How Identity Resolution Drives
Marketing Success

Introduction

When a visitor comes to your site today, what do you know about them?

Do you know if they’ve visited before, what items they’ve browsed, or whether they’ve bought a product from you before? Even more importantly, do you know the difference between new customers, loyal customers, and at-risk customers?

The more information you have about every visitor to your site — whether anonymous or a loyal customer — the better you’ll be able to personalize your marketing and convince them to buy. That’s why identity resolution is so vital in B2C marketing.

Identity resolution is the process of stitching together current and historical data to gain a clear picture of your buyer across devices, channels, and browsers.

From the first anonymous visit to your site to the day a buyer shares their email address to their ongoing interactions with your brand, you should be collecting data at each step.

Many marketers don’t think about identity resolution in their day-to-day work, but immediately recognize the importance of it once they’ve seen the power of the data in action. We’ll explore different types of identity resolution, how it empowers ecommerce marketers, and how you can implement it at your own company.

What is Identity Resolution?

Identity resolution is the ability to stitch together data to correctly identify your buyer across devices, browsers, and platforms.

This is clearly important today since ecommerce buyers might start out by browsing products on their mobile phone, click on a Facebook ad, make their purchase on a different browser on desktop, and then ask for customer support via web chat. There are more paths than ever for a buyer to take in their journey to becoming a loyal customer. In fact, we’ve found that a loyal ecommerce customer has, on average, 6 different identities in your marketing system.

Without identity resolution technology underlying your marketing automation, you may not realize that it’s the same person browsing, clicking and buying. If your data is not accurate, you could end up wasting money on paid ads targeting a buyer who already purchased your product, or offering a “new customer” discount to an existing loyal customer.

Data errors can quickly make marketers look silly to their buyers — and that’s never a good thing. That’s exactly why you should be focusing on identity resolution. But what technology do you need to achieve this?

Probabilistic vs. Deterministic Stitching

As you can probably guess, identity resolution is not simple to achieve in ecommerce. With thousands or millions of customer interactions per day, you need specialized technology that enables you to track and unify large amounts of data.

There are two very different ways to approach unifying identity data: probabilistic stitching and deterministic stitching. So what’s the difference between the two?

Probabilistic Stitching

Probabilistic stitching takes a known data point and extrapolates the buyer’s identity from there. For example, a cookie on your browser is considered a reliable data source in the world of probabilistic stitching. However, a cookie doesn’t necessarily mean it’s really you every time. If someone else browses on your computer, probabilistic stitching will tie those activities directly to your identity and assume it’s you all along. Because of this, probabilistic stitching has a high probability of error.

Despite the inaccuracies, much of the existing Ad Tech world relies on probabilistic stitching today. However, what works in Ad Tech doesn’t always work in MarTech. An ad that isn’t 100% accurate in it’s targeting is much less noticeable than an email addressed to the wrong person entirely. That gap in accuracy can be especially problematic if you’re a B2C brand sending out millions of personalized emails per day.

Deterministic Stitching

Unlike probabilistic stitching, deterministic stitching leaves nothing to chance and eliminates the guesswork. Deterministic stitching only allows 1 to 1 matches in the data set. It’s binary — the data either does or doesn’t match. With deterministic stitching, you rely on data from orders, where you have authoritative information like name, customer ID, or address.

Because deterministic stitching relies heavily on the authoritative data, there’s less likely to be errors. For example, if you order a product on your desktop and the order confirmation goes to your email, you’re likely to open that email on your phone, click on the status, and then browse on your phone. Deterministic stitching is able to link up your email identity directly to your current browsing session on your mobile phone — despite the transaction starting on desktop and moving to mobile. That way, your customer will not receive an abandonment campaigns unless you can link those devices together.

Chaining the Data

Once you’ve identified your customers through stitching, you can then expand and extrapolate the data through the process of data chaining. Chaining is the secret sauce that makes stitching even more impactful.

Chaining is the ability to link individual, unconnected records through a chain of identifiers. For those that remember the transitive property from math class, it’s very similar. For example, you can link A to B, and when B is linked to C, A is also linked to C. If you’re able to link a customer ID to an email to a device, you can then link the customer ID to the previously unknown device. This is how you’re able to track someone’s identity seamlessly across devices, browsers and channels.

Get A Complete Customer View

In addition to deterministic stitching and chaining, it’s vital that you — the marketer — can view that data in a single location and analyze it historically. Once you identify a customer today, you have to be able to apply that identity to every action they’ve taken historically and unify it into a single source of truth. It’s incredibly powerful to understand how your buyers behave over time, see how their behaviors change and shift, and identify what marketing campaigns they respond to or don’t respond to. All of that data in aggregate will help you better know your customers so you can market to them more effectively.

This is exactly why you need the right technology for true identity resolution: a B2C CRM. Only then can you say with confidence that you know exactly who your customers are, what they care about, and why. You won’t be led astray by an anonymous click in a different browser or a mobile shopping session on a new phone. When they clicks on an ad, you know it’s really that individual customer. When they add a product to cart, you know exactly who is about to buy. If they submit a customer service ticket, you know exactly why. There’s no confusion, and so you’re better able to do your job as a B2C marketer.

Stitching Together Your Marketing

Identity resolution may seem like an interesting theoretical concept, but it also has a real impact on your day-to-day life as a marketer. Your goal as a marketer is always to make your message as engaging as possible. But how do you that exactly? The key to better ecommerce engagement is personalization.

Today’s ecommerce buyers actually expect personalization from brands. According to Accenture, 75% of consumers are more likely to buy from a retailer that recognizes them by name, recommends options based on past purchases, or knows their purchase history. That data is encouraging, however, personalization is only as good as the data you use for that personalization. Again, if your customer data is wrong, your marketing will not be accurately personalized, leading to embarrassing mistakes in personalization

In the world of personalization, getting even one identifier wrong is a problem. If you accidentally send a loyal customer the wrong message, you might lose them forever. For example, you might accidentally email a loyal customer a discount code off their first purchase — but it’s clearly not their first purchase. They may not be incredibly upset, but in the world of ecommerce, it’s so easy to lose a valuable customer. You never know what will be the tipping point, and so you want to do everything you can to keep them happy.

With reliable data on your customer identity, you’re less likely to make a personalization mistake that will drive away your happy customers. You’re never worried that you’ll accidentally send out a message with the wrong name, the wrong product highlighted, or the wrong offer. You know your marketing automation is based on solid customer data, and so you’re confident each time you click “send.” This is why identity resolution isn’t just a nice-to-have — it’s a must have for brand marketers.

In the world of personalization, getting even one identifier wrong is a problem. If you accidentally send a customer the wrong message, you could lose them forever. For example, you might email a long-time loyal customer a discount code off their first purchase — but it’s clearly not their first purchase. They may not be incredibly upset, but in the world of ecommerce, it’s so easy to lose a valuable customer. You never know what will be the tipping point, and so you want to do everything you can to keep them happy and engaged.

With reliable data on your customer identity, you’re less likely to make a personalization mistake that will drive away your happy customers. You’re never worried that you’ll accidentally send out a message with the wrong name, the wrong product highlighted, or the wrong offer. You know your marketing automation is based on solid customer data, and so you’re confident each time you create a new campaign. This is why identity resolution isn’t just a nice-to-have — it’s a must have for ecommerce marketers.

Marketing Through Customer Lifecycle

With true identity resolution, you’re not only less likely to make an embarrassing personalization mistake, you’re also able to more deeply and accurately target your customers. By collecting highly accurate data on your customers, you can start to separate them into very specific segments, such as one-time, repeat, and loyal customers. Then, you can start to do some even more targeted marketing tactics, like customer lifecycle automation.

With better customer data, you can market very differently to each customer based on exactly where they are in the customer lifecycle today. If you know a customer is new, or has made just one purchase, you will send them a very different message than a loyal customer of 5 years. Here you can see one way to segment buyers very specifically, getting deeper insights into what they care about and offer them more personalized marketing than ever before.

Even better, you can create dynamic customer segments, sending out specific, personalized messages to your buyers when they take action on your site today. If you know Buyer A just made their first purchase, you can automatically send out a welcome message offering them a coupon on their second purchase, showing off products in a similar line to the one they’ve already bought. Then, you can coordinate a Facebook and Google ad campaign with the same message, continuing to push for that all-important repeat purchase.

But again, customer lifecycle marketing always depends on the quality of the data behind it. If you have errors in your customer data, this type of specific lifecycle marketing can be risky. If you don’t know the data on your customers is accurate, marketing to a new buyer or a repeat customer could easily go awry. All of your marketing success relies on identity resolution, which allows you to have a reliable database of information about your buyers.

Tea Forte Centralizes Customer Data

Tea Forte is a great example of a company successfully using identity resolution to drive marketing personalization and relevance. The high-end tea company centralized all of their customer data, including order data, website data, product data, and more to get visibility into their customer behavior across channels and devices. Then, by filtering customer data by behaviors, products, and purchases, they are able to better segment and target customers to boost the relevance of campaign messaging.

It’s rare to find a platform that allows you to take a customer-centric view rather than a campaign-centric one. With Zaius, we can understand the conversion and revenue impact of each touchpoint and put the customer, rather than the channel, first.

Jurgen Nebelung, VP of Ecommerce and Digital, Tea Forte

To drive repeat purchases, the team uses their accurate customer data to identify the most frequently purchased and repeat purchased items and leverages them in post-purchase campaigns. Running email campaigns and coordinated Facebook ads, Tea Forte’s team is able to nudge customers to purchase again and again.

Analyze and Optimize Your Marketing

Not only does the data you collect for identity resolution help you better market to your buyers, it can also help you understand the effectiveness of your marketing. If you know exactly which buyers are clicking on what ad, email, or product image across browsers and devices, you can always improve and tweak your marketing efforts over time.

This is the final and most powerful aspect of identity resolution. With accurate data on all of your customers, you can see effective analytics and truly understand what your buyers like and dislike. For many marketers today, much of customer behavior is just not available for analysis because it’s so difficult to track. If you’re only tracking email campaign analytics with a traditional ESP, it’s unlikely that you can understand the full picture.

This is especially important in the consumer world, because most of your marketing signals are now on mobile. Without that data being linked to activity on email or search ad clicks, you’re in the dark as a marketer. You need to understand how and where your buyers interact with your brand — no matter the channel or device.

If you can’t incrementally improve your marketing results through analysis, you’ll never be able to truly grow your ecommerce business. This is why the true understanding of your buyer is so important. And literally none of this is possible without identity resolution. It seems dramatic to state this so forcefully, but it is true: your marketing success rests on how well you know your buyer.

But with the right data, you can know your buyer no matter where they interact with your business. That’s the power of identity resolution.

Further Resources

Now that you understand why identity resolution is so key for marketers, here’s more information about how data can power your marketing campaigns.

Why B2C Marketers Need to Own All Customer Data

If you don’t have a handle on your own customer data, it’s impossible to use it effectively. Learn how data can empower you to be more creative and effective as a marketer.

Use Product Detail Page Views to Fuel Your Email Strategy

By better understanding who your customers are and what pages they visit on your site, you can offer more personalized marketing campaigns than you ever imagined.

Measuring Ecommerce Ad Attribution for Maximum Impact

Because identity resolution allows you to understand your buyers across channels, you can now accurately measure the impact of your paid ads. 

Want to Learn Even More?

Find out how the Zaius B2C CRM enables you to achieve true identity resolution for your brand.