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Unifying Understanding of Consumer Identity

By Matt Mobley, CTO, Merkle

Matt Mobley, CTO, Merkle

Today’s marketer is experiencing a renaissance in one-to-one marketing. This is driven by our ability to better master the marketing funnel through the unification of the consumer experience across all media and channels. We are able to target specific persons in the upper parts of the funnel that were, in the past, reserved for mass communication to create awareness. Even in the earliest stages of communication, we are able to provide a specific message tailored to a specific person. At the foundation of this is the ecosystem of platforms, technologies, and partnerships that work seamlessly to create associations across all the signals that make up the identity of a person. These associations create a graph across terrestrial identities (name and address), digital identities (social handles), and device identities (cookies and mobile marketing identifiers). This identity graph is used to connect the consumer experience and allow marketers to have a consistent, continuous dialog with a person. This graph also powers the marketer to create richer insights around consumer propensity, message relevance, and marketing measurement. In the absence of this identity graph, marketers are forced to be reactive to a set of accidental experiences, which sub-optimizes marketing investments. Conquering the identity graphs represents the most foundational component for marketing technology and the biggest challenge for organizations. To be successful you will have to unite not only different technologies but also disparate marketing teams.

"Consumer identity and experience should cross all organizational boundaries: brand, Line of Business, or channel and media teams"

Some of the technology barriers to creating a unified identity graph have been removed through the advancement of data management platforms, customer data platforms, and marketing clouds. But these technologies have only simplified the more common parts of stitching the graph together. In some cases, the technologies and the ways they are deployed only succeed in creating another identity silo that is disconnected from the larger identity graph. The majority of these platforms stem from the digital marketing space and focus on digital and device identities. They are only just maturing to a place where terrestrial based identities are linked to digital and device graphs, and this linkage typically fails to consider the complexities related to the terrestrial identity. In conjunction with technology limitations, companies generally lack knowledge around the intricacies of the identity graph. Many times this lack of knowledge is further compounded by myths about what can and cannot be done. As marketing technologists are grappling with this issue, they must reach out to the open market for knowledge and capabilities. Interestingly, many of the providers of identity capabilities are based on an ecosystem of partners to create a robust identity graph that has scale. The marketing technologist should pursue the same path.

Overcoming the technology barriers can be the easier challenge. There is a defined path to resolution through the application of technology, data, and experts. The organizational issues can be more challenging, and many times these challenges are intertwined with the technology challenges. This ultimately leads to myopic decisions around technology deployment and usage, and in turn creates unlinked identity silos. In the organization, more digitally focused teams (e.g., media and site) and terrestrial focused teams (e.g., direct mail and call center) tend to deploy technologies and develop processes that are focused within their realm of the marketing space. These practices are in part driven by the marketing organization structure and metrics. Teams are rewarded for click-through and call time, respectively. These types of organizational separations do not foster disparate parts of the organization to come together to think about the entire experience. There may be a group of people in the organization thinking about the overall experience, but the underpinning for the delivery of that unified experience maybe unstable due to singular-focused activation teams. Consumer identity and experience should cross all organizational boundaries: brand, Line of Business, or channel and media teams.

Interestingly as marketing organizations begin to contemplate the creation of a unified consumer experience across all media and channels, their first stop on the journey is unifying the identity of the consumer throughout the marketing funnel. At this stop, they begin to realize the level of transformation, both technologically and organizationally, that must occur to make this happen. As they undergo and begin to succeed in these transformational efforts, they will quickly find more insights that will drive greater return in their marketing efforts. In my experience, I have seen a major insurance company discover that one of the top contributors to its new insurance product was marketing for another Line of Business. And a large high-tech company saw a 13 to 15 percent increase in lift in existing direct mail and e-mail predictive models once site behavioral data was added.

Many organizations have customer centricity woven into their corporate goals. At the core of this goal is the unification of the customer experience to drive richer, individualized dialogs with consumers. Also contained in this is the unspoken mandate to unify our understanding of consumer identity. In the absence of this, each experience will be unconnected and with only slight a chance for relevancy.

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