Today, consumers have multiple channels to connect with brands, and thus they have created numerous identities depending on how and when they interact with these brands. With the digital revolution, brands now face an additional challenge of engaging with consumers across many platforms or touchpoints. When brands capture client behaviors across touchpoints and identify them accurately, they can market and offer services as needed in the right situation to encourage loyalty and improve revenue at all points of the customer lifecycle.

However, it is difficult for even the most experienced market players to understand how many possible touchpoints exist. The challenge worsens when brands utilize siloed data stacks. Moreover, many brands do not grasp the degree of personalization customers expect or the range of available options. Personalization does not mean addressing a customer by name. Instead, it is about keeping track of a customer's preferences and behaviors in real-time to receive the next-best recommendations at the right moment. And we already know that consumers will more willingly share their personal information with a transparent brand about how it utilizes customers' data.

Enter identity resolution – a crucial step in delivering personalized experiences across all channels and creating a unified customer experience. Identity resolution is the process of identifying an entity through an automated process using probability and deterministic matching techniques to identify people or devices. Ideally, resolving identity concerns may involve standardizing, normalizing, validating, and enhancing data. The fact that the customer who made a purchase online is the same person who purchased via a web form will allow you to provide a different interaction than if the two pieces of information were not related.

As such, identity resolution aims to:

  • Create an accurate and usable representation of customers.
  • Optimize customer engagement and value through consumer behavior prediction and shaping.
  • Meet customer expectations to increase customer retention.
  • Provide offers to improve sales.
  • Improve customer experience by utilizing customer preferences accurately.

Identity Resolution - Touchpoints

With identity resolution, marketing professionals can link prospective customers across online and offline touchpoints. Typically, these touchpoints are a combination of the following:

  • Personal data: Can include a user's name, residential address, and contact number
  • Device data: Includes device-specific data such as IP address that identifies the devices associated with a user
  • Digital data: Can include email addresses, social media profile links, website views, and call-to-action clicks

Types of Identity Resolution

Once the identity resolution system has gathered all the terrestrial, digital, and device data, it can provide a probabilistic or deterministic match based on the technology and data sets.

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1. Probabilistic Matching: According to this approach, anonymized identifiers such as IP addresses, operating systems, location, browsers, and behavioral data are compared to the user profiles. For instance, a person who searches for a clothing brand on his mobile also uses his laptop to look for the same. Identifying a single person can be difficult, but with multiple similar records from different sources, having some linking information can help conclude that this is probably the same individual. A probabilistic match is an effective way to segment and target audiences based on similar records found on disparate devices with some linking identifiers.

2. Deterministic Matching: In this approach, the user profile is matched by checking all personally identifiable information (PII) of the user, such as their email addresses, phone numbers, credit/debit card details, and login details, and physical addresses. In this instance, a visitor logging into a website on a laptop/desktop and then into the mobile app a week later can be conclusively identified as the same person on both devices.

Identity Resolution Process

To make a customer profile and execute effective campaigns, specialists follow a comprehensive step-by-step process which is as follows:

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Step 1: Identify the various devices, platforms, and channels that customers use to interact with your brand through their buying journey.

Step 2: Connect the dots with the information gathered through various devices till the end of a purchase lifecycle.

Step 3: Match data records to identify which interactions belong to the same entity.

Step 4: Validate certainly that the same customer is reflected across all platforms and devices.

Step 5: Collate the results and activate data for campaigns across platforms based on advertising, marketing, and technical strategies.

Challenges to Identity Resolution

For marketers, creating a personalized journey for a specific customer involves several challenges.

  • Customers are just numbers or IDs, and there is no specific information about their preferences or devices
  • Linking the online and offline identities of an individual is complicated by technology silos, nonpermanent data, loss of data, and involvement of multiple vendors
  • Identifying and engaging customers with businesses via a multitude of digital channels and platforms
  • Inconsistent, incomplete, or non-existent unique identifiers to identify a potential customer
  • Designing campaigns based on assumptions and speculations such as device types and cookies and failure to identify customer preferences
  • Loss of engagement when customers switch devices or change platforms
  • Increased complexity in estimation as the database grows and a single record needs to be compared across multiple datasets records

Conclusion

Identifying customers and meeting their expectations is critical for businesses. A PwC study [1] states that customers are willing to pay more and share more data if companies can provide a relevant user experience. Recognizing customers regardless of channel or touchpoints can significantly impact their expectations, and offering appropriate situational interactions will improve customer engagement and success. Hence, to close the gap between customer expectations and reality and deliver personalized experiences, brands need to strengthen strategies for identity resolution. Especially since customers interact through multiple channels, businesses must have adequate and robust identity resolution capabilities.

References:
[1] Experience is everything: Here’s how to get it right, https://pwc.to/3LK8NlP