by George Corugedo

How to overcome the top challenges of achieving identity resolution

Aug 17, 2018
Identity Management SolutionsTechnology Industry

Identity resolution is the key to delivering personalized engagements. To be successful in delivering these engagements, there are three important business applications that build the base to help drive personalization at scale.

No matter the enterprise industry, common business practices today require personalization at scale, in terms of both volume and speed of resolution, with identity resolution at the core. Identity resolution consists of combining what is already known about individuals through personally identifiable information (PII) such as email, mailing address, birthday, home and mobile phone numbers, or other first-party identifiers, with data that marketers can purchase from a third-party to know more about the individuals, and information that marketers still need directly from individuals to complete a profile. This is an important element of establishing a competitive advantage in any industry as identity resolution allows for improved personalization, omnichannel orchestration, and real-time engagement that leads to increased customer retention, loyalty, and ultimately revenue growth.

While the need for identity resolution is increasing, the challenges and complexities associated with achieving identity resolution are growing even faster. Identity resolution is the key to delivering hyper-personalized customer engagements with relevant messages and offers that are contextually aware of the customer’s needs and wants. Though personalization at scale is a common theme, achieving identity resolution is a highly coveted yet often unattainable capability for most companies. There are various levels of difficulty involved with appropriately gathering and correctly organizing and categorizing batched, streaming, and structured customer data.

Individuals shift multiple times a day between anonymous and known states. When consumers are referred to as anonymous, they are considered to be in a state in which behavioral data is not personally identifiable. Although, being in a truly anonymous state is not achievable as information about a customer can still be discovered even without having access to certain elements such as the consumer’s name. Consumers can also be considered semi-anonymous where they are only known through their web presence. When consumers are referred to as known, they are considered to be in a state in which they are fully personalizable by integrating CRM data, loyalty data, behavior data, demographic data, and all other consumer data into a unified view of an individual entity.

Marketers aren’t only tasked with identifying consumers in anonymous and known states, but also tasked with identifying consumers on specific devices. It is estimated that digital consumers each own at least 3.64 connected devices, according to Global Web Index, and in today’s digital world, each device accounts for another potential engagement touchpoint. Although it is impossible to know which channel a consumer will use to connect with a brand next, understanding which consumer is using which device at each point of engagement is critical.

Businesses are consistently challenged with correctly recognizing the person, device, business, or household and accurately linking the associated data to an existing profile. I recently attended a vendor strategy call along with numerous implementers of “digital engagement technologies.” There was a simple question that stunned the audience: “Out of all of your clients, how many are truly getting the benefits of real-time personalization?” There was a giggly silence on the call and then one by one came the admission that only a few clients were actually enjoying the promised personalization benefits.

Individuals engage in multi-stage customer journeys 24/7 and expect real-time responsiveness from brands throughout the entire discovery and purchase lifecycle. But, for enterprises to scale this ability, they must first have the proper infrastructure in place as scale is every bit as important as accuracy.

So, what business applications will help companies build a base that supports identity resolution?

Build complete customer profiles to power omnichannel orchestration

A complete customer profile, or the Golden Record, is comprised of all that is knowable about the individual, such as first-, second-, and third-party data on behaviors, preferences, interests, and purchases connected to their Contact Graph. This is every possible proxy identity by which the customer may present themselves to the enterprise. The Golden Record persists over time and updated in seconds from new data and enables brands to deliver more relevant messages and offers for inbound and outbound marketing efforts, ultimately orchestrating engagement across all touchpoints, and/or determining the best offer or message that aligns with the customer’s journey path.

Rely on real-time decisions to build customer relationships

An always-on, always-processing Golden Record is key to enabling real-time decisions, so the individual is recognized in real-time and a progressive profile is developed to ensure that any messages are contextually relevant for each customer in any moment. This contextual relevance requires knowing where the customers are throughout their journey stages and touchpoints. The context could include connections that are physical location only, virtual only, hybrid physical/virtual, and/or social persona based on where one or more personas exist on a social network. At this point, the question becomes, “is the Golden Record implemented at scale?” If not, personalization activity is being sub-optimized due to stale data.

This is a major competitive advantage for brands that are focused on fostering and maturing relationships with customers. It helps brands compete more aggressively by understanding at which price point most customers will purchase, or a specific time of day they are more receptive to communications from the brand.

Leverage digital marketing tactics to deliver relevant messages

Data service providers collect cookies, device IDs, and other identifiers, and then attach it to an expanded set of third-party data. This information, when added to a Golden Record, enriches the profile and becomes a more complete view of each individual. However, brands must take caution when linking certain devices to the Golden Record. A desktop computer, for example, can be used by multiple members of a household. This is where identity resolution is critical as marketers would be able to track the usage periods and patterns so that a message meant for a father isn’t delivered to a teen daughter and vice versa.

The Golden Record pushes the level of communication beyond segmented messages and helps the brand truly deliver information to a “segment of one,” making the customer feel like they have a real, direct relationship with a brand and is not just another email address in a directory. With the level of spam messages and opt-outs happening in today’s marketing ecosystem, this trusted relationship is one that brands should aspire towards, covet, and protect once achieved.

Building this level of complex infrastructure may seem like a daunting task, but connecting all of the customer data available to a brand is the foundational element required to drive personalization, omnichannel marketing, and real-time engagement. With all of these elements in place, it is also critical to connect and activate data that may be sitting in an analytic data lake, which is effectively unusable until identities are resolved and data is connected.

If we are to embrace the vision of digital transformation in hopes of realizing the benefits of digital transformation, scale cannot be an ambiguous concept. The amount of data that enterprise brands have is a goldmine for optimization and growth, which can only be achieved by taking the first step to committing to an identity resolution strategy.