Establishing a shopper's identity is critical to personalization

Posted by Wendy Troncone on April 11, 2019
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Many marketers struggle to identify consumers as they shop in various channels and on a variety of devices. A universal identifier for each shopper is the crucial missing piece that can establish identity and enable personalization.

Direct marketing has come a long way since physical mail addressed to “Resident” was state of the art. But while marketers have achieved an increasingly high level of sophistication, the problem of identity remains.

For today’s retailers, success in the marketplace increasingly depends on the ability to personalize interactions. This in turn depends on the ability to recognize individual audience members (including customers, prospects, and other visitors) across channels and devices. In other words, the ability to identify consumers each time they interact with your brand, whether they provide any identifying information or not.

Too often, marketers lack the tools, data, and expertise needed to establish identity. This is further complicated by U.S. consumers using an average of 3.5 devices, plus a growing array of smart home appliances and entertainment gear, to do their shopping.

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According to the Association of National Advertisers Data, Marketing, and Analytics division (DMA), only 15.3% of marketing organizations say they can confidently identify their audience members across channels. A whopping 68.8% think they’re only partly successful at identity in general. No wonder the DMA reports that marketers find it difficult to explain the value of their identity initiatives, when the initiatives themselves seem far from successful.

It’s all about identity

Not surprisingly, the DMA expects U.S. marketers to spend $900 million in 2019 on identity solutions, growing to more than $2.6 billion in 2022. Regardless of identity spending, many marketers are still unaware that effective personalization cannot reliably happen without a persistent, cross-device, universal identifier for each audience member.

The “walled gardens” like Amazon have built-in universal IDs because users log in, but most retailers don’t have that luxury. Fortunately, the email address can make an ideal universal ID, and with the right technology, can be linked to otherwise anonymous shoppers each time they visit your website. To ensure consumer privacy, this can all be done using a “hashed” email identifier.

The email identifier unlocks a treasure trove of data as online interactions are captured, as well as through linkages to additional identifiers with associated data—such as other email addresses, physical addresses, mobile phone numbers, device IDs, customer IDs and loyalty numbers. The more data that can be collected and stored in relation to the universal ID, the more each interaction can be tailored to the consumer’s unique interests, preferences and tendencies.

Don’t pollute your identity graph

When it comes to establishing identity, it’s essential to understand the difference between using third-party data for identity versus content purposes. Third-party data is often probabilistic and aggregated from a variety of sources that may not use proper data capture and management procedures, so its accuracy is questionable. For situations where there is little cost or consequence if personalized content is not ideal, it can be a good resource.


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