedding decorations or bridal party gifts.  If your goal is to reach college students you can target by textbooks, dorm room decorations, or dorm refrigerators.  Product lists are custom built for each campaign to target the exact audience you want to reach.

  • Amazon Custom Audience Matching & Lookalike: We take your list of customer emails or household addresses, match them to Amazon users and show your display, video, or OTT ads across Amazon properties and thousands of partner websites and apps. We can also build a Lookalike Audience of the people on your list and show them your ad.  You will need a list of a minimum of 10,000 names.  On Amazon we have experienced a list match rate of about 30%-50%, and if you want to only run Lookalike you need a matched list of about 20,000 records.  By default, Lookalike is set to 90 days, however we can go as far back as 180 days.  What I am most excited about is the fact you can now utilize a CRM or other database list, to market to those people on the list via OTT ads.  This is not something ST Digital could offer before, particularly for our automotive, education, law service and financial partners.
  • Amazon Retargeting: Your ads follow people after they leave your website, showing them your display, video, or OTT ads across Amazon properties and thousands of partner websites and apps.  Retargeting is triggered after you install an Amazon container tag or pixel on your website, and anyone who leaves your site and visits Amazon, Amazon properties or partners or app sees your ad.  Currently Dynamic Retargeting is not available. 

As you can see, the Amazon DSP is an incredibly powerful targeting tool that is now in competition with Facebook and Google for the coveted ad dollar. If you have any questions about a specific product, or want to learn more, please let us know.