Why the New Adobe Marketing Cloud ID Service Should be on Your Radar

As a tech geek, I’ve often debated about whtether to adopt a new technology or not. While there’s some prestige in showing off cutting-edge technology to friends and colleagues, there’s also safety in joining the next wave after the early adopters. For example, even though I’m intrigued by the concept of a smart watch, I’d much rather let other people be the guinea pigs and join in when the second generation arrives. Once I see the proven upside of a new technology, I’m usually compelled to take the plunge. While I’m somewhat cautious with technology purchases, I generally adhere Jack Welch’s advice to “change before you have to.”

If you’re an Adobe Analytics customer, I believe we’re reaching a tipping point with the new Adobe Marketing Cloud ID service where you need to consider “changing before you have to.” If you’ve been to an Adobe Summit event in the last couple of years, you may not have realized a lot of the Marketing Cloud magic you saw in the onstage demos hinged on this particular technology.

The new ID service is a way of identifying visitors uniformly across all the solutions in the Marketing Cloud. Rather than each solution identifying visitors independently, they can leverage a shared visitor ID that opens up new cross-solution opportunities. For example, if you identify a high-performing segment or audience in Adobe Analytics, it can be shared with Adobe Target for targeted offers or personalized content. If you’re a multi-solution customer, adopting the ID service should be a slam dunk for your business because you will see significantly more value from solutions that are no longer siloed.

Do you need the new Marketing Cloud ID service if you only have Adobe Analytics?

If you only have Adobe Analytics and no other Adobe Marketing Cloud solution, you might not feel the same urgency to embrace the new ID service. However, whether you’re a single or multi-solution Adobe customer, it’s critical that you start planning to migrate to this new method of visitor identification. The simple reason is the new ID service is going to be a pre-requisite for all of the new visitor/audience-based enhancements within Adobe Analytics.

As digital analytics continues to shift away from its traditional page view/event-centric focus to a more user/customer-centric focus, we’ll see more emphasis in this area. As a recent example, customer attributes is a new feature that enables you to enrich your visitor profiles with enterprise CRM data. It relies on the new ID service to sync the authenticated customer IDs with their corresponding visitor IDs in Adobe Analytics. In addition, the new video heartbeat tracking depends on the new ID service to link video interactions and site activity to a common visitor ID to de-duplicate visitors.

The Adobe Analytics product team is actively working on a variety of new user-centric capabilities, which will ALL require the Marketing Cloud ID service. If you don’t have it in place, you’ll be delayed in your ability to leverage these capabilities by the need to first implement the new ID service. Depending on the complexity of your current setup, it could take some time to replace your legacy visitor identification so there’s no time like the present to start planning for this essential migration.

What is different about the new Marketing Cloud ID service?

In order to explain how the new ID service is different and improved, I’ll start by outlining the legacy method for visitor identification. It depends on two key ingredients: s_vi cookie and tracking server. When a visitor comes to your website, the s_vi cookie is passed to the Adobe data center. This cookie contains the Analytics ID (AID), which is used to uniquely identify each visitor. If the cookie doesn’t exist (a new visitor) then the tracking server sets the s_vi cookie on the visitor’s browser with a unique Analytics ID value.

The tracking server (value set in the variable s.trackingServer) could be one of three options:

  1. Non-RDC tracking server = logincompany.2o7.net
  2. RDC tracking server = logincompany.sc.omtrdc.net
  3. CNAME on client DNS (mapped to RDC/non-RDC tracking server) = subdomain.domain.com (metrics.mydomain.com)

The first two servers set third-party s_vi cookies because they are set by servers outside the parent domain on the web browser. The Regional Data Collection (RDC) server approach (omtrdc.net) is preferred to the non-RDC tracking server approach (2o7.net) because it relies on a network of regional data collection centers that reduce latency and data loss associated with Adobe image requests. In order to maintain a first-party s_vi cookie, some customers use a CNAME record that maps a friendly subdomain (metrics.yourdomain.com) to the Analytics tracking server (non-RDC or RDC).

The three main differences with the new Marketing Cloud ID service is it relies on the JavaScript code to set a new first-party visitor ID cookie (known as the AMCV cookie), it sets a MID value (Marketing Cloud ID), and it introduces an additional third-party cookie (demdex) that supports cross-domain tracking based on Audience Manager technology.

In the new method for visitor identification, the JavaScript code checks for the AMCV cookie on the browser before sending anything to the Adobe data center. If it isn’t present, a request is sent to the Audience Manager server (demdex) to get an MID value for your specific Marketing Cloud organization that is passed into the AMCV cookie. Next, the cookie is checked for an AID and if it isn’t present, the browser will check for the AID value in the legacy s_vi cookie. If the s_vi cookie isn’t set, then the MID value will be used by Adobe Analytics for visitor identification.

In the context of the browser, the AMCV cookie will act as a first-party cookie because it is set by JavaScript from the primary domain. The demdex cookie (third-party) is used to ensure that a consistent MID value is generated for cross-domain tracking purposes. Some browsers (Safari) will reject third-party cookies, but there are methods for mitigating this issue using a CNAME.

Aside from the multi-solution benefits and access to new Analytics capabilities, one of the main side benefits of transitioning to the new Marketing Cloud ID service is first-party cookies are used by default. There is no additional cost for using a first-party cookie, and it results in better data collection across all browsers.

What are the requirements?

In order to migrate to the new Marketing Cloud ID service, you’ll need the following in place:

  1. Enable the Adobe Marketing Cloud for your organization
  2. Have either Adobe Analytics Standard or Premium
  3. Adopt Regional Data Collection (RDC) method
  4. Use supported s-code version
    ・appMeasurement for JS: version 1.3 or later
    ・s_code: version H27 or later (Note: I recommend moving to appMeasurement over just updating H code)

In most cases, I’d recommend working with our Adobe Consulting team to ensure a smooth transition to this new visitor identification method. Activation, powered by Dynamic Tag Management (DTM), will also streamline the process of deploying the new ID service. For more complex implementations where you have multiple JavaScript files or other technologies (such as Flash) sending data to the same report suite, Adobe Consulting can help you to configure a grace period to avoid duplicate visits and incorrect attribution during the migration from the old visitor ID service to the new one.

Updating your implementation to meet the above requirements may also afford you some additional benefits. Using a tracking server on the RDC domain (omtrdc.net) provides better performance and more accurate data collection than the legacy Adobe collection domain (2o7.net). AppMeasurement for JavaScript is lighter and faster for use on both mobile and desktop sites. It also supports transmitting data using POST (instead of GET), which overcomes a long-existing URL truncation issue in Internet Explorer. At the end of your migration, you’ll have cleaner, better data—not too shabby.

If you’d like to get your developers or IT team thinking about this key migration, you can start by sharing this link with them.

If, after reading this blog post, I still haven’t convinced you to start considering a migration to the new Marketing Cloud ID service, I’ll leave you with one of my favorite quotes by the ice hockey legend Wayne Gretzky: “I skate to where the puck is going to be, not where it has been.” I’d encourage you to do the same with your digital analytics as we collectively focus less on clicks and conversions and more on target audiences and their successful journeys.