Identity Resolution is a field that is transforming how owners and CEO’s are starting to understand how their users act and behave. Our breakdown below gets into the what identity resolution really is and how to implement it for your business.
With the onset of marketing digitization, an entirely new terrain brimming with opportunities was brought into focus—almost like turning on night vision goggles in the middle of the woods. This dynamic and versatile playing field allowed innovators to not only understand the platforms by which users engage with companies, but the data that drives those sales or lead conversions, and the implicit pathway consumers traveled through to obtain their goal.
However, marketing spend and ad budget was still being lost in the throes of uncertainty, as media buyers couldn’t fully discern the random populations flooding their sites. Anonymous visitors account for over 98% of all website visits—a staggering and counterintuitive figure in an industry of trying to understand who your customers are!
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Brand managers quietly struggled to attain a unified, single customer view which provided a crystal-clear insight into the behaviors, digital footprint and movement patterns of customers (or potential ones) on their domains. Core questions that could not be answered Are my marketing efforts even reaching my target audiences? Are we only throwing out content on one channel at a time? Well, are those customers even using said channel? How can I attribute any arbitrary purchase to the correct channel to optimize future growth? Most importantly, is my customer receiving a seamless, consistent user experience no matter how or where they engage us from?
A customer 360-degree profile begets itself as one of them most underused and undervalued tools within a company’s marketing arsenal. The phenomenon, termed “identity resolution”, is often the keystone to providing firms with the deepest understanding of how their user base involves itself online, by which devices or platforms, the timing of it all and how these data analytics can yield a massive ROI. According to a Forrester study, less than 50% of businesses actually possess the required technology to get even a single, or fractional view of the end-to-end customer journey. Imagine how much lost revenue and growth this can result in!
Now you might think, “Well hold on. Maybe these random, identity-less visitors are in fact conversions that haven’t occurred yet. Maybe they are already customers, but they’re just logged out! The easiest way to act from there, is to just, well, forget about those nameless silhouettes. But in doing so, you are sacrificing lots of valuable insights on existing customer swarms and potential future engagements. Simply co-locating data is no longer enough to generate usable profiles in such an expansive scape as the online world. Data must be organized around individuals, especially when these data sources are present on multiple formats and lack unity.
Utilizing identity resolution can provide deeper insights into customer personalization and parallel your brand’s focus to match those of your customers’ needs stronger than ever before. The method breaks down the intricate marketing attribution process into digestible, individually-attentive pieces. It has enabled banks and credit unions to deliver customers that special-treatment customer service they not only yearn, but expect—in real time, flexibly and personally! As such, acquiring, engaging and building relationships on a human level has transcended to the digital marketing sphere and unlocked the door to maximized brand-customer transparency.
WHAT IDENTITY RESOLUTION IS AND WHY IT EXISTS
As defined by segment.com, identity resolution is “the practice of creating a unified profile for every customer by gathering data on all the interactions they’ve had with your business.” This sounds slightly too simple at first glance, but realizing the deeper meaning behind these words can be the differentiator between a mediocre marketing strategy and a precisely effective and efficient one. With a truly 360 encompassing approach, one should have a strategy which is built using all customer data, is precisely connected at an individual level, includes and maintains context from the data sources, is regularly updated in real-time, and is available whenever and wherever it is needed. This can be extremely daunting for a business owner to consider, as it seems nearly impossible (particularly within vast user bases containing tens of millions of touchpoints and interactions each day.)
The data quality can be iffy, and hinges on having potent enough technology to procure high-definition results. The crux of modern digital marketing and customer comprehension lies in the oh-so-elusive single view of our online audience member. So, why in particular is this so important, and how can it generate immediate results for your company? Attaining a unified singular customer comprehension, optimizing precision of this data and taking reflective action in a reactive and timely manner are crucial for marketing success.
But also giving the customer what they want is always the goal! Unfortunately, Salesforce revealed that 76% of consumers expect brands to understand them and their needs, and 51% believe most companies fail in providing great experiences and fulfilling expectations. In another study conducted on behalf of Epsilon spanning 200 marketing and consumer data decision makers, only 40% were confident that their customer ID profiles were complete and accurate.
Investments were being wasted, marketing budgets thrown at irate customers and even raised risks in privacy and compliance issues. It had become abundantly evident that besides identifying your customers, developing a laser-focused communication with them in real-time and measuring the results of your initiatives was no longer optional. Consumers demand a certain standard of service, and companies must adhere to the customers’ needs and desires!
So far, we’ve understood the immense implications that identity resolution provides as far as customer comprehension and user experience in a linear perspective. However, the actions that define the traits of any single user are spread out across a constellation of devices. Segment.com studies claimed that the average household contains 11 connected devices, including seven different screens. Google revealed that 90% of web users shift steadily between devices to complete tasks, with varying degrees of interaction and touchpoints between brands on these platforms.
I mean, who hasn’t researched a product on your phone, to purchase it later on your desktop? Or messaged somebody on a tablet, and then picked up a phone call a few minutes later? The number of gateways for interaction has exploded in the last decade. Smart speakers, gaming consoles, even watches and your car store all your user data, whether you like it or not. Consumers express different aspects of their personality on different devices as well, with your Netflix account residing on your iPad but your Lenovo laptop strictly housed for work.
These reservoirs have grown into hot points for brands to learn more about their customers and how to best serve them. Using identity resolution solutions, you can access and gather data from all seven of those screens, tie them down to one specific user without digital confusion, and then delight that customer with offers or messaging tailored to their tastes and preference.
WHY IDENTITY RESOLUTION IS SO IMPORTANT IN UNDERSTANDING YOUR CUSTOMER
Constructing the ultimate singular customer profile by wielding identity resolution can provide immeasurable benefit with measurable statistics. With consumers who operate on multiple channels before reaching the end of the buyer process on top of multiple devices at varying times and places, the difficulty in pinpointing customer’s digital whereabouts and making sense of this journey has only increased. Focused audience profiles aid marketers in connecting these dots with confidence, online or offline, and with each person they need to.
There are many significant use cases for identity resolution, as we will explore below, and they holistically outline the expansive benefit of such a powerful tool. Utilizing customer-centric profiling helps you inherently understand and analyze your website visitors. As they come across your domains, these random passersby may or may not decide to engage. That should not mean lost business or clientele! By forming a deeper appreciation for the platforms and your customer values, you can reconcile anonymous visitor data with known visitor data by intelligently building methods for data tracking.
For example, User Joe D might download a fashion brand’s iPhone smartphone app, browse through a few selections, and forgo account registration. As soon as he downloads the app, however, all these events and her actions are privately stored with an anonymousID and iOS deviceID—but they’re not tied to Joe D himself. Then he might peruse some more, add a shopping cart and create an account by using his email after he decides to purchase a shirt. In account creation, a userID is assigned and the power of a customer data platform begins to really kick in.
Rather than having two different user profiles—logged out Joe and logged in Joe—only one profile exists! Consolidation of this data will ascertain Joe as the same user whether or not he is logged in, regardless of device or platform. The key lies in linking the original anonymous events to his logged-in account by means of the key ingredient—that clever iOS tag! Now say he switches to his wife’s tablet at home when he decides to buy some sneakers. Will the company forget that it’s him because of an inconsistent interaction identity?
Nope! A key log of associated identities, emails, accounts and preferences ensures a tightly-bound infrastructure by which minimal user data is lost to the swathe of cyberspace, and real-time approaches to maintaining a singular image of your web patrons. Here’s a truly shocking statistic; 21 cents of every advertising dollar spent it wasted due to poor data quality. As mentioned before, most companies are currently functioning at a suboptimal level, leaving plenty of room for heaps of invaluable data fragments to fall through the cracks in this partial view.
By salvaging only breadcrumbs from an already disconnected and old interaction, companies are clueless in a wide and ever-changing terrain. They don’t know that Device ID 324 is already a converted customer, and that showing them an ad again will not only be redundant, but may upset the customer and their loyalty/trust in your brand’s perception of them. Desktop User X may actually be the same person as Mobile User Z, yet marketers miss the opportunity to recapture their attention on a unique platform with a variety of content types.
This only results in un-targeted, bloated and poor-performing ad campaigns that eat up marketing budget. Identity resolution does just that; procures a detailed and intricate mapping of user profiles, eliminating duplicates or false positives. Using this method, businesses can suppress ads from specific customer segments, and recycle those resources into those who have a higher spending capacity.
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According to Epsilon, 5 building blocks comprise a powerful identity resolution strategy; recognition, reach, accuracy, persistence, and privacy. Recognition refers to using data within the database as well as ongoing behavioral and channel fluctuations beyond just your brand. Reach being the need to treat your customers are human beings and not just cookies or devices, and to reach out to them in a personalized manner.
This avoids hurting your reputation and brand by keeping a leash on the amount of messaging performed. Accuracy, of course, being a crucial factor in putting a name to a digital face across all devices and browsers, at a consistent scale to enhance your ability to provide for them directly. Persistence is crucial in being able to follow up properly alongside the customer’s journey with both online and offline data.
And finally, privacy. This has been the number one concern for most Internet users, particularly in the face of data privacy and information leak scandals, such as those involving Cambridge Analytica and Facebook—or the mass amount of compromised votes during the US Elections in the last few years. To proceed in confidence, data must be scrubbed of PII (personally identifiable information) so it may comply with the European General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA).
These five intrinsically tied facets of the identity cleansing process involve large amounts of time, data sets, expansive channel usage, detailed privacy infrastructure but are without a doubt the keys to making it all happen! After having addressed the backbone of a solid profile-oriented marketing plan, we dive into the data itself. If your Customer 360 View is missing data, such as in-store transactions, social media activity or internal brand loyalty status, personalized marketing efforts become obsolete.
You will be marketing to people after they’ve already purchased, recommend irrelevant products to disinterested consumers, or divulge personal information in the wrong way—which can land a brand in hot water indeed! According to Accenture, 41% of consumers switched brands in 2017 due to a lack of trust and negative personalization experience. To avoid this, imbue this checklist of pertinent data types to ensure a cohesive marketing stack:
- Personally Identifiable Information (PII): email addresses, current home address, first name, last name, former last names, phone number, birthdate;
- Transactions: all online and offline purchases ‒ historical and recent;
- Preferences: opt settings, preferred channels, interaction frequency;
- Clickstream: where, how, and when a customer interacts with your site and mobile apps;
- Geographic: where customers live, shop, and travel;
- Social: handles, interactions, likes, shares;
- 3rd Party Data: demographic, occupational, lifestyle, and buying intent
- Custom Attributes: attributes derived through data modeling techniques, including propensity to buy, predicted LTV, customer and engagement scoring, etc.
Creating a robust and accurate profile of each customer is evidently the most successful approach in dealing with mass quantities of individuals who believe they should be treated as special as the next person over. But before jumping headfirst into identity resolution, gathering all your data in one place is imperative—and you can achieve this with a customer data platform, or CDP. This acts as a hub of truth for all user information by ensuring data accuracy, oversight/governance and efficiency of communication between departments. Remember—identity resolution is not only a data quantity issue, but one of data quality as much.
A 360-degree customer view is only as good as the quality of each degree! As such, collecting reliable data from diverse sources must remain a priority, in order to properly make use of the identifiers. Identifiers being the data used to identify customers. This could be email or IP addresses, login data, or social handles. But how do firms manage and actually use this data, and in what manner of strategy? The final major trait to identity resolution implementation and consideration in your overall marketing plan is selecting a deterministic or probabilistic identity resolution approach. How do you bring it all together?
Deterministic styles resolve identities based on what you already know to be true. This high-confidence method merges new data into user records by searching for existing (yet veiled) matches among identifiers. Using first-party data, companies can know with full certainty where a customer did what and why he did it. Probabilistic encourages identity resolution based on what you predict to be true. While using a confidence range to base assumptions, predictive models and algorithms use statistics and historical data to understand who customers likely are.
Regardless of which approach you choose, making sure to account for all the aforementioned factors in your identification strategy can prove to bolster your ROI and improve your chances at discovering new customers, and old! As Ric Elert, President and COO of Epsilon deftly put it, “Identity is the foundation that allows brands to deliver relevant messages, while reducing waste, customer churn and optimizing return on marketing investment. When brands get identity right, it gives them a fighting chance to not only survive—but thrive.”
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