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:
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:
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.
It is no secret that identity has become a fundamental component of the digital ecosystem. The increasing volume of consumer data and sheer number of devices and channels in-market, coupled with privacy-first policies like GDPR and CCPA, has created increased demand for identity resolution. Though identity resolution brings much promise, with it also comes many challenges.
As the number of touchpoints grow and become more complex, so will the challenges for marketers as they attempt to collect, analyze and build a unified customer profile. A study on the state of identity resolution strategies in marketing conducted by Forrester Consulting reveals that less than half of marketers are fully capable of identity resolution management.
If marketers plan to be grow and continue their success into the upcoming year, identity resolution needs to be at the forefront of their strategies. Below, we highlight some of the most important benefits of identity resolution for marketers:
Effective Personalization: If you don’t know with confidence who the customer is, you can’t personalize your messages or experiences to them. That, in turn, lowers the quality (and probably the duration) of your relationship with that individual. With trusted identity resolution, marketers can obtain an in-depth understanding of their customers, ensuring that the right message gets delivered to the right customer, on their preferred channel and device.
Better Customer Insights: Identity resolution helps marketers better understand who’s on the other end of a browser, mobile app, CTV, or IP address. Accurate identity resolution allows companies to create a true single view of their customers that can be consistently communicated and deployed across brands, business units, and product lines. You should be able to continuously enrich, update, and share identity data across your entire organization in order to facilitate greater control and personalization.
Privacy Compliant Identity: Well-executed identity resolution embraces industry best practices and principles that ensure data is harnessed in ways that are ethical, compliant, and privacy safe. In the wake of GDPR, CCPA and others to soon follow, identity resolution ensures secure data transfer and encrypted storage, data processing controls and access restrictions as well as regulatory compliance.
Data and Consumer Accuracy: To properly execute 1:1 marketing, the data and methodology you use to identify customers on a truly individual basis must be accurate. If it isn’t, you’ll risk sending the wrong messages to customers at the wrong time. Identity resolution provides a constant stream of data to dynamically validate customers as they interact in offline and online channels. Accuracy data is vital to the success of personalization efforts.
Ultimately, identity resolution is a must have, not a nice-to-have for 2020 and beyond. To remain competitive in the age of the empowered, connected consumer, marketers must be able to connect customer data into a cohesive whole. Those who leverage identity resolution will be able to provide a seamless customer experience that is consistent and personalized across channels, creating increased engagement and relevant interactions that improve loyalty, thus ensuring long-term success.
GET IN TOUCH
Understanding who and where your customers are across all screens and channels is no easy task. Identity resolution creates a valuable asset for brands. However, the explosion of devices and touch points, combined with siloed or inaccessible data, has left most brands with only a fragmented view of their customers.
We sat down with Paul Chachko, founder and CEO of Throtle, to get his take on the importance of identity resolution and the advice he has for brands.
How do you define identity resolution?
At Throtle, we define identity resolution as the continuous mapping of disparate consumer data accurately associated with a single individual.
As the industry is starting to realize, an accurate identity resolution strategy is critical to the success of every marketing campaign executed today. It not only fuels customer experiences, but it allows brands the ability to create and build richer customer profiles overall. With the ability to view the entire picture surrounding one individual customer, their buying behaviors, demographic and geographic data, a brand can create more tailored marketing messages and campaigns that drive loyalty, engagement, and success.
In your words explain why brands need identity resolution?
Today, consumers own an estimated 3-4 different devices, and use these devices in different ways to research, browse, view and purchase products.
Without identity resolution, brands can’t associate and understand a customer from one device to another leaving them with a very fragmented view of the consumer. Identity resolution is the process by which a firm collects all of these various identifiers across all devices and touchpoints and unifies them into one holistic view of the individual behind them and makes them available for targeting.
As an identity resolution provider, how do you keep up with the industry and the ever-changing consumer?
Throtle continues to heavily invest in not only our underlying data technology, but also in sourcing the most accurate and rich data currently available in market. We are constantly looking to expand our network of like-minded data and media partners that are leaders in their spaces and are very tech forward. Accuracy is one of the most crucial data elements of identity resolution, and unfortunately, we see this lacking most in current data practices. If you don’t have a constant stream of integrated multi-sourced customer data such as email addresses, MAIDs, cookies, etc., then you will fail to have accurate identifiers to validate individual customers on a deterministic basis.
For brands looking at identity resolution providers, what advice do you have for them?
First and foremost, ask if their identity graph is deterministic or probabilistic. Deterministic matching is the gold standard. It is important to understand that what some companies call “deterministic” matching, really isn’t. Some think that if they find a single 1:1 match between two data points that it’s a confirmed deterministic pairing. Others, including Throtle, hold themselves to a much higher standard of quality and accuracy that requires multi-source corroboration of all data before declaring that a match is deterministic.
I would also suggest having identity providers explain the logic behind their match rate. A match rate depends heavily on a steady flow of multi-source data that is accurate and validated. At Throtle, we view the match rate as our ability to match to a unique individual rather than unique cookies or device IDs. If we match to John Doe and we see he has 3 devices, we count him as (1) unique match because all 3 devices belong to one unique individual. Other providers count each device or cookie match as a unique match regardless if they belong to the same (1) unique individual. As such, match rates are often inflated and do not accurately depict the match rate against unique individuals in a client’s file. We always advise to ask for apples-to-apples data from all partners you are evaluating so that you can be sure that match rate definitions and calculations are consistent across partners.
Finally, the best identity resolution vendors deploy a variety of “data hygiene” steps such as email validation, de-duplication, National Change of Address (NCOA), etc. to ensure a customer’s data is at the highest level of fidelity PRIOR to match to allow for the highest possible match rate. Lastly, we always recommended a data match test before any contracts are signed. It’s important that both sides understand the depth and wealth of the data and how it might or might not perform prior to entering into a partnership.
Do you see a threat with the upcoming California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) going into effect in January and identity resolution?
I don’t see a threat at all. In fact, I see this as an opportunity that continually validates identity resolution providers like Throtle, and the steps that we take in championing accurate, privacy compliant, transparent data. CCPA will showcase the ability for a provider to deliver transparency and ensure CCPA privacy compliance. This includes the ability to apply a high level of data protection and security in relation to personal data that our clients and third parties entrust to us.
In this blog post we will highlight the key questions brands should be asking identity resolution and onboarding providers and why these answers matter.
These questions include:
Understanding who and where your customers are across all screens and channels is no easy task. Identity resolution creates an incredibly valuable asset for your organization. Think of an identity graph (or ID graph) as an elaborate jigsaw puzzle where each interconnecting puzzle piece contains an element of information that helps brands accurately identify the customer behind any screen or device. The explosion of devices and touch points, combined with siloed or inaccessible data, has left most organizations with only a fragmented view of their customers, an unfinished puzzle.
Valuable data that comprise these puzzle pieces include everything from names, email addresses, physical addresses, phone numbers and cookies, to social handles, mobile device IDs, demographics and lifestyle traits – regardless of whether or not the user has logged in to reveal their identity, even in an otherwise anonymous setting. Faulty identity resolution (low quality, inaccurate or missing data) is just as bad, if not worse, than none at all.
Identity graphs come in many shapes and sizes. It’s essential for brands to distinguish the real, holistic identity graphs from those that provide only partial linkages. Unfortunately, a single label (ID Graph) is used in the marketplace to represent many variations – with few standing up to the real definition.
Brands need to work with vendors that link full profile identities across all touch-points to reap the benefits of individualized marketing that elevates brands and delivers high marketing ROI. Here are the essential questions to ask when evaluating identity vendors:
Is your graph deterministic or probabilistic?
Deterministic matching is the gold standard. It uses a wide array of data to consistently validate individual identities for the highest achievable accuracy. Probabilistic matching uses probability algorithms and other techniques to put the pieces of the identity puzzle together. It’s more like glorified guesswork and is far less accurate, although tends to yield more volume.
Note what some companies call “deterministic” matching, really isn’t. Some think that if they find a single 1:1 match between two data points that it’s a confirmed deterministic pairing. Others, including Throtle, hold themselves to a much higher standard of quality and accuracy that requires multi-source corroboration of all data before declaring that a match is deterministic.
Where does your data come from? How recent is it?
The building of an accurate identity graph is 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.
Vendors should have access to a constant stream of multi-sourced consumer data sources (email addresses, MAIDs, cookies, etc.). This allows active validation for both offline and online identities, empowering brands with better offline to online matching without sacrificing reach.
Vendors should also have a rolling exercise to update their sourced data daily, if not in real-time. They should also have policies in place to completely rebuild their graphs on at least quarterly basis to ensure the highest level of accuracy.
How are you validating the data?
As stated above, an identity graph is a living, breathing entity that needs to be cared for, cultivated and validated.
Vendors should have a process in place that ensures the highest level of validation and accuracy. We suggest the minimum standard should be validation from no less than three different, independent sources. Additionally, validation should validate identities consistently and in real-time using personal and persistent data points like an email addresses or device ids.
Do you perform data hygiene on incoming client files?
Identity resolution and data onboarding is a DATA business. If a vendor does not have capabilities to manage, cleanse, analyze, and understand data, they cannot onboard correctly. Technology only enables data to be utilized, distributed, and analyzed efficiently, but if you do not have an excellent data pedigree to start with, none of the technology will repair poor data pairings. Data onboarding platforms that are tech-only solutions leave themselves vulnerable to garbage in/garbage out scenarios with low matching and fill results.
Your vendor needs to have a data hygiene process in place. At the end of the day, onboarding must be data-centric. 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.
What is behind your match rates?
The rate at which customer data is matched – the “match rate” – depends heavily on a steady flow of multi-source data. An identity graph provides a constant stream of such data in order to dynamically validate a brand’s prospects or customers as they interact in both offline and online channels. The match rate is vital to the success of personalization efforts.
Data accuracy doesn’t happen by itself. The best identity resolution vendors deploy a variety of “data hygiene” steps such as email validation, de-duplication, National Change of Address (NCOA), etc. to ensure a customer’s data is at the highest level of fidelity PRIOR to match to allow for the highest possible match rate.
As the number of consumer touch points grows, so, too, does the quantity of data collected, causing brands to struggle with obtaining an accurate single view of customers.
Working with a vendor that understand the importance of a holistic, deterministic identity graph can help brands overcome these challenges and can do so in a privacy-safe manner. The key is for accurate data to be top priority. Without accurate identity resolution and activation, brands run the risk of alienating loyal customers and wasting valuable marketing dollars.
The overall impact of individualized marketing driven by timely and accurate customer identity resolution is overwhelmingly positive in both qualitative and quantitative terms. The sooner brands embrace it, the sooner they’ll begin realizing those benefits.
Understanding who and where your customers are across all screens and channels is no easy task. Identity resolution creates an incredibly valuable asset for your organization.
Personalization is ready for its close-up moment,” says McKinsey in a recent report. “Technology and customer expectations are converging to propel personalization – the process of using data to customize the timing, content and design of every customer experience in real time – from promise to reality.”
This isn’t yesteryear’s simplistic personalization of merging a name at the top of an email communication. Today’s top marketers are achieving exquisite forms of highly individualized marketing that achieve the highest levels of relevance, audience targeting, offer selection, creative, and messaging. Personalization has become a code word for 1:1 marketing at scale.
Accurately establishing customer identity in order to pursue individual-based marketing remains one of the most vexing challenges facing brands today.
For brands that get 1:1 right (Hint: this requires robust customer identity capabilities), the results have been stunning. According to McKinsey, 1:1 marketing at scale can drive 5-15% revenue growth for companies in retail, travel, entertainment, telecom and financial services. For instance, a global retailer saw sales from its brand-owned stores triple in one year following implementation of personalization into its marketing strategy.
The ability to recognize customers across screens and channels dramatically improves marketing measurement accuracy as well. Most brands have good analytics on “how many” but do a poor job of understanding the “who” that goes with those numbers.
Nearly all marketers say that individualization is a top priority, but a scant 15% believe they’re actually doing it well. One challenge is that many CMOs still consider it a nice-to-have add-on to their broader data and measurement efforts. In order to realize the benefits of individualized marketing, a shift in each organizations mindset is required, focusing on what is relevant for each individual.
Newly released research studies by both Forrester and McKinsey show that companies with mature data, measurement and analytics cultures ingrained in their organizations achieve significantly better outcomes than their counterparts without such cultures. And both studies discovered that the performance gap between organizations with mature data and analytics cultures and those just starting down that path is wide and expanding.
Forrester found that companies with mature analytics cultures achieved an average:
An individualized marketing culture is part of having a mature measurement and analytics profile. It requires an installed internal process for:
In a separate report, Forrester points out that accurately establishing customer identity in order to pursue individual-based marketing remains one of the most vexing challenges facing brands today.