Five reasons why identity resolution will replace third-party cookies

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The time we all knew was coming is almost here. Google has signaled that 2025 will be the year that third-party cookies finally expire. Once gone, marketers will need to find new ways to identify website visitors.

Surprisingly, this is harder than it seems, and many marketers find themselves scrambling for a solution. According to Epsilon:

  • Nearly 80% of advertisers still rely on third-party cookies today.
  • 70% of marketers are concerned that digital advertising will suffer following the death of the third-party cookie.
  • 69% of advertisers believe the end of third-party cookies will have a bigger impact than both GDPR and CCPA has.
Tim Glomb

VP of Digital, Content, and Product Marketing at Wunderkind.

Cookies aside, digital marketing practices have matured. Today, up to 95% of your website traffic is anonymous. And as consumers take advantage of privacy-focused technologies and government policies designed to protect their data, it will be even harder for marketers to identify them on their own. The marketers that are still reliant on third-party cookies will need to find a solution – and quickly.

One promising solution is identity resolution, which is defined as the ability to recognize a device visiting a digital property, like a brand’s website, and the process of matching that device to an email address or phone number and a profile.

But for many marketers, identity resolution remains a somewhat confusing term. There’s a lack of understanding about how it works, what kind of data it uses, and how marketers can best employ it as part of their strategy.

The issue isn’t so much that identity resolution itself is confusing, but rather that many marketers remain so fixed on cookie-based solutions that it takes time to reorient themselves to a newer (and we argue… better) way forward.

Here’s why.

Identity resolution leverages first- and zero-party data

First-party data is information collected directly from your customers/audience as they interact with your digital properties. First and last name, email, transaction history, search results, engagement, etc… This is all first-party data. Zero-party data is information your customers share with you directly, such as wants and needs or preferences given through answering questions, surveys, and so on.

Both types of data are unaffected by the demise of third-party cookies because both are under your control and only used between your domains and the visitor.

Identity resolution understands behavior

Knowing who is visiting your digital properties is only half the battle. Knowing their preferences, habits, and behavior is important as well. First-party data allows brands to build profiles on individuals and their devices while on their site. But identity resolution using a network of such profiles across multiple brands provides a far broader picture, giving an understanding of what that individual and their devices are doing across potentially thousands of other websites.

Identity resolution drives revenue

If a customer browses your site and then leaves without buying, there’s no information gained from that cart abandonment. Using identity resolution, you’d know who that user was, and can check on their past history with your brand. The network finds the customer’s profile info, including email, and checks to see if they’ve opted in to email communications from you in the past. If so, you now have the ability to send that user an email reminding them of what’s in that cart, and even offering an incentive to purchase or a recommendation for other items.

Identity resolution boosts list growth

Offering every unknown customer who visits your site a discount for joining your mailing list is a tried-and-true strategy. But it’s also a broadsword. We know that personalization is the key to success, and personalization requires information about the visitor.

Enter identity resolution. Once you have the ability to match the unknown device visiting your site to a profile of an actual person, you’ll know if they are high-end shoppers, value shoppers, or something else. Or maybe you’ll see they close out any offer while browsing, but respond better to exit pop-ups. With this data at your fingertips, you can make a more informed offer, with the right product at the right time, both of which impact the likelihood of the previously unknown visitor joining your mailing list.

Identity resolution enhances performance marketing

We all know that performance marketing calls for brands to invest in owned channels that deliver higher returns, rather than “traditional” remarketing tactics. The reason is that owned channels allow you to leverage your zero- and first-party data and give you a direct connection to your customers.

The more you can turn anonymous traffic into known users, the better your data becomes and the more effective your performance marketing can be. In fact, identity resolution is what transforms marketing into performance marketing. Put another way, identity resolution allows ALL of your marketing efforts to become performance-based by virtue of collecting the critical identifying information needed to retarget with personalized marketing and messaging.

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Tim Glomb is VP of Digital, Content, and Product Marketing at Wunderkind.