Thursday, November 23, 2017

Identity Resolution – the must-have marketing watchword for 2017

by David Barker, Global Product Director, Acxiom

Identity resolution; may sound like a TV crime drama or Hollywood blockbuster, but instead it is set to be the watchword for all integrated marketing strategies from now and forever into the future. In a nutshell, it means being able to identify and unify a customer’s interactions with a brand, across all touchpoints.

This is one of the major concerns facing many marketers today – in a world where a single individual could be interacting across desktop, tablet, mobile, real world visits to a location, a plethora of different social media channels, and of course the long established advertising media and contact channels of call centres; ensuring that interactions from one user can be connected across all of these methods is perhaps one of the most pressing challenges for businesses.

This is precisely the topic of a new Forrester paper, entitled The strategic role of identity resolution in which the research and advisory specialist discusses just why identity resolution is such an imperative for businesses, and marketers of all sizes.

When consumers move from one technological channel to another when interacting with brands, they naturally expect the brands to be able to move with them, seamlessly.

And as the power of the You Know Me society (as this trend has been dubbed) grows, customers will become increasingly irate if a business persistently does not recognise them as a valued customer, or indeed a brand new one who should be tempted over the line with an introductory offer.

The root of efficient identity resolution lies, naturally, in data. When a consumer ‘presents themselves’ at a touchpoint, there are various identifiers they carry, some traditional some new.

From your name and address to your email address, from cookies and your ‘digital fingerprint’, each has potential in helping recognise you as an individual. Before we continue further, it must be stated that in all cases, the data, regardless of form, needs to be collected and used in privacy compliant ways.

Consumer trust is at the foundation level of all data-driven marketing and identity resolution should seek to build it through a better customer experience, not erode it.

Just having data, however important it is, is the starting point of a more complex process. Without over-complicating the principle, the next key step is to create and manage an ‘identity graph’.

This is a range of identifiers related to an individual so that when an interaction occurs, the identifiers from that device and channel match those in the identity graph and return what can be best described as a link to allow the database, system or other to connect data that relates to this single individual together.

Do this and you have more of the right data connected to the right people, meaning a better customer view, better insights, marketing and a better customer experience. Good business.

One key subtlety and a major challenge for marketers is ensuring we recognise an individual but not necessarily the specific person by name, something that speaks to the difference between PII (Personally Identifiable Information) and de-identified data.

To ensure marketers operate within the privacy legislation, we need to respect the fact that while consumers are active in the digital space, unless they chose otherwise, they often wish to operate without their identity being known.

This is a key part of leading identity resolution capabilities. Done properly, while we may know John Smith has bought a new TV from the brand’s PII, he may then go into the digital space and visit a site, without identifying himself, that features advertising.

The critical ability is to match John’s digital identifiers not to him as John Smith as a person, but to another encrypted (or hashed as it is known) identifier that has a TV purchase associated to it.

This means that the brand he bought the TV from can decline to show an ad it may have otherwise shown or, can chose to serve a complementary ad, perhaps one for a sound bar or Blu-ray player.

The data has been associated, John’s identity has not been revealed in the digital space, the brand delivers a better message and John enjoys a better customer experience.