Implementing Identity Resolution, Part 2: Best Practices and Pitfalls to Avoid

Data Intelligence

Nov 24, 2023

In our first post in this series, “Understanding the Fundamentals”, we revealed the basic facts about identity resolution that all marketers need to know. In this  second part, we’ll venture into best practices and the pitfalls to be wary of, guiding you towards a more robust and informed approach to this essential process.

Think of identity resolution as the detective of the marketing world. It pieces together bits of data from various sources to create a single, unified view of a potential customer. Individual pieces might give you clues, but it's only when they come together that the full picture emerges. This process isn't just clever; it's crucial. It ensures that brands engage with their audiences in a consistent and meaningful manner across all touchpoints.

But here's the catch: while the concept of identity resolution might sound straightforward, its implementation can be anything but. Many brands, armed with the best intentions and the latest tools, find themselves stumbling when it comes to actual execution. That's why, just as a detective relies on a methodical plan to connect the dots, having a structured approach is paramount. This article will dive deep into the best practices to adopt and the pitfalls to dodge, ensuring your brand's identity resolution strategy is both efficient and effective. So, let's get started.
 

Understanding Identity Resolution - The Benefits

Identity resolution, at its core, is the art and science of connecting multiple identifiers from various data sources to build a single, unified profile of a customer. We’ve all seen the image of the obsessive investigator connecting clues on a pinboard with string. Think of it like that. But in this case, each piece of evidence is a fragment of customer data from a different channel. When assembled correctly, you see the comprehensive view of your customer.

So, why is this so crucial in modern marketing? Identity resolution is getting more popular lately, and for good reason. More and more consumers are concerned about data privacy - and governments are taking action. Laws like GDPR and CCPA now protect and regulate how marketers can use personal data. These new regulations are a total game-changer. They've given marketers a chance to really up their privacy and security standards. And the tech industry is following suit.

Big players like Apple and Google are phasing out common tracking IDs that marketers rely on. This means no more third-party cookies or mobile ad IDs to easily identify customers. Brands are scrambling to figure out "cookieless advertising" as we know it.

For most brands, those tracking IDs were the key to understanding and reaching their audiences. Without them, brands are losing visibility into who their customers are and how they interact with the brand across channels. Increasingly, delivering targeted and personalized messaging is a lot harder to do. As a result, some brands are falling back on broad, contextual advertising again. But that personal touch doesn't have to disappear! Brands can still get to know their customers and connect with relevant messaging - it just takes the right strategy.

The key is investing in first-party data and choosing a privacy-focused identity resolution platform. With consent and transparency, brands can still resolve customer identities responsibly. Then they can build those persistent profiles needed to engage audiences in a personalized, privacy-conscious way. Regulations like GDPR and CCPA have pushed the industry forward, not backward. Brands just need the right tools and commitment to reach consumers on a deeper level, even in a post-cookie world. It's all about trust.

Let’s point out few benefits of identity resolution for modern marketers

  • Cohesive Customer Profiles: Without identity resolution, you might see Jane as an online shopper on your website, a social media follower, and a newsletter subscriber. With identity resolution, you recognize that all three touchpoints belong to the same Jane, giving you a 360-degree view of her interactions with your brand.
  • Personalized Marketing: Ever notice how some online ads seem to “follow” you around? That's identity resolution at work. By understanding a user's journey and preferences, brands can tailor marketing efforts to resonate more personally and effectively.
  • Better ROI: A “spray-and-pray” approach to marketing is not just ineffective; it's costly. By understanding who your customer truly is, you can allocate resources more efficiently, targeting those most likely to convert.
     

Implementing Identity Resolution - Best Practices

Now that we’ve covered some of the major challenges and benefits of identity resolution, let’s examine some of the ways to get it right. Identity resolution is tricky, but it's critical for personalized marketing. With new privacy rules, more customer touchpoints, and all kinds of data challenges - it's no wonder many brands struggle with it. But there are ways to build an effective identity resolution solution!

With a track record of successfully executing over 4,500 campaigns every year, we've learned a few things about identity resolution. Whether you use a Customer Data Platform (CDP) or build your own pipelines, here are some best practices we've picked up that can help you tackle the complex world of identity management.

Start with a Real Universal ID

Many teams think they've solved identity simply by matching on an email address. But for most businesses, email isn't enough of a universal identifier. It still leaves customer data fragmented across channels. At Machintel, we use a canonical ID as our central source of truth. First, we take in external IDs from different sources - like user IDs, device IDs, etc. Then we match those to create unified canonical profiles in real time. This saves you from constantly having to resolve who different identifiers represent each time. And it connects data to customers in a privacy-safe way with your own identity resolution rules.

Simplify Your Data Pipelines

Building effective identity resolution pipelines takes a few key steps:

  • Collecting data from sources
  • Processing data into a usable format
  • Activating data for different teams
  • Orchestrating everything

As businesses change, these pipelines get complex fast. But a smart CDP backed up by a solid process can simplify the process - even through business changes. We make it easy to collect data from any source. Then we process it into identity graphs so you can understand customers across channels.
You can access the identity data or build experiences using our APIs. Our protocols also ensure you collect data the right way. So you can focus on solving business problems vs. fixing data issues.

Take a Rigid Approach to Data Merging

Every identity solution is a little different. But some are too flexible, and can't be predicted or controlled well. It's risky.
The best approach makes merging rules rigid. So you can focus where it matters most for the business. We take a 100% deterministic approach based on exact matches with first-party data. It might seem strict, but it enables reliable unification and transparency into why profiles are merged or kept separate. As privacy laws like GDPR emerge, deterministic identity gets even more important.

Understand Your Warehouse's Role

With data warehouses like Snowflake, it's tempting to make them the single source of truth. But handling an identity graph with multiple customer identifiers in SQL gets complex fast. Warehouses are great for storage and compute. But for identity resolution, you need a solution that can create a canonical ID used across systems. The warehouse alone can't do that heavy lifting.

Make Portability a Priority

A good identity resolution strategy means the whole business is in sync. You don't have to recreate identity graphs constantly. Instead, access unified profiles via APIs. This way, teams can build campaigns and models using the tools they need, while still leveraging that single customer view. For ultimate flexibility, even look for providers that allow bringing in third-party data. Identity resolution is tough, but following these best practices can set your business up for a more seamless customer data strategy.

Harness AI & ML for Deeper Insights and Precision

In the intricate world of identity resolution, Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML) have emerged as pivotal tools. These technologies sift through vast datasets with precision, identifying patterns and connections that might be imperceptible to the human eye. By leveraging AI and ML, businesses can achieve more accurate matches, refine their algorithms based on real-time feedback, and anticipate customer behaviors with heightened accuracy. Thus, integrating AI and ML into your identity resolution strategy not only amplifies its efficiency but also ensures that your brand remains at the forefront of technological advancements in the field.
 

Common Pitfalls to Avoid

Not Setting Clear KPIs

Launching into identity resolution without well-defined Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) is like embarking on a journey without a map. You might end up somewhere, but it may not be where you intended. Without specific, measurable objectives, it's challenging to determine success or diagnose problems. For instance, if your goal was simply to “improve customer experience,” how would you quantify that? Instead, a KPI like “reduce customer data duplication errors by 30% in six months” provides clarity and focus. Lack of clear KPIs can result in wasted resources, misaligned strategies, and missed opportunities for optimization.

Overlooking Data Silos

In many organizations, customer data resides in isolated pockets - or silos - across different departments or systems. A sales team might use a CRM, the marketing team an email automation tool, and customer support might have its ticketing system. If these sources aren't integrated, you're only seeing fragmented snapshots of your customers. This fragmented view can lead to redundant marketing efforts, missed cross-selling opportunities, and a disjointed customer experience. Address this by investing in tools or platforms that can integrate various data sources, creating a holistic customer view.

Ignoring Training and Onboarding

Even the best tools are only as good as the people using them. If your team isn't familiar with the nuances of the identity resolution platform or doesn't understand its full capabilities, you're not maximizing its potential. Moreover, lack of adequate training can result in mistakes - from minor data entry errors to major breaches of data protocols. Invest in comprehensive onboarding sessions when introducing the system. Schedule regular refresher courses and updates as the system evolves or as new features are added.

Forgetting About Data Maintenance

Implementing an identity resolution system is far from a 'set it and forget it' endeavor. It's crucial to recognize that customer data is in a constant state of flux. Individuals' lives are dynamic; they change jobs, move to new locations, update their contact numbers, and frequently alter their preferences. This means the data you have today might not be accurate tomorrow.

The consequences of neglecting data maintenance are manifold. Relying on outdated or incorrect data can lead to marketing efforts that miss their target, inefficient use of resources, and the risk of estranging your customers. In a digital era where personalized customer experiences are the norm, inaccurate data can significantly undermine your marketing strategies and customer relationships.

To combat this, it's essential to treat data maintenance as a regular, ongoing activity. Regularly scheduled data audits can help identify and correct inaccuracies. Incorporating automated data validation tools can streamline this process, ensuring the data you rely on remains current and reliable. Furthermore, fostering a culture that prioritizes data accuracy across your organization is critical. This includes training staff to understand the importance of data quality and encouraging them to actively participate in maintaining it. By making data maintenance a routine practice, you not only ensure the effectiveness of your identity resolution system but also reinforce the foundation of your customer engagement strategies.
 

Machintel’s Approach to Identity Resolution

Here’s how Machintel navigates the world of identity resolution:

Our Commitment to Unification:

We prioritize crafting unified customer profiles by integrating data from myriad touchpoints. This unified view is no longer a luxury but a necessity to remain relevant in a world that values privacy and personalization.

Embracing Complexity with Sophistication:

Acknowledging the intricacies involved, Machintel's approach to identity resolution is nuanced and multifaceted. We strive to keep pace with evolving privacy regulations, ensuring our methods are both compliant and effective.

Advantages of Our Robust Identity Resolution:

By achieving cohesive customer profiles, Machintel ensures a 360-degree understanding of our customers' needs. Our personalized marketing initiatives are therefore not just targeted but also resonant with individual preferences, ensuring optimal ROI. Our results speak volumes through solid, quantifiable metrics. Here’s a glimpse into the vast data intelligence that fuels our identity resolution capabilities:

  • Robust Contact Network: Leveraging over 275 million business contacts and 152 million company listings, we've built a comprehensive ecosystem that enables us to understand the intricacies of B2B interactions and corporate landscapes.
  • Massive Mobile Data: Our database encompasses a staggering 5.5 billion MAID records and 650 million unique mobile IDs, each one a gateway to deepening customer insights and enhancing mobile marketing precision.
  • Unmatched Clickstream Insight: With over 1 billion daily clickstream records, Machintel's ability to track and analyze digital footprints translates to real-time, actionable intelligence for your business.
  • Email-Device Linkages: Our repository includes 650 million device IDs tied to hashed emails, creating a bridge between online activities and offline identities, further reinforced by 100 million device IDs linked directly to consumers.
  • Omnichannel Mastery: Through 87 million omnichannel linkages, Machintel crafts a seamless narrative across customer journeys, reflecting a truly integrated marketing approach.
  • Geo-Intelligence: With 18 million location-to-person mappings, our strategies are imbued with geographical insights, ensuring that regional preferences and behaviors inform campaign designs.
  • Dynamic Data Updates: Keeping our data fresh and relevant, we implement 6 million daily profile updates, ensuring that the information driving your marketing efforts is as current as possible.
  • AI-Powered ID Graph Capabilities: Central to Machintel's data arsenal is our proprietary ID Graph technology, enhanced by artificial intelligence. It sifts through vast datasets, from social to real-time inputs, and refines them for precise targeting. By integrating AI methodologies, we ensure data accuracy, resulting in campaigns that resonate more deeply with target audiences, boosting customer engagement, and refining ad precision for brands and agencies alike.

Would you like to delve deeper into how Machintel can revolutionize your approach to identity resolution? Reach out, and let's chart a course towards a more connected and insightful future.