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Crawl, Walk, Run Approach to Identity Resolution, Part 1: Learning to crawl

Identity has never been more critical for marketers than it is today, given the proliferation of digital and online channels and media through which consumers and brands interact. As marketers embrace the people-based marketing philosophy, having the processes in place to ascertain identity (referred to as “identity resolution”) is crucial to executing on the vision. You could say it’s the lifeblood of people-based marketing. But implementing and scaling an identity resolution strategy and process is an intricate task. 

This series provides an outline of an identity resolution strategy and maturity path which can be implemented in a crawl, walk, run approach. For organizations without a substantial identity resolution capability today, the focus should be on establishing the foundation (crawl) while aligning vision, goals, and technical needs toward longer-term enhancements (walk/run). For organizations deeper into their own identity resolution maturity path, this outline may provide validation or course correction, while also identifying future opportunities.

Crawl Phase

The crawl phase of the identity resolution strategy focuses on setting the identity foundation by considering the following points:

Define identity-driven use cases. Discussing and aligning on use cases empowered by identity resolution is a key first step in defining the strategy. Use cases range from basic marketing improvements to aspirational long-term goals. The brainstorming and discussion efforts define the rationale and value behind the use cases. Business stakeholders should work collaboratively to prioritize them, thus shaping the identity resolution strategy. Think holistically when brainstorming, as they should cover topics such as targeting and segmentation, consumer-level analytics, marketing measurement, and journey mapping (to name a few).

Inventory consumer data. Take inventory on the required sources of consumer data as a starting point to the identity resolution strategy. This data should be consumer based and centered around names, addresses, emails, and phones. To start, the data is likely owned first-party data, but may include second- and third-party data authorized for marketing use. The focus should be consumer data that supports immediate marketing use cases, such as direct mail, email, or analytics.

Implement a customer data integration (CDI) solution. CDI is an industry term that describes the identity resolution processing associated with data hygiene, identification, and linking of consumer data across sources. The CDI process often exists with a contracted provider who performs these services on behalf of an organization. Some organizations may also implement these processes in-house. It is important to understand the overall investment required to deliver these capabilities and determine which option is right for your organization.

Establish the terrestrial identity graph. The outcome of the CDI process provides the ability to create a consolidated view of your consumers with associated contact information (addresses, emails, and phones) as well as relationships to internal identifiers (account numbers, customer numbers, etc.). The terrestrial identity graph often resides within the marketing database and serves a critical role for marketing, analytics, and measurement – all at the individual level. The terrestrial identity graph also helps unlock and virtually link data silos by providing a common identity rooted in known consumer information.

Identify compliance rules. Compliance considerations should be made throughout the identity resolution implementation and cannot be overlooked. Understanding legal, industry, and corporate compliance rules early in the identity resolution journey is imperative to ensure consumer data is appropriately managed. Each step of the identity resolution process should evaluate compliance with respect to data ownership, data security, data privacy, and consumer opt-in status and preferences. While the crawl phase is focused on the longer-term identification of compliance rules and strategy, it is vitally important to implement critical compliance rules immediately.

Look ahead to digital and device identity. For organizations that market and/or do business online, the inevitable need to identify consumer behavior and interactions at a consumer level will surface. This typically starts with first-party website engagement and expands over time into cross-channel and media digital marketing. To begin, consider if first-party website data is optimized with the appropriate data collection and tagging to capture digital and device signals. Capturing identifiable signals such as transactional identifiers, hashed emails, customer account/loyalty numbers, and device identifiers will help set the stage for website-level identification in the future.

Keep an eye out for part two, where we will dive into the next two step: the walk phase of identity resolution. Additionally, check out the white paper, A Marketer’s Guide to Identity Resolution, to learn more about the role of identity resolution in people-based marketing.