The Battle for ATTENTION: Will AI Save The Advertising Industry in a Privacy-Driven Economy?

Identity Resolution & Why Your Brand Needs It Now

By Megan Wells

Imagine a user clicks through one of your banner ads, browses your website, and downloads your app. Hours later, they visit your store and make a purchase. This is a win for your brand—at least, it’s a win until that user sees another retargeting ad for the same item they’ve just purchased. 


Fumbles like this happen all the time, and it’s due to marketing tech that fails to connect user behavior across channels. Suddenly, your happy new customer has reason to wonder just how savvy your brand is, and what kind of customer experience you deliver.


Sourcing, aggregating, and analyzing customer journeys is a challenge. With touchpoints spread across so many platforms—CRMs, DMPs, CDPs, etc.—unifying data is a daunting task. Add in the complexity of users switching between devices or disabling cookies and it gets even tougher. A Google survey found that as early as 2012, 90% of consumers used multiple devices to accomplish a single objective online. 


Stitching all of those touchpoints together is difficult, but not impossible. With identity resolution, brands can build a cohesive and comprehensive view of their customers’ journeys. 


Read on to learn more about identity resolution and how marketers can leverage it to craft a better CX.

What is identity resolution?

Identity resolution is the process of compiling all of a customer's touchpoints and interactions with your brand into a cohesive and comprehensive journey. By gaining granular insight into a user, every team within your organization can provide a seamless customer experience, and avoid clunky mistakes.


How complex is the task of identity resolution? While research varies, CRM platforms like Hubspot and Salesforce say it can take 6 to 8 touchpoints before generating a lead. When you look at a customer’s entire lifecycle with your brand, it can span thousands of touchpoints.


A customer creates and provides countless pieces of data to weave together, but they generally fall into a handful of broad categories:


  • Digital fingerprints, including cookies and device signatures like platform, operating system, browser, or app
  • Basic contact information such as name, email, phone number, and address
  • Demographic data that users willingly provide, like gender, age, education, income, and interests
  • Behavioral data generated from analytics, such as browsing history or how they use your app
  • Direct interactions with your company, be it over the phone, email, live chat, or visiting a physical location


When viewed through a single pane of glass, all of this data paints a vivid picture of who your customer is and how you can best serve them.

How to approach identity resolution

There’s no silver bullet for identity resolution. And given the complexity of the digital experience and its numerous data points, there are a wide array of solutions.


They generally fall into two broad approaches:


  • Deterministic: Deterministic identity resolution works off data that you can confirm. It merges touchpoints into a comprehensive customer record based on matching things like email address, phone number, username, or device signatures. For example, if an existing customer went to a brick-and-mortar store and used their phone number to access their account—a solid, factual piece of data—you could tie that visit to them with deterministic identity resolution.


  • Probabilistic: On the other hand, probabilistic identity resolution centers on making an educated guess. It uses predictive algorithms and triangulates data points—like IP addresses or behavioral data—to construct a probable user profile. Building customer models without collecting personally identifiable information is attractive, but it’s also subject to a higher margin of error.


While both approaches have their merits, the death of third-party cookies and an increasing reliance on first-party data make focusing on deterministic modeling a safer bet moving forward.

Top challenges brands face in achieving identity resolution

Having a 360-degree view of all of your customers’ identities is ideal, but it’s sometimes easier said than done. According to a report published by Forrester, less than 25% of marketers are confident in their ability to manage customer IDs with sufficient depth and accuracy.


There are a few challenges brands face in implementing identity resolution:


  • Lack of information: Identity resolution can be especially challenging before a user has made a purchase, created an account, or otherwise provided personally identifiable information. Relying on cookies and device identifiers can work, but will always leave a degree of ambiguity.


  • Fragmented identities: Research from Deloitte found that the average U.S. household has 25 connected devices. As users jump from phone to tablet to a computer when interacting with your brand or product, it can be difficult to link their identities on each device to each other.


  • Data overload: Users generate a staggering number of touchpoints to process. Trying to zero in on meaningful insights can be daunting. AI, machine learning, and predictive algorithms are a necessity for giving marketing teams a handle on the data at their disposal, but it still takes time and effort to tune those algorithms to fit your brand’s needs.


  • Fractured toolsets and data streams: Let’s revisit our hypothetical customer from the beginning of this article. Your digital marketing team can track their ad click, browsing history, and app downloads. Meanwhile, your sales department knows they bought your product. But what if you only run web analytics reports every week and then need to sync them with sales reports? Many organizations struggle with integrating data streams that are siloed within a given department, which is essential to a successful identity resolution strategy.

Why brands need identity resolution to succeed

As any experienced marketer can attest, knowing your audience is the foundation of almost every successful effort. Here are six ways that identity resolution can help elevate your brand:


  1. 1. Seamless customer experience

Standing out in a competitive marketplace is tough. When your competitors all offer the same features at similar price points, a sterling customer experience can be the key to winning– keeping–business. Identity resolution enables your team to better understand your customers and deliver precisely the experience they’re looking for.


  1. 2. An accurate view of your customers

A deeper understanding of your customers opens up a world of possibilities for marketers. You can deliver more effective offers, segment your audience into more accurate and granular groups, and craft laser-targeted content.


  1. 3. Optimized marketing and ROI attribution

In an omnichannel world, managing your marketing ROI can be a significant challenge. How do you tie a banner ad to someone who eventually visited your physical store to make a purchase? Identity resolution links those events and allows you to see how your marketing efforts across all platforms impacted an eventual sale.


  1. 4. Precise personalization

Presenting content based on demographics and best guesses just doesn’t cut it anymore. Research from Epsilon indicates that 80% of consumers are more likely to do business with a brand that offers personalized experiences. With effective identity resolution, you can ensure a tailored interaction across every platform and touchpoint.


  1. 5. Increased retention and reduced churn

Winning new customers isn’t easy, nor is it cheap. Research shows that customer acquisition can cost up to five times more than retention. Once you have them in the door, you want to keep your customers happy. Identity resolution is a huge boost to user satisfaction. By delivering better personalization and a smoother customer experience, you can increase satisfaction and keep your churn rate low.


  1. 6. Improved data privacy compliance

With data privacy laws getting stricter every day, regulatory compliance is an increasingly hot topic for marketing teams. Linking customer identities across all platforms and channels makes it easier to ensure that you’re respecting users’ communication preferences. Imagine a user opts out of marketing communications via email, but you haven’t linked that to their phone number. Sending them an automated SMS would be a huge misstep. 


Additionally, clauses within some privacy laws allow customers to request a record of all of their data in your system. You need to be able to easily access that data without manually linking several databases.

Build a robust identity resolution process with Scuba

Your brand’s success depends on your ability to understand, serve, and communicate with your customers. Identity resolution is a key component of that success, and you need a robust toolset to make it happen.


Scuba’s customer intelligence platform facilitates identity resolution in a variety of ways:


  • Real-time analytics that allows you to access constant insights into customer actions and rapidly respond to your users' needs
  • Interactive tools to explore your customers' journeys at a granular level, spot pain points, and enable constant improvement and optimization
  • Breaking down organizational barriers by unifying fractured data streams into a single platform to analyze with a comprehensive toolset
  • Performing complex queries and analyses without any coding knowledge or data science resources
  • Ensuring compliance with data privacy regulations, with robust security and data storage tailored or your organization


Ready to discover how Scuba can help your brand with identity resolution? Request a demo today or talk to a Scuba expert.

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