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What is identity resolution and how does it enable personalization?

December 10th 2020

Chris Daniels

By Chris Daniels

Head of Digital Strategy and Growth, UniFida

What is identity resolution and how does it enable personalization? - featured image

Not all cookies are created equal

For over a decade, third-party cookies have been the first and easiest choice for marketers to promote their brand offering to customers. In the US, marketers invested $11.9 billion in third-party audience data in 2019, up 6.1% from the previous year.

This reliance on third-party cookies has changed dramatically with new consumer privacy laws such as the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) and the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). Customers are now demanding greater privacy, transparency, and control over how their data is used which means our existing ecosystem for advertising and marketing needs to evolve.

In line with meeting customer demands for privacy, the large tech giants including Apple, Google and Facebook have made announcements aligning with customer privacy that impact how marketers reach their audiences. This includes Apple’s announcement to their Identifier for Advertisers (IDFA) and Google’s announcement to remove third-party cookies. This will impact how marketers attribute marketing spend across retargeting, exclusion targeting, segmentation, lookalike audiences and more. In short, a mammoth shift is required in how marketers communicate to customers.

At the same time, customers expect relevant and personalized brand experiences. They expect brands to know about them, what they like and when to send offers. In fact, 3 in 4 consumers surveyed by Forrester expect brands to know why they are calling or contacting them before they even do.

This is where first-party data and first-party cookies take the spotlight

Like chameleons, customers are becoming harder and harder to identify. And there are reasons for this. They are constantly changing their personal identifiers, such as email addresses, mobile numbers, or cookie IDs.

Identity resolution is the science of connecting the ever evolving and growing volume of customer identifiers to one individual.

What does a good identity resolution process consist of?

At UniFida we see it as matching all available personal identifiers, from every one of your customers, to get the best possible chance of joining your customer data inputs from multiple online and offline sources into actual customer records. This is then turned into a single customer view.

With the usual mix of badly typed email and postal addresses, varying address structures, and incorrect postcodes we often find, there is a problem just within name and address matching. In a recent case we found 25% name, email, and address duplicates. There is however a solution, using a customer data platform to keep hold of all the personal identifiers matched back to a customer so that you have the best possible chance of identifying them when they reappear.

Picture this. Adam Smith has a personal email, a work email, and a third joint one shared with his wife. He also has two mobile phone numbers, a home and work address either of which he can use for deliveries. He also has three cookie IDs because he uses a mobile, tablet and a laptop and, finally he has different customer ID numbers. Sound familiar?

Most email addresses rely on a perfect match. However, we know customers use different email addresses, change work, move address, change phone number, use a different device and so on. Postal addresses are captured in many different formats and often imperfectly. Identity resolution needs to be able to standardize postal addresses and create match-keys that seek to join together two addresses whenever there is a high probability of their being the same one, and join together the other identifiers mentioned above.

When new data reaches your customer data platform it then searches the entire customer identifier table for matches to the identifiers found in the new data. Sometimes there are none and a new customer record is set up, sometimes there is a match but at the same time perhaps an alternative email has been provided as well. Occasionally, what had previously been viewed as two customer records can be joined because the missing link has been provided.

At UniFida we partner with Fresh Relevance to complement their matching of online sessions across devices using their proprietary cross-channel identity resolution and ID-rate enhancement technologies. This provides real-time behavior and insight combined with the power to act on it and enables website personalization.

Why is this important?

Customers actively dislike not being recognized, for instance being treated as a new customer on your website when in fact they have been buying from you for years.

Then there’s the matter of privacy and customer service. A customer calls in to make Subject Access Request under GDPR. If you send them a report that leaves out much of their data because their customer record had not been tied together in the single customer view, they are going to be unhappy and could make a complaint to the Information Commissioner.

Marketers are increasingly focusing on first-party data to drive better customer experiences and marketing outcomes. More than half of marketers surveyed by Winterberry Group say cross-channel audience identification and matching is their highest priority. In fact, investment for identity resolution is projected to reach $2.6B in 2022, according to Forrester Consulting. So it’s no surprise that brands are taking this seriously and want to create a single customer view.

What does this mean for personalization?

Whether you are personalizing your website or your emails, it is essential to get the messaging right. For example, if you sent an email welcoming someone as a new customer when they had been a customer for years, they would feel insulted. Or if they received a price drop email for an item they had just bought, that’s likely to cause some annoyance. So it’s essential that personalization recognizes the relationship that exists between a company and a customer.

Having a single customer view enables marketers to better trigger and personalize emails, drive product recommendations, deliver personalized website experiences and personalize offers through social.

Benefits of having identity resolution in place:

  • Customers receive relevant, personalized communications and offers
  • Marketers can streamline communications across all touchpoints and devices reducing waste in overlaps
  • Increased marketing efficiency saving organizations money on customer retention and acquisition
  • Easier to manage privacy requests such as Subject Access Request under GDPR

At UniFida, we regard identity resolution as a key enabler for driving personalization. However, it is only the first step in a process that creates and updates the single customer view. This then enables engineered fields such as lifetime customer value to be accurately calculated, or propensity models to predict propensity to purchase to be accurately scored.

UniFida partners with Fresh Relevance and provides customer data platform technology to deliver personalization at scale.

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Chris Daniels

By Chris Daniels

Head of Digital Strategy and Growth, UniFida

Chris Daniels is Head of Digital Strategy and Growth at UniFida, a customer data platform that captures and unifies data from all online and offline customer behavior.