Introduction

Recognizing a unique individual across any and all marketing channels is key to delivering a seamless customer experience.

But, with rapidly growing numbers of marketing platforms and channels – and with data fragmented across all these channels, online and offline – it’s harder than ever for marketers to do so.

The ability to recognize an entity, be it a person, place or thing, along with associated relationships, consistently and accurately based on both physical and digital attributes, regardless of channel, location or device with contextually appropriate levels of precision.– Identity Definition

Identity is the critical factor in generating insights and intelligence about consumers, whether a brand is looking to enhance processes and operations or improve the customer experience. 

Therefore, it is critical to understand the complexities of identity when building a comprehensive identity solution, which can help marketers achieve that holistic, required insight. 

Solutions that enable identity resolution, identity matching and identity management are designed to ensure brands can master identity across their martech and adtech  ecosystems. That means they can bring fragmented data together in an effort to accurately identify, recognize and connect with consumers – anywhere, at any time, across any channel, device, touch point or location to deliver exceptional experiences.

Understanding Identity Solutions

IDENTITY MATCHING: Identity matching is one of the most fundamental capabilities required to optimize martech and adtech systems. Whether through exact string matching or more complex logic, an identity matching solution is based on the underlying assumption that a direct identity linkage can be formed between data sources. Often the matching is accomplished by comparing hashed emails or other digital identifiers. 

IDENTITY RESOLUTION: While matching is non-intuitive (due to obfuscated data, integration challenges or obsolete, outdated customer data, for example) an identity resolution solution can help fill the gaps. Identity resolution solution providers create referential identity graphs to provide a macro view of identity data across touchpoints with a goal of accurate reference points on which up-to-date consumer identities can be determined. 

IDENTITY MANAGEMENT: Identity matching and resolution go hand-in-hand; they are foundational solutions and effective in many situations. However, each has limitations and constraints. “Identity” may have a different meaning for different brands, so an identity management solution provider can enable a brand to go beyond simple matching to create a more unique identity graph that utilizes all available identity data and references, incorporating first- and second-party data insights plus third-party referential, resolution services – for an exceptional, brand-specific identity solution.

Enable Exceptional Experiences with People-Based Engagements

Able to  recognize consumers across offline and digital channels, identity solutions can enable powerful people-based engagement. Accessing disparate data across silos and assimilating it into a perspective of identity that’s consistent and persistent over time, identity solutions enable marketers to take partial data and turn it into a fully recognized individual customer view.

And as a result, marketers can use this people-based view to inform all customer engagements across the business – whether that’s in analytics, segmentation, targeting, customer service or other areas of the business.

Why is this important? Because fragmented data can ruin your reputation. 

Each channel through which your customers engage your brand – whether that’s a Facebook ad, your website, a retargeted ad, an in-store visit, digital purchase, social media post or email – holds just a fragment of insights into who that person is, their purchase history with your brand, preferences and interests. Without an identity solution to align those fragmented data points and recognize who an individual is and the history with your brand, you’ll likely deliver a disjointed, inconsistent customer experience.

And because consumers today expect their favorite brands to deliver a consistent, relevant and unique experience across channels, a failure to do so can devastate customer loyalty. 

What Benefits Can I Achieve With an Identity Solution?

  • Create an accurate, unified customer view. Custom omnichannel solutions – unified across channels – can ensure data completeness and accuracy to fuel business operations.
  • Unlock insights and business value. Enable personalized, relevant consumer experiences across digital and offline journeys to drive engagement and business impact.
  • Competitive advantage. With a custom solution, it’s possible to tailor specific use cases and effectively unify and integrate customer data for a competitive advantage.
  • Maximize return on marketing spend. Target the right people, at the right time, through the right channels with the right message – maximizing value and return on marketing spend.
  • Improve long-term customer retention. With an identity solution to support an exceptional customer experience, you will develop stronger customer loyalty and trust.

Achieving true identity resolution is an ongoing and evolving challenge. New technologies, multiple vendors and growing customer expectations all create a noisy marketplace. 

So, to reap these benefits long-term, it’s important to implement an identity solution that can deliver true identity over time. One that enables brands to maintain accurate, quality data; integrate across first-, second- and third-party data; and comply with privacy and security legislation while leveraging market-leading identity resolution capabilities and linking technology.

2 / Fragmented Data - Stitching It All Together

Identity Solutions Address a Complex Challenge

Identity solutions can solve the complex challenge fragmented data presents.

Marketers know data is fragmented and siloed across the enterprise and wider marketing ecosystem. As a result, it’s hard to get a clear view across all the many fragments of information required to help recognize or identify an individual or entity across channels and engagements.

Identity in the Digital Age

Of course, this is not a new challenge; traditionally, in the offline space, marketers have had to track identity across multiple channels and consumer life events. Name changes, divorces, marriages, moves – there are many ways people represent themselves, depending on the engagement they are having with a particular brand.

Yet in the digital age, with the proliferation of technology, the identity challenge – being able to recognize that same customer across multiple engagement and data points, to build a single customer view – becomes much greater. Now, marketers must be able to amalgamate disparate, fragmented data points across a rapidly growing number of platforms and touch points. Identifying points have gone from name and address, to mobile phone numbers and email addresses, and today device IDs and different digital representations, such as location.

Consider that one individual can have multiple email addresses, devices and can move beyond the traditional geographic boundaries we may have expected in the past, and it’s no wonder that identity – achieving that single view of the customer no matter the device, location, or otherwise – is complex!

Identity Touch Points

Many data touch points are considered in identity solutions. These are often a unified combination of proprietary, or first-party data, and referenced, or third-party data.

Key components in resolving consumer identity include:

  • Who is this person? Considering personally identifiable information (PII): name, address, email, mobile number, date of birth, Social Security number or tax ID, along with biometrics and credentials.
  • Where is this person engaging? Considering device or channel insight, mobile device, smart card, etc.
  • How is this person behaving? Considering any observed or reported behaviors and actions.

These components must then be leveraged in a privacy- and security-compliant manner.

Identity May Be More Complex Than You Think

“Identity” is a term that’s commonly used throughout the data marketing landscape. But what do we really mean when we reference identity?Because of the term’s proliferation, it’s important to look beyond the surface to realize the full potential – and complexity – of identity solutions.A real identity solution should connect data to consumers in a privacy-compliant way by establishing brand-unique identity resolution rules to create a single view of the consumer across channels Yet it’s often the case that a data solution that considers “identity” is simply referring to matching on an email address or a hashed email address. But that’s not true identity resolution. A true and comprehensive solution should provide a holistic customer view – for example, tying multiple email addresses to an entity that has other representations in the offline space.A best-in-class solution will also go far beyond the data itself, facilitating data quality and hygiene services for an accurate, enhanced data insight.

Considering Identity Digitally and Offline

Marketers need the ability to recognize customers and prospects whether they’re on digital channels, offline, mobile, or buying in-store.

  • Offline recognition: First-party data such as CRM data is hugely valuable. Point-of-sale data can offer great insights into how to engage with a consumer – but only if all the data points are connected to the right individual.
  • Identity matching is required to consider all the representations of each consumer over time, and consolidate them into a real-time, highly accurate identity profile.
  • Digital recognition: Consolidating digital touch points to resolve identity can be incredibly complex. Different IDs from different channels, multiple browsers and devices, different cookies and more – all require persistent links to digital identifiers that can ensure digital channels and platforms have a consistent version of the same person, and that they are de-identified to maintain privacy. This is when an identity solution can help – enabling deterministic, data-informed identity resolution to tie data to real people across digital spaces.

Understanding Identity GraphsAn identity graph solution is one way to stitch together fragmented data and to enable people-based marketing across digital and offline channels and devices.Identity graph solutions work to synchronize customer data across the enterprise by establishing client-specific recognition rules, groups and unique global identifiers across digital and offline channels in a privacy-by-design manner.Enabling more effective marketing programs and better customer experiences, knowledge-based or identity graph matching uses a data set of different presentations and representations of an individual over time to recognize the real person behind the data points. It’s a necessary foundation for effective, people-based marketing.

Deterministic Vs. Probabilistic Matching

  • Probabilistic matching typically relies on “fuzzy matching,” which is commonly used to match data points based on how similar the data is. For example, if you were trying to determine whether Tanya Smith from Columbus, OH, is actually the same person as Tanya Jones from Phoenix, AZ.
  • Deterministic matching, used in identity graph solutions, is tighter and relies on more data and more sophisticated techniques to tie several digital representations to the same individual.

Enabling deterministic identity resolution, an identity graph solution is a privacy-conscious way to:

  • Create a single view of the customer, converging offline and digital data to form a holistic view.
  • Reduce risk across the enterprise, while effectively identifying and engaging individuals across channels to reduce cost and improve engagement.
  • Leverage industry-established privacy and data governance processes to resolve identity via ethical data practices.
  • Future-proof your organization and identity process, with more identity accurate resolution.

Keep in mind that while an identity resolution solution offers the capability to create referential identity graph services, which may be highly specialized (e.g., mobile device graphs), anonymized for adtech reach (e.g., hashed email graphs or cookie pools), or more comprehensive (e.g., offline name, postal and touch point graphs), it is also critical to consider an identity management solution that then integrates these third-party referential services with a brand’s own first- and second-party data insights as a means to truly master identity across all ecosystems.

3 / Deterministic vs. Probabilistic Matching

With consumer identities quickly shifting and evolving, understanding how to achieve accurate people-based marketing across digital and offline channels and devices presents a complex challenge for marketers. Handheld devices especially present a particular difficulty as cookies do not work on them.

Multiple new technologies have been developed in response to this recognition challenge, yet two main consumer identification/matching methods sit at the forefront of identity matching: deterministic matching and probabilistic matching.

Deterministic Matching

Deterministic matching models rely on an individual being logged in to an app or website. They work to identify consumers across multiple devices based on the information they use to log in to a publisher website (such as Facebook or a WiFi login screen), then search data sets to find a common identifier that links that user persona and identity with other digital representations.

Common identifiers include:

  • First and last name
  • Email address
  • Date of birth
  • Address
  • Phone number(s)

A deterministic approach offers a highly reliable, accurate identity persona and perspective on an individual consumer. However, it can be limited by the requirement for user login.

Probabilistic Matching

Probabilistic matching models use browsing behavior and location data – making assumptions about a cross-device user based on algorithms – to identify user identity. With the right, highly specific pieces of information, probabilistic algorithms are a powerful and accurate (up to 90%) way to link user profiles across devices.

Sometimes known as “device fingerprinting,” a probabilistic approach may consider points such as IP address, WiFi ID, location and other user traits based on personal data such as age, gender and other interests consistent across all devices.

Probabilistic Vs. Deterministic?

These identity matching algorithms connect data to real people, but what are the pros and cons of each approach?

When considered within an identity graph solution, deterministic matching offers a privacy-compliant foundation for people-based marketing, using a data set of different presentations and representations of an individual over time to recognize the real person behind the data points.

Yet probabilistic techniques are also increasingly important, as understanding an individual’s location (or inferred location) provides substantial opportunity for contextual, time-sensitive messaging.

Of course, each method comes with its challenges. Where deterministic matching relies on user login to a publisher site, probabilistic matching relies on location data. GPS coordinates, check-ins, IP addresses, beacons and more may help infer location, but real location can only be achieved by blending mobile data with the rich demographic, attitudinal and behavioral information contained in offline data.

Ultimately, a combination of traditional data elements (name, address, date of birth) and device-related points is required to reach consumers with relevant, timely messaging wherever they are. It’s a complex challenge, and one that must also be considered within the parameters of privacy and compliance to ensure transparency, trust and fairness in the eyes of the consumer.

4 / Marketing to Real People Not Devices

As we’ve explored, the goal of effective identity solutions is to achieve truly superior people-based marketing – enabling marketers to recognize and reach real people across channels and devices in real time rather than simply marketing to anonymous personas or devices.

The benefits of achieving this are, of course, numerous. From securing consumer trust and loyalty to ensuring the best use of marketing resources and budget, leveraging identity solutions must be a top priority for any data marketer seeking continued success in an ever-competitive, increasingly fragmented and constantly expanding digital world, regardless of industry.

A true people-based approach to identity is:

Acxiom “Real Person” Identity

  • Precise
  • Ethically-Sourced
  • Evidence-Based
  • Configurable
  • Persistant
  • Longitudinal
  • Multi-Sourced
  • People-Anchored

Reaching Real People Across All Industries

Identity is an issue that has impacts across all industries.

With consumer data fragmented across multiple channels, being able to identify an individual across the right channels at the right time can be a make-or-break factor in generating consumer loyalty.

With retail, for example, a particular challenge lies in aligning the digital and offline worlds to meet consumers’ expectations for a cohesive experience both in-store and digitally. Consider that someone may be browsing digitally while inside the store. Marketers must be able to recognize that, and more importantly, then – in real time – offer the best individual customer experience.

And while industries such as Financial Services have additional regulatory considerations, marketers must also be ready and able to achieve identity resolution with an even deeper level of compliance and transparency to ensure consistent trust.

Ensuring Privacy Within People-Based Marketing

Compliance and privacy must be at the forefront of identity. Because identity can be a challenging and changing environment, it’s important to ensure legal compliance and maintain consumer trust when managing identity.

One must strike a balance that uses identity resolution in a way that is accepted by consumers – one that they understand, agree to and expect – to deliver value and an excellent experience.

After all, customers today expect the brands to know them. They expect a familiar brand, or a brand they are loyal to, to recognize them – and deliver greater convenience and a more personalized experience.

So, it is up to the consumer at a first-party level to opt-in to certain tailored experiences. And it is up to the brand to recognize when a consumer does not want that level of recognition – and to act accordingly.

What Makes a True People-Based Solution?

So, how can identity solutions create a unified, single view of the customer? We consider the necessary data points, processes, data enhancement, links and management required.

5 / Getting Higher ROI From Your Advertising Budget

With an identity solution, marketers and advertisers can achieve real-time, pinpoint effectiveness in their people-based marketing and advertising, resulting in a more effective use of budget and greater ROI. 

So what does this look like in practice? 

Considering one common use case (and there are many!), let’s consider a CMO trying to make an informed decision about which advertising or marketing technology they’re going to use. It’s an important investment – making the right decision can be a make-or-break factor in terms of results and ROI. 

In this situation, identity is important because it can help the CMO, from the top down, understand precisely where to spend the next dollar by providing a clear view with multi-touch attribution.

How? Identity solutions “seed” user impressions, from a central system, so marketers can tie everything across all channels and touchpoints for analytics and attribution on the back end. Without an identity solution, that’s a very difficult, if not impossible, thing to do. 

Achieving that informed clarity across channels to maximize ROI – that multi-touch attribution – is more important than ever, particularly as marketing (and advertising, especially) moves increasingly from off-line to digital. And according to eMarketer, in 2019, spending on digital advertising in 2019 is expected to overtake spending on all other forms of marketing for the first time ever.

Identity, Attribution and Real-Time Contextual Marketing

In marketing and advertising, we’ve moved into a new world. Where there once were just three or four traditional channels to contend with, we now have an unprecedented number of channels to utilize. With the consolidated view and level of unified, multi-touch attribution that identity solutions can provide across channels – the antidote to fragmented, siloed marketing – is necessary to ensure you get higher ROI from your marketing spend. 

This is the real power of identity solutions – enabling real-time contextual marketing. As an example, say you serve someone an ad on Facebook but then they switch devices and make a purchase through a paid search ad. Only a sophisticated, well-organized identity persona lets marketers then track that person across those touchpoints to deliver the right contextual message. 

  • 1 https://marketingland.com/digital-ad-spending-to-top-traditional-for-first-time-in-2019-257365

Conclusion

Ultimately, identity solutions are “enabling” tools. Placed at the core of your data ecosystem, they connect the fragments and points that need to be combined for effective identity resolution and pave the way for multiple use cases, from marketing and advertising to customer support, IT, operations and much more.

Get Identity Right