What is Identity Resolution in Marketing?

How identity resolution allows marketers to know their customers, recognize them across every channel and deliver personalized, one-to-one messages.

Who am I? Defining a person’s true identity is one of those big questions humans have grappled with since the start of time. You could be a lawyer, a younger sister, a mom of three, a volunteer firefighter, a camping enthusiast, a classic rock fan... and these individual traits contribute to your greater identity. Every person has a unique identity made up of countless behaviors, characteristics and interactions with people around them.

So, when marketers today talk about delivering “unified customer experiences,” they need to be sure they’re basing these experiences on who the customer actually is — unifying all of a customer’s identifiers and interactions, not just focusing on a single data point. Imagine if you visited your local coffee shop every single morning before work and over time you got to know the baristas. They asked about your day, learned about your hobbies and always had your favorite latte ready to go. Then, one day you decide to stop in on a Saturday afternoon and suddenly that same barista has no clue who you are and starts explaining the different menu options as though you were a brand new customer. Jarring, right? Well, this same disconnect happens far too often in the digital world when brands lack a unified foundation of customer data. From distinguishing “likely to buy” from “likely to churn” customers to targeting relevant ads to a teenage boy watching a movie on his mom’s tablet, brands need a way to identify who each of their customers are across multiple devices and channels, both online and off. 

Identity resolution (IR) uses exact and fuzzy matching, data cleansing, stitching, and deduping, plus a range of other real-time processes to bridge the gaps between all of these unique data points and connect them to form a master customer record that marketers and other teams can rely on for their source of truth. Identity resolution allows these teams to recognize customers and tailor messaging to feel relevant to every interaction.  

Identity resolution allows you to know who your customers are, recognize them across their devices and tailor every message based on what they need and want. Let’s dive deeper into the core capabilities of identity resolution in marketing and a couple common use cases where identity resolution can help you get a clearer grasp on all of your customer data.

Key Identity Resolution Capabilities to Look For

To leverage identity resolution effectively, you must first establish an accurate customer database. With teams working off of so many different tools and systems, organizations are now turning to technology like a customer data platform (CDP) that promises to bring together all of your disparate customer data sources to provide a persistent and unified customer database. However, not all CDPs can deliver on the promise of truly accurate data

That’s where identity resolution is needed to standardize each contact record, deduplicate multiple contacts, and enrich data with distinguishing information with geocoding or gender identification, household grouping and other validation. A sophisticated identity resolution engine may use a number of different methods to link different identifiers and resolve them into a single profile. And when such an identity resolution engine is built into the CDP, intelligence and one-to-one personalization is right at the marketer’s fingertips.

For example, if a customer files a support ticket with your online chat bot and then later signs up for an email newsletter under the same email address, exact matching brings both of these interactions together under a single profile.

However, customer information may not look the same across every interaction. Customers often switch between a work/school/personal email address, log in under a guest account or even have the occasional typo or alternate spelling when filling out forms ( “John Smith” vs. “Jhon Smith” vs. “J. Smith”). In these cases, brands require a more sophisticated identity resolution solution that can apply both exact and fuzzy matching rules to dedupe customer identities. Other identity resolution methods include:

  • Deterministic Matching - Resolves identity based on a known relationship between two identifiers (ex. Home address and phone number). 
  • Probabilistic Matching - Uses behavioral data not related to a specific identity (ex. device fingerprinting, IP matching, geographic location)

Identity Resolution Use Cases for Marketers

1. Optimizing Marketing Lists

Matching duplicate email addresses and records to a single master record can help marketers improve open, click and engagement rates by enabling them to focus on targeting the right customers with the right message at the right time and frequency. 

For example, retailer Lids’ use of the Identity Resolution Engine in Acquia’s customer data platform enabled them to cleanse, dedupe and standardize over 53 million raw guest records into 25 million marketable master guest records. Lids was able to use advanced segmentation to define audiences based on identifiers like purchasing trends by store location, coupon users and seasonal shopping behaviors to identify 1 million of their most valuable customers. After using this insight to build out a VIP customer segment, Lids then offered these customers an exclusive loyalty reward. The effort generated $250,000 in revenue.

2. Omnichannel Experiences 

Identity resolution helps marketers keep track of all of a user’s activities as they switch between different touchpoints (both digital and in-person) to create a more connected buyer journey. For example, leading global chocolate brand GODIVA wanted to better connect the experience between its physical stores and digital presence. They used identity resolution to unify online and offline shopper data to confidently identify true first-time buyers who had only made one purchase in the last six months, whether in-store or online. Reengaging with these new buyers and making them feel special with a free shipping/no-minimum offer with unique redemption codes led to a new standard in email campaign performance for GODIVA.

 Understanding total context for a customer’s relationship with a brand means that marketers no longer have to guess at the next best action. As marketers collect more and more data about customers, investing in marketing solutions with identity resolution brings all of the pieces together, so they can offer personalized and customer-centric experiences.

Learn more about the advantages of identity resolution in our e-book: Identity Resolution 101: What It Is and Why You Need It.

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