The old adage, uncertainty is the only certainty, rings true in the new decade, but there’s one other thing we can add to this sentiment with absolute assurance. The future of digital marketing will be identity-driven. A consumer’s appetite for highly-personalized brand experiences is motivated by something far more potent than trends in consumer behavior; it’s their basic human need to be understood, and that need isn’t going away any time soon. Individuals sense that they belong when they feel recognized and understood by a group (aka, your brand). Think about the last time you felt misunderstood. In turn, you probably thought differently about whomever it was that pegged you wrong, and that intuition is difficult to change. Alas, consumers don’t plan to make personalization easy on brands this year. Here’s what’s in store for identity resolution in 2020 and beyond.
Trend #1: Data accuracy is about to become more challenging than ever.
A database full of data doesn’t mean a brand is capable of targeting individual consumers across numerous channels. Accuracy is everything. Unfortunately, accuracy continues to be one of the most prominent pain points for most brands, and it’s about to get worse. On average, consumers use 3 to 4 internet-connected devices throughout the buyer’s journey. By 2021, that number is expected to escalate to 13 connected devices. In other words, the data flood gates are about to open. Without a strong strategy for cleaning, appending, and keeping data up-to-date, this sudden influx will result in considerably more inaccuracies. Even if brands succeed at synchronizing all of this new data, matching the right data with the wrong customer profile instantly makes the data inaccurate. This is why identity resolution is crucial and necessary for brand survival in the new decade.
Trend #2. Connected TVs will become a priority focal point for brands.
The proliferation of streaming services like Netflix, Amazon Prime, Hulu, Disney+, and Apple TV+ coupled with the widespread adoption of internet-connected TVs opens up a robust new data source for marketers. Over the next few years, marketing strategies will leverage connected TVs in a variety of ways, but the most powerful tactic will be using IP tracking to identify the highest quality leads within a household and bidding strategically to ensure messaging is placed in front of them while they are a captive audience. Using cross-device mapping, brands can then measure the success of their carefully-placed messaging by observing a consumer’s online activity after they viewed an ad—for example, visiting the brand’s website on a device connected to the same WiFi network as the TV. But beware, deciphering between individual household members is no easy task. IP addresses continuously change, requiring advanced algorithms and data science to identify trends and draw accurate conclusions. Those who succeed at leveraging connected TVs will be few and far between, which represents a major competitive advantage.
Trend #3: Data privacy will put consumer expectations at odds with marketing objectives.
Despite predicting that the CCPA will have a lesser impact than the hype suggests, brands must be prepared for how the emergence of privacy protection laws will change the targeting game. Already, New York, North Dakota, Utah, and Washington are working on legislation similar to California’s. Industry goliaths like Google, Facebook, and Apple are actively implementing measures to prevent certain forms of intelligent tracking. Make no mistake, data sources will be affected by these activities, requiring brands to adapt quickly if they want to sustain a frictionless, personalized, omnichannel brand experience. Agility will depend on widening the scope of identifiers integrated across touchpoints and devices, particularly those that deliver behavior, transaction, and contextual information.
Trend #4: The demand for identity resolution services will skyrocket.
According to a recent Forrester report, less than 25% of marketers feel confident about their ability to manage customer IDs with enough depth, accuracy, persistence, and scale. Nevertheless, they also see identity resolution solutions as “a significant or major assist in achieving their objectives.” Rather than focus time, energy, and budgets on in-house ID resolution solutions that present their own subset of challenges, more brands will look to specialized technology providers with the latest innovations and best practices already built into their services. Here’s why:
- Identities are moving targets that constantly change. Marketers admit that they lack the technology, skills, and institutional knowledge required to properly manage data as it evolves over time, which jeopardizes data accuracy and value.
- Brands are unable to keep up with the rapid release of MarTech innovations, both in terms of cost and onboarding.
- Many marketers still rely on a limited scope of identifiers, which will prevent them from adapting quickly to compensate for changes in privacy and data laws.
- As the volume of identifiers, devices, and touchpoints continues to increase rapidly, brands that rely on siloed tracking methods and disjointed consumer identities will miss promising new opportunities to deepen their understanding of individual consumers.
Trend #5: The demand for greater data transparency will drive new standards in ID resolution.
Without a doubt, security breaches and consumer distrust will follow us into the new decade. If marketers are to regain consumer confidence, they need to know that the data they receive is accurate and responsibly sourced. In other words, a mere data match percentage isn’t going to cut it. Moving forward, identity resolution firms will be held accountable for having a transparent data supply chain and stringent criteria for measuring data quality. They will need to implement a rigorous, multi-step data process to ensure that all data is properly cleansed and prepared. Furthermore, brands deserve a transparent, comprehensive report that discloses how the data was collected, built, and validated. Identity resolution provider should showcase the following:
- The recency and frequency of the data
- Email and attribute append rates
- Address standardization
- Number of devices per record (after removal of record/device duplicates)
- Net usable records and unusable records
- Distinction between
- proprietary data vs. white labeled data
- individual match rates vs. household match rates
- probabilistic match rates vs. deterministic match rates
Simply put, there is no competing with a brand that can track a single consumer’s omnichannel journey and customize their buyer experience with relevant, valuable information and offers—period. Responsibly onboarding all the data required to achieve this level of personalization consistently amid changes in data sources, data capturing tactics, privacy regulations, and MarTech will require an identity resolution strategy far more advanced than the solutions of yesteryear.