Are you treating one customer as one single individual (irrespective of where you meet them) or as multiple different individuals? Is their experience seamless and consistent no matter what platform or device they interact with your brand over; or is their experience more like the film ’50 First Dates’, where the protagonist must begin each day afresh, without any memories of what happened the day before? (Which one of us hasn’t experienced the trauma of having to repeat our â€˜problem’ to 4 different agents at aâ€˜Â service’ center? In more evolved times, why should I have to be a card-carrying Loyalty Program member for your on-ground outlets to recognize my preferences?)
Enter Identity Resolution. A unified view of the customer is the core of CDPs, but a critical subset of creating a unified view is matching the identity of customers across diverse devicesOpens a new window , platforms and locations to help resolve multiple interactions as coming from the same individual. Identity resolution has, off late, grown into an independent solution category within Customer Data Management. It aims to help marketers arrive at a probabilistic or deterministic match of their customers across devices, platforms and even online and offline. The goal of Identity Resolution is to get a holistic view of the customer’s interactions with the brand in an omnichannel environment.Â Easier said than done, as Christine FrohlichÂ Vice President , Experian Marketing ServicesOpens a new window , observes in thisOpens a new window article on MTA, â€œThe challenge for many brand advertisers is the sheer volume of data. There is a seemingly infinite volume of offline and online attributes, such as name, address, email address, cookies, date of birth, transaction history, mobile device identifiers and the list goes on. Each one of these attributes alone gives you a glimpse into the customer, but the ability to connect these disparate data sets in a privacy compliant manner, can create a 360-degree view of the customer and help marketers make the right decisions. And it all starts with the right resolution and matching process.â€
Founder of CDP Institute, and MTA Category Expert David Raab, observes 3 trends related to the growth of identity resolution as a practice:
- â€œCookies â€“ the last-gen â€˜identifiers’ of digital individuals â€“ are on their last legs. So many Cookies are blocked, that they are no longer common enough to be useful. Â I’m not entirely clear what will replace them â€“ although device tracking is the most likely winner, considering that people have relatively few devices and they’re often linked.
- The receding availability of passive identifiers (like Cookies), and people’s growing sensitivity to using them is prompting a greater reliance on first party identifiers (account numbers, logins, etc.)
- Blockchain-enabled methods for safe data sharing, which enable consumers or other data owners to tightly control what is shared â€“ are making it easier and safer to comply with privacy regulations while still doing some data sharing.â€
Read on to see what industry experts see as the most important exciting or relevant aspects of Identity Resolution in 2019.
As consumers become savvier about personal data, they will expect to see value in return for their data
Â While the need for data exchange and data brokers have risen, the effectiveness of â€˜black box’ digital customer profiling is still a big question mark. Graph-based mapping of existing customers and tracking their cross-device based self-learning profiling is extremely helpful to ensure customer journey tracking.
â€œAs consumers become savvier about personal data, they will expect to see value in return for their dataâ€
With various privacy regulations taking shape, organizations will need to rely on more deterministic methods (as opposed to fuzzier probabilistic ones) to connect devices to individuals. Organizations will need to provide incentives â€“ such as faster checkout, access to exclusive experiences, and content tailored to their interests â€“ in order to encourage consumers to authenticate across devices.
â€œWithout bridging data sources, marketers can’t meaningfully measure, or optimize, their ad spendâ€
The burgeoning partnerships between first-party and third-party providers solving for gaps in ad spend measurement and attribution. The wall that exists between first-party PII and match-based targeting for impressions in third party channels is paramount to protecting consumer privacy.
Vendors are partnering to create a privacy-compliant method to do transaction-level attribution for ad spend. This is a textbook example of why it isn’t just about identity resolutionOpens a new window for its own sake but rather in service to a clear business objective.
â€œID’s will increasingly become the common currency between data, CDPs, engagement channels and ad servers in order to provide full fidelity connectivity between eachâ€
We will see the emergence of more probabilistic ID/graph companies focused on different and unique data sets that either enhance a marketer’s or platform’s ID-matching capability or enrich their ID’s with even more data.(e.g. location, vertical, etc.)
â€œCompanies will invest in best-of-breed solutions that help deliver on their unique use cases, and pass on the restâ€
For a long time, it was about data collection, and then it was about taking action on data. But in 2019, brands will realize that none of that matters if they can’t identify individuals across all of their systems and channels. A first cohort of brands showed in 2018 that a complete and unified view of their customers allows them to deliver game-changing experiences, personalization, and customer insights.
â€œTying each person to a single customer profile lets brands know exactly how buyers behave. Identity resolution is the first step, and using the data meaningfully is nextâ€
In-store locations will evolve, not die â€“ digital-first brands successfully using physical spaces will serve as next-level examples for marketers.
Make way for retail IoT: Beacon technology is already here. IoT in retail is emerging as brands look to enhance their loyalty programs, experiment with automated checkout and provide on the spot in-store discounts. CDPs must be equipped to handle a high level of online and in-store integration, as well as customer data across new and emerging channels in 2019.
â€œUsing persistent ID’s supports progressive profiling to reduce friction, eliminate form abandonment and create seamless user experiencesâ€
True consolidation of user profiles across all devices has always been a primary focus â€“ we use layers of identification tactics to close loop-holes across devices for effective registration, lead generation and paywall conversions.
â€œUsers have a higher comfort level when they are in control of data sharing practicesâ€
We’ll see a more mature, discerning mobile user who is taking control over their phone and knows how to restrict solicitations and control privacy. Users will continue to want fewer, but timely, contextually relevant content and notifications. They will want to be able to decide what information they want to receive and when â€“ be it plain content or ad targeting.
â€œIdentity Resolution enables better attribution back to the central customer data management systemâ€
As brands leverage tools like CDPs to power engagement and loyalty programs, identity resolution will inevitably become a bigger piece of that puzzle in 2019. Brands will engage with identity partners or use advertising platforms like DSPs and DMPs to handle identity resolution and advertising.
â€œCross-channel identity management requires more precise, contextual clusteringâ€
Mixed clustering â€“ different clustering techniques working togetherÂ â€“ allows more precise and more specific clustering; and declusteringÂ â€“ editing pre-clustered profiles (i.e exclusion lists, business rules) are gaining ground. Cross channel identity management â€“Â taking into account the contextÂ â€“ requires more precise clustering, allowing marketers to switchÂ perspective from the master view to behavioral information based on a channel.
â€œThe ability to identify and message a consumer across myriad devices has never been more important. And the regulatory landscape on data has never been more complicatedâ€
GDPR was just the beginning â€“ executives are going to have to ensure their systems are prepared for additional regulations at both at the state and federal level.
Smart marketers will ensure their marketing systems are protected against data leakage and breach, particularly as it relates to how they interface with third-party vendors and tags.
â€œThe most important thing is that more people understand why compartmentalization destroys valueâ€
I think the industry still has a long way to go to understand the nuances within various customer identity solutions, and this goes beyond deterministic vs probabilistic. To create a unified customer experience across channels and partners, identity resolution needs to be tightly coupled with data capture. We see too many brands map out their stack based on archaic batch and ETL processes, and attempt to leverage legacy tools to solve today’s challenges.
â€œIdentity resolution is extremely critical, given the internal data quality challengesâ€
Reducing marketer reliance on cookies due to blocking and lack of support on mobile apps and other non-browser interfaces means Identity Resolution will become the de-facto way marketers match new records with incomplete identity to increase the size of their known audience.
PII-based solutions that build a master customer profile will come to dominate the category, and the definition of identity resolution willÂ solidify around the concept of consent management.
â€œCompanies are coming together to find unique IDs that work across the globe, enabling more efficient sharing of customer dataâ€
Multiple players have had various degrees of success with the new data-sharing model â€“ the ID Consortium, LiveRamp’s Identity Link and, The Trade Desk’s Unified ID Solution. While increasing privacy regulations may limit the approach, I don’t see it going away anytime soon.
â€œRegulation may place limitations on the methodologies we can use to achieve accurate cross-device identityâ€
Now more than ever, brands are required and expected to communicate with their customers where they are most likely to engage: at the most convenient time, via a preferred channel, etc. This will significantly increase the importance of cross-device identity as Customers expect this right here and now.
â€œFailure to recognize loyal customers when they interact on different devices is a poor brand experienceâ€
We’ll continue to see companies relying less on DMPs and laying the foundation of their tech stack with identity-driven technology like CDPs and data onboarding providers that offer higher data accuracy and match rates.
We are seeing marketers integrate identity resolution into all channels to enhance campaign and platform activations. There is an increased focus on making digital identity data highly flexible so it can provide a holistic view of the consumer journey across every digital, in-store, in-venue and offline channel.
â€œI’m tracking the impact of GDPR on the use of Customer Dataâ€
In 2019, it would be interesting to see the impact of GDPR on the use of customer data. GDPR makes it harder to do ID resolution and cross-device management while factoring privacy regulation, consent management, etc.
â€œBrands are looking inward, utilizing their core transactional data from retail, online and CRM/loyaltyâ€
AI-driven Channel Orchestration has seen adoption among Financial Marketers. With Mobile banking on the rise, cross-device Identity Management will be critical both from ingestion of data signals and activation through mobile channels. Hyper-relevance or contextual marketing, using AI technologies like Deep Learning are making it possible to deliver personalization in real time and at scale.
â€œBrands are looking inward, utilizing their core transactional data from retail, online and CRM/loyaltyâ€
Complete customer profiles are extremely valuable for insight, targeting, and suppression. Going beyond online browsing behavior to predict habits, marketers are building segments based on spend, products, channel and lifetime value. Leaders are using CDPs to detect churn, predict purchase behavior and deliver a step-change to ROI.
Lower barriers to sharing data are enabling data partnerships and consortiums that have demonstrated strong results for the brands who’ve been able to execute them. The question is which partnerships will work and at what cost.
â€œIdentity resolution is not the end game, but a step toward a larger processâ€
We often see marketers hyper-focused on identity resolution â€“ while it is an important step in driving customer-centric strategies, it will only get a brand halfway to personalization at scale. Once customer identities have been resolved, the next (and critical) step is to connect identities across channels and execute a personalized, cross-channel campaign
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