A lot is written, and said, about identity resolution. The conversations can be extremely technical or deliver claims that seem too good to be true. With so much noise, how can you determine what’s real and what’s not? Epsilon-Conversant commissioned Forrester Consulting to conduct a study on identity resolution and explore how identity capabilities fit into the evolving needs of modern businesses. Based on the initial findings, it’s clear that the industry still has a long way to go. To help separate fact from fiction, I want to share the myths I often hear about the five keys of identity resolution, important stats from the research, and why getting identity right is more important than ever.
Myth #1: Historical Match Is a Good Substitute for Active Customers
Fact: 69% of marketers struggle to determine what percentage of their addressable audience is active and reachable online (Forrester Consulting, September 2019).
Simply because you positively matched a customer two months ago doesn’t necessarily mean they are an active shopper today. To understand if a person is in the market for your product, a partner providing identity resolution capabilities must be able to manage data collection, activation, and measurement.
Here’s why: If you work with one company for data onboarding—and they’re not matching people to real-time signals—and another company for activation, the data onboarder is likely to overinflate the number of in-market customers. Rotating advertiser IDs is another issue when identifying active customers. These IDs are changing just as fast as third-party cookies, causing marketers to have fractured views of their audiences. The customer journey isn’t just a talking point; shoppers expect brands to know where they are in the purchase funnel.
Myth #2: When It Comes to Scale, the Higher Number the Better
Fact: 63% of marketers struggle with the scale of their Marketing programs (Forrester Consulting, September 2019).
Scale matters, but scale plus accuracy sets you apart. The U.S. Census Bureau estimated more than 253 million people over the age of 18 were living in the U.S. as of July 1, 2018. Yet, I still see competitors that claim to be able to message more than that due to poor cross-device methodology and/or match stability. Rotating advertiser IDs can be an issue here as well. If a number looks too good to be true, it might be.
Here’s why: The same person, or device, can end up looking like unique individuals at significant rates if you have poor cross-device, lack match stability or have to contend with rotating advertiser IDs. Quality customer profiles in combination with scale are necessary to make certain you’re not wasting money because of bad identity resolution.
Myth #3: Accurate Consumer Profiles Do Not Need to Be Continuously Validated
Fact: 58% of marketers have challenges determining how accurately their identity resolution program enables them to message the right person across devices and channels (Forrester Consulting, September 2019).
Verifying that you can accurately recognize and message customers is an ongoing process. If your partner isn’t tying marketing messages back to purchases or conversion events, they’re likely missing a quality assurance step.
Here’s why: Conducting regular QA will allow you to determine whether or not online data is integrated with offline data (where users are likely to provide their real name and shipping address). This is one essential piece to positively recognizing customers. Testing impression-level delivery tied to transactions is another. When you can link your advertising to an individual—whether it’s a purchase, registration or something else—you’ll know your messages are getting to the right people.
Myth #4: Cookie Instability Prevents You from Reaching the Same Person over Time
Fact: 71% of marketers struggle with accurate identity over time (Forrester Consulting, September 2019).
Companies that can provide a strong cross-device methodology plus scale will allow you to maintain a connection with individuals over longer periods of time. It doesn’t matter if you’re messaging them today, tomorrow or in a year. Ask to see, or evaluate, your partner’s persistence rates on a regular basis. If your ability to match and reach people accurately over time isn’t stable or degrading exponentially (industry-wide, most profile matches burn off after 18 days), ask your partner about it.
Here’s why: Without stability and match, you can’t drive deep engagements. You should expect nothing less than to have long-lasting relationships and conversations with your customers.
Myth #5: When It Comes to Protecting Customer Privacy, “Trust Us”
Fact: 40% of marketers struggle to ensure privacy controls and opt-outs are in place (Forrester Consulting, September 2019).
Some tech companies appear to empower people to protect personal information more than ever. Unfortunately, those same organizations don’t always practice what they preach. Don’t assume your partners have privacy controls in place. Ask them about their approach for maintaining opt-outs and how they handle consumer choice over time.
Here’s why: Companies that rely on stability in their identity graph or the instability of advertiser IDs are likely automatically opting consumers back in despite an individual’s choice. Respecting consumers’ decisions and offering an easy-to-use consent tool, that allows consumers to see their data and selectively opt-out, is the gold standard.
There are far too many false claims made about identity resolution and people-based advertising without proof to back them up. If your identity partner is perpetuating any of these myths for their own gain, it’s time to make a change. Instead of trying to move the market forward, these “partners” are holding it back. Ask questions at every step. Run match tests with new partners. Demand that existing partners provide QA statements and feeds. If you don’t hold your partners accountable and conduct regular evaluations, the end results will be wasted ad dollars and frustrated customers.