Identity Resolution: A Marketer's Responsibility

Digitas

Identity Resolution: A Marketer's Responsibility

Michelle Thomas & Aaron Gwin

A few years ago, one of the hottest trends in the industry was “people-based marketing,” a strategic approach that allowed marketers to target individuals with the right message at the right time through the right channel. It marked a shift towards a more customer-centric approach in marketing, focusing on activating a 1:1 relationship between a brand and an individual.

However, a recent stat from Drawbridge’s 2019 State of Identity Report leaves us questioning whether or not people-based marketing is actually feasible, “Consumer Identity is fragmented across 10 identifiers on 3.5 devices.” Knowing that consumers are becoming more and more digitally connected, the need to solve for that level of fragmentation is necessary in order for any marketer to do true people-based marketing. 

Enter – Identity Resolution. 

While this has traditionally been the responsibility of technologists and data scientists, a shift is occurring where marketers are beginning to force conversations and take greater accountability in data strategy. After all, responsible marketing begins with a responsible use of data. But many marketers don’t know where to begin. As a starting point, let's unpack what Identity Resolution is and answer some common questions.

  • What is Identity Resolution?
    • Identity Resolution is a data management process through which an individual’s identity is analyzed and matched between disparate data sets and databases. It requires a solution to connect unique identifiers (e.g., transactions, profile information, cookies, device identity) and create a single, unified, real-time, persistent identity. An example of an Identity Resolution solution is The Trade Desk's Unified ID 2.0, an open-source solution announced recently.
  • What is an Identity Graph?
    • An Identity Graph is the database that houses all identifiers. It resolves existing data identifiers to accept, correct, verify, complete and incorporate inbound data from multiple sources to ensure accuracy.  This can be a real-time or batch-type process.
  • What is a Persistent ID?
    • A Persistent ID is a universal identifier that sticks with an individual and allows marketers to observe, record, and react to their behaviors across devices, platforms, and channels (in a PII-compliant manner, of course). It is an outcome of an Identity Graph.
  • Do I need to have an Identity Graph in order to get to a Persistent ID?
    • No, an Identity Graph is not required to get a Persistent ID. Ultimately, a Persistent ID is any identifier you may use to identify an individual across multiple channels.  A great example would be an email address, which is then encrypted and passed along bidstreams. Device ID is another type of Persistent ID. 
  • Is Identity Resolution the same as a data strategy?
    • It is important not to confuse an enterprise-level data strategy with a use-case data strategy used to get to identity resolution. Many enterprises have inadvertently created silos by building disparate data strategies when implementing new technology. Such situations can limit effectiveness and be costly to bring together later.   

Why Marketers Should Care About Identity Resolution

Identity resolution powers the next generation of marketing and orchestration strategy. Audience insights alone, while powerful, have become table stakes for marketers. Identity resolution kicks the insight game into high-gear by identifying the most valuable individual, and informing the time, tone, and style of interaction in order to drive business outcomes. Voila! You have a ground-up-and-top-down connection strategy powered by real-time insights and activated automagically.

But what does this look like in practice?  We’ve outlined three overarching use cases for brands to consider:  

  • Efficiency:  Whether you are matching a profile from your owned properties out on the open web, or messaging a segment of potential customers utilizing 3rd party data sets, it's more efficient when you have higher match rates, and a targeted audience.  Overall, leveraging identity here reduces acquisition and retention costs, and increases overall campaign efficiency.  The same ID resolution data set can also be used for analytics and messaging, which brings us to our next use case...
  • Effectiveness/Personalization: Show your customers that you know them well enough to make recommendations. E-commerce comes to mind, because you want to leverage the next chapter of a brand experience. Would you like a moisturizer to go with that eyeliner you bought? What about a jacket to go with the sweatpants you purchased now that it's getting chilly?  Identity resolution is necessary to match the purchase profile with the online profile in order to facilitate the right message at the right time for personalization. Take it a step further by adding attribution into the mix for some great test and learn opportunities.   
  • Security: This is the highest stakes version of identity resolution, where you need to know you are speaking to a specific person because financial transactions or other sensitive data is involved. Think of how credit card companies determine if it's really you before declining a transaction. When you don't want security getting in the way of user experience, identity resolution that leverages the highest volume of signals can help prevent fraudulent transactions and reduce the number of false alarms. Another example would be product ownership/recalls - when you need to reach the owner of a product and you don’t always have their contact information, as is often the case with the Automotive industry.

In order to get to the much talked-about but ever-elusive "single view of the customer," identity resolution is a must. More importantly, it's urgently needed in order to keep up with the ever-rising expectations of the modern customer. Salesforce is reporting that 64% of customers are using multiple devices to start and complete a transaction, meaning that marketers who aren't actively pursuing identity resolution are already behind the curve and putting customer satisfaction (and sales) at risk. 

The good news is that you likely already have much of the data you'd need to truly understand your customers. Identity resolution can connect the dots between all these touchpoints so that your brand can provide a truly personalized, consistent experience across channels and devices. Fundamentally this enables brands to make better connections with people. With wide-ranging implications across the entire organization in terms of personalization, efficiency and security, investing in identity resolution should be a no-brainer. Even better: the case can absolutely be made that that the costs shouldn't necessarily come from marketing's budget alone. That said, it's time for marketers to take a more active role in helping drive data strategy and identity resolution within their organizations -- after all, the customer experience may well depend on it.

Ready to advance your understanding of your customers' identity? Start by gathering the key players and assessing your current state. Note any gaps in the customer journey where you struggle to positively identify a customer who is interacting with your brand across devices or channels. Map out the use cases where identity resolution could elevate the customer experience. Don't try to boil the ocean here: focusing on the fundamentals is the first step towards improving the customer experience through identity resolution.

If you'd like to learn more about how identity resolution can best come to life for your organization, reach out to jen.faraci@digitas.com

Michelle Thomas & Aaron Gwin

VP, Connections Strategy & VP, Data & Analysis

Michelle Thomas is a VP in Connections Strategy, and Aaron Gwin is a VP in Data & Analysis. 

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