Here’s What’s Keeping Marketers From Mastering Customer Identity

The value in accurately resolving customer identity across platforms is beginning to get the recognition it deserves. But to leverage identity, marketers know they must first face an enormous obstacle—getting the data right.

That can be extremely difficult to do from within a large company that still employs legacy approaches, with everything stored in multiple data siloes. Encouragingly, “Bridging The Gap: Advanced Identity Solutions For People-Based Marketers,” a Forrester report commissioned by Neustar, indicated that brands are beginning to understand just how necessary it is to be data-driven in today’s landscape. The report found that three-quarters of marketers surveyed anticipate their spending on ad tech, mar tech and programmatic tools to increase in 2020, with 24% expecting to spend significantly more. While the investments are a welcome sign, they also indicate just how far behind brands are.

The conundrum goes even deeper. Seven out of ten respondents said that achieving a 360-degree view of customers is important to the success of their businesses, yet only 10% are confident they are getting that view. A major contributor to the problem is the fact that many legacy brands are employing disparate, outdated methodologies for collecting consumer data. Plus, they are doing so in a disjointed fashion, using patchwork solutions to tie together incongruous data sets.

Finding the right methodology

Specifically, the research found that many marketers are struggling to meld probabilistic and deterministic data techniques together. All in all, the use of both methodologies for different tasks only serves to slow down a company’s progress toward obtaining an accurate and persistent customer view.

The proliferation of channels, platforms and devices makes data resolution even harder, and just when you think you have the data you need a new source emerges.

Of course, you can’t think about customer data without thinking about data privacy. Consumers are limiting the amount of data brands can collect from them, and as VP and principal analyst at Forrester Joe Stanhope put it, “brands are chasing a moving target.”

New technology offers new solutions

Forrester also asked marketers their feedback about two newer identity resolution techniques, both of which combine deterministic and probabilistic data, but with very different approaches and results. Overall, survey respondents largely favored a synchronous method over a sequential one. Several marketers told Forrester that they had started testing the sequential method only to shift toward the more advanced synchronous technique, given its ability to decipher which linkages between multiple data sets are accurate as well as which pieces of identity actually matter to brands.

In the survey, 59% of brands said this methodology yields greater, more reliable insights. In addition, synchronous identity resolution wields the promise of greater data scale without sacrificing accuracy. Among the brands Forrester spoke to, 80% see this method as valuable for building an identity graph and improving personalization across devices. 

Establishing accountability

When asked who in their organization is responsible for customer identity resolution, the range in responses was revealing. Almost all of the respondents (92%) listed the head of marketing, while 61% listed head of IT, 50% listed head of analytics and 44% listed head of customer success.

If everyone thinks they’re in charge of something, that likely means that no one group is fully in charge. The tendency to operate in silos won’t be easy to break.

Regardless of what form of sophisticated identity resolution techniques brands tap into to improve their customer-centric marketing, they won’t get very far if they don’t strive for more organizational synchronicity. That’s why we’re advocating for companies to treat quality customer identity as not just a marketing concern, but something that permeates an entire organization.