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The Digital Identity Crisis!

Neeraj Pratap 0

I have encountered numerous instances where people face an identity crisis, but in the last few months the ‘digital identity’ crisis has been the most talked about. I typically relate this to the good old days when we used to attend conferences and seminars. I would bump into some people who knew me by name, and I, for goodness sake could not place them, forget recollecting their name! This is exactly the way a customer feels when he goes ‘unrecognized’.  Today, the customer is all over the digital landscape. He is leaving his imprint everywhere. The trouble for marketers is – how do I correctly identify this person? 

There is enough if not too much data flowing into the system, but the core issue is that a lot of it is duplicate, incomplete, inaccurate, and disconnected customer data. Marketers find it very difficult to identify or let me say ‘recognize’ the customer. In my numerous interactions with Marketers, this is emerging as the single biggest challenge in providing relevant, context driven experiences. I can assure you that the amount of time I have spent in customer single view meetings working on identity resolution discussions is disproportionately high. There are a lot of marketing automation tools, customer journey maps, AI & ML assisted analytical models but without the identifying or ‘recognizing’ of the customer all the other efforts will still remain hugely sub-optimal. Forrester defines identify resolution as – the process of integrating identifiers across available touchpoints and devices with behaviour, transaction and contextual information into a cohesive and addressable consumer profile for marketing analysis, orchestration, and delivery. 

A great customer experience completely depends on understanding what a customer wants, when and how he needs and where he is in his buying journey. In a connected world, the customer will punish brands for irrelevant communication. When we look at campaign data and conversion numbers, it is becoming more and more obvious and ominous. 

The main benefits of customer recognition or identity resolution are – 

  1. It connects anonymous and unique IDs with the attributes found and this in turn, helps in creating more accurate customer profiles. 
  2. It makes cross-device targeting much more effective. 
  3. It enables better decision making with the latest, consistent and accurate customer info. 
  4. At a macro level, it will help improve customer experiences and reduce the cost of acquisition. 

Some of the steps that Hansa Cequity has identified (no pun intended) for identity recognition include – 

  1. Identify all platforms, devices and channels that are a part of the customers’ path to purchase. 
  2. Connect these platforms, devices and channels. 
  3. Match the individuals to each device/ platform according to a defined set of identifiers or attributes. 
  4. Do a validation exercise to reasonably conclude that it is the same customer across all platforms and devices. 
  5. Synchronize the personalized campaigns based on the customer needs and marketing strategy. It will truly enable omnichannel marketing. 

I have kind of oversimplified the process for the common good of better understanding but a lot of detailing and understanding of probabilistic and deterministic approaches is required to get to the desired point. In the probabilistic approach, the customer profile is matched by tallying the anonymized identifiers like IP address, OS, location, browser, and behavioural data, etc. Probabilistic matching is good if you want a wider reach, but it will likely give lower levels of accuracy. In the deterministic approach the customer profile is matched by tallying the PII, which includes the first-party data (email, mobile number, credit card number, login information, physical address, etc.) Deterministic matching is best when you are looking to obtain maximum accuracy in your matching. 

Some of the technical components of Identity Resolution include Data onboarding – it is the technical process of uploading offline customer data, such as CRM, into an online environment to match with digital identifiers. Identity Graphs – a database that houses all the known online and offline identifiers correlated with individual customers.  

Email addresses, device identifiers, phone numbers, and cookies comprise identity graphs, as well as behavior trends, such as purchase history and online browsing history. The last step is the synchronization and activation of digital profiles across channels to continuously recognize customers. It also helps in adhering to regulations that define how PII must be treated in a particular region. It is a fast evolving MarTech tool and is increasingly being used in CDPs and DMPs. There are a lot of software solutions in the market providing identity resolution solutions. We at Hansa Cequity are committed to helping our clients identify and solve this identity crisis.