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Onboarding is a Data Business

Onboarding companies are multi-faceted and considered a fundamental part of the digital eco-system. An onboarder is the root of where all targeted display ads emanate. Below is a sample of what a traditional data onboarder facilitates:

  • Pixel tags
  • Publisher traffic aggregation
  • Platform integrations
  • Pixel syncs
  • Cross device identification
  • Persistent IDs
  • Digital audience targeting across media, devices, and formats including: display, email, social media, addressable TV, and mobile (leveraging cross-device IDs)
  • Digital audience segmentation
  • Site personalization
  • Customer or audience insight development for market research, modeling, and planning
  • Measurement and attribution for both online and offline applications

These capabilities sound very technical and they certainly are. Yet, as technical as these processes may be, each process an onboarder performs connects back to the core of onboarding – data. If you do not have capabilities to manage, manipulate, analyze, and understand data, you cannot onboard correctly. The technology only enables the data to be utilized, distributed, and analyzed efficiently, but if you do not have an excellent data pedigree, none of the technology will repair poor data pairings.

According to Winterberry Group, consumer data onboarding refers to the process of linking offline data with online attributes. More specifically, it is the matching of two audience data sets: a first-party CRM data set belonging to a marketer and a digital data set belonging to a data provider. The match process uses a common identifier or match key to link the records. The match—with a certain degree of accuracy—provides the privacy-compliant identity resolution necessary to activate a distinct and expanding set of data-driven marketing use cases.

How many times did you see the word data in the description above and how many times did you see the word technology?  [Data won 6-0] To onboard accurately and properly assist marketers in delivering relevant targeted ads to consumers, data must be the focal point.

It was not long ago, at the start of this component of the tech stack, that a connection made anonymously between an offline email and an online hashed email was considered acceptable for targeting. Or that any one associated in that email address’s household was also sufficient for targeting and helped to provide “scale”. But things are different now. Today, we can and do understand individuals online by utilizing data to deterministically match a CRM file to a known hashed email address. This process enables the identification and connection to each individual customer. (Device Ids can also be used to create connections).

But what about the universal concern of anonymity and PII? Creating associations and deterministically matching only helps group individuals into more targeted and accurate segments. All individuals are still anonymized for targeting and no PII is ever utilized within platforms – that is the job of the onboarder.

At the end of the day, onboarding must be data-centric. Marketers and brands demand individual and deterministic matching. The only way to accomplish this is by doing a lot of data work up front. First, an onboarder needs to work on the data being provided. This includes data hygiene, deduplication, NCOA (National change of address) procedures, and reviewing for data gaps within emails, postal addresses, or intelligence. Ensuring the brand’s data is standardized and able to be accurately matched is the most crucial first step of the onboarding process.

The second step is ensuring that the brand’s data has the greatest chance of being found online. This takes more data work to append as many email addresses, device IDs, mobile numbers etc. as possible to each individual record. Third, that data must then be matched against an onboarder’s identity graph to conclude what the individual deterministic match rate is. Again, a pure data function.

The building of an accurate identity graph is also pure data work. An identity graph is not a licensed consumer file, it is a living breathing entity that needs to be cared for and cultivated in real time. Each day, people experience transitions in their lives. Whether that be a birth, death, new email, new phone, new TV, new home, new car, or college etc., these individual transitions need to be captured, validated, and updated consistently. A true identity graph can achieve this and is therefore considered the foundation for all accurate matching, targeting, performance, ROI, attribution, analytics, programmatic selection and most of all results.

If you are serious about onboarding, stop worrying about scale for scale’s sake and devices by the ton. Instead, focus on making sure your data is being matched accurately on an individual deterministic basis. You will then not only see an increase in the performance of your campaigns, but an increase in your customer’s sense of appreciation and value.

Next Up: Transparency in onboarding… Stay tuned.

Article written by Throtle founder and CEO Paul Chachko