Spec: Identify

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The Segment Identify call lets you tie a user to their actions and record traits about them. It includes a unique User ID and any optional traits you know about the user, like their email, name, and more.

Segment recommends that you make an Identify call:

  • After a user first registers
  • After a user logs in
  • When a user updates their info (for example, they change or add a new address)
  • Upon loading any pages that are accessible by a logged in user (optional)

The first three examples are pretty self-explanatory, but many might ask: why you would call identify on every page load if we’re storing the userId in the cookie/local storage?

Let’s imagine this scenario:

I log into your app. Identify is called. For whatever reason, I close the browser and don’t return until later. There’s no way of knowing where I will reenter your app from. I could start my session from anywhere. And because there are many tools out there that require an initial identify call for certain features (e.g. Intercom chat widget) it’s important to tell your end tools who the user is when they first start their session.

Calling identify in one of our libraries is one of the first steps to getting started with Segment. Refer to library-specific documentation for more details.

Here’s the payload of a typical identify call with most common fields removed:

  "type": "identify",
  "traits": {
    "name": "Peter Gibbons",
    "email": "peter@example.com",
    "plan": "premium",
    "logins": 5
  "userId": "97980cfea0067"

And here’s the corresponding JavaScript event that would generate the above payload:

analytics.identify("97980cfea0067", {
  name: "Peter Gibbons",
  email: "peter@example.com",
  plan: "premium",
  logins: 5

Based on the library you use, the syntax in the examples might be different. You can find library-specific documentation on the Sources Overview page.

Beyond the common fields, an identify call has the following fields:

Field Type Description
traits optional Object Free-form dictionary of traits of the user, like email or name. See the Traits field docs for a list of reserved trait names.
userId required; optional if anonymousID is set instead String Unique identifier for the user in your database. A userId or an anonymousId is required. See the Identities docs for more details.


Here’s a complete example of an identify call:

  "anonymousId": "507f191e810c19729de860ea",
  "channel": "browser",
  "context": {
    "ip": "",
    "userAgent": "Mozilla/5.0 (Macintosh; Intel Mac OS X 10_9_5) AppleWebKit/537.36 (KHTML, like Gecko) Chrome/40.0.2214.115 Safari/537.36"
  "integrations": {
    "All": false,
    "Mixpanel": true,
    "Salesforce": true
  "messageId": "022bb90c-bbac-11e4-8dfc-aa07a5b093db",
  "receivedAt": "2015-02-23T22:28:55.387Z",
  "sentAt": "2015-02-23T22:28:55.111Z",
  "timestamp": "2015-02-23T22:28:55.111Z",
  "traits": {
    "name": "Peter Gibbons",
    "email": "peter@example.com",
    "plan": "premium",
    "logins": 5,
    "address": {
      "street": "6th St",
      "city": "San Francisco",
      "state": "CA",
      "postalCode": "94103",
      "country": "USA"
  "type": "identify",
  "userId": "97980cfea0067",
  "version": "1.1"


The identify call specifies a customer identity that you can reference across the customer’s whole lifetime. Every identify call must have a User ID or an Anonymous ID, depending on how much you know about the user in question.

Anonymous ID

There are certain cases where you don’t actually know who the user is according to your database, but you still want to be able to tie them to traits, events, or page views. For example, you may not know who a user is when tracking newsletter signups or anonymous page views.

In these cases, you should use an Anonymous ID.

The Anonymous ID can be any pseudo-unique identifier. For example, on your servers you can use a session id. If you don’t have any readily available identifier, you can always generate a new random one—we recommend UUIDs.

Note: Segment’s browser and mobile libraries automatically use Anonymous IDs to keep track of users as they navigate around your website or app, so you don’t need to worry about them when using those libraries.

Here’s an example of a JavaScript event for an anonymous user:

  subscriptionStatus: 'inactive'

User ID

User IDs are a more permanent and robust identifier, like a database ID. Since these IDs are consistent across a customer’s lifetime, identify calls should include a User ID as often as possible.

A User ID is usually the unique identifier that you recognize a user by in your own database. For example, if you’re using MongoDB it might look something like 507f191e810c19729de860ea.

Segment recommends using database IDs instead of simple email addresses or usernames, because database IDs never change. That guarantees that even if the user changes their email address, you can still recognize them as the same person in all of your analytics tools. And even better, you’ll be able to correlate analytics data with your own internal database.

Instead of using an email address or a username as a User ID, send them along as traits.


Traits are pieces of information you know about a user that are included in an identify call. These could be demographics like age or gender, account-specific like plan, or even things like whether a user has seen a particular A/B test variation. Up to you!

Segment has reserved some traits that have semantic meanings for users, and we handle them in special ways. For example, Segment always expects email to be a string of the user’s email address. We’ll send this on to destinations like Mailchimp that require an email address for their tracking.

You should only use reserved traits for their intended meaning.

Reserved traits Segment has standardized:

Trait Type Description
address Object Street address of a user optionally containing: city, country, postalCode, state, or street
age Number Age of a user
avatar String URL to an avatar image for the user
birthday Date User’s birthday
company Object Company the user represents, optionally containing: name (String), id (String or Number), industry (String), employee_count (Number) or plan (String)
createdAt Date Date the user’s account was first created. Segment recommends using ISO-8601 date strings.
description String Description of the user
email String Email address of a user
firstName String First name of a user
gender String Gender of a user
id String Unique ID in your database for a user
lastName String Last name of a user
name String Full name of a user. If you only pass a first and last name Segment automatically fills in the full name for you.
phone String Phone number of a user
title String Title of a user, usually related to their position at a specific company. Example: “VP of Engineering”
username String User’s username. This should be unique to each user, like the usernames of Twitter or GitHub.
website String Website of a user

Note: You might be used to some destinations recognizing special traits by slightly different names. For example, Mixpanel recognizes a $created trait when the user’s account was first created, while Intercom recognizes the same trait as created_at instead. Luckily, you don’t have to worry about those inconsistencies. Just pass along createdAt. Segment handles all of the destination-specific conversions for you automatically. Same goes for the rest of the reserved traits.

You can pass these reserved traits using camelCase or snake_case, so in JavaScript you can match the rest of your camel-case code by sending firstName, while in Ruby you can match your snake-case code by sending first_name. That way the API never seems alien to your code base. Keep in mind that not all destinations support these reserved traits, so sending these traits in camelCase and snake_case can result in two sets of traits in other destinations.

This page was last modified: 09 Aug 2022

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