Customer Identity Management – What It Is, Why It Matters, How It’s Done

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As your brand spreads out across any number of addressable channels — from email to targeted ads, and from call center to catalog drop — how well can you coordinate your customer engagement across all of them? And when the customer comes into view of any one channel, how effectively can you turn that moment into an opportunity?

The answer to these questions rests largely on customer identity management: the marketing method of connecting a customer’s data across every channel — and activating that information into more effective, omnichannel engagements.

Customer identity management lets your brand recognize and connect with customers on the spot — wherever they are – and bring together the available information for a fuller understanding of who your customers are, and what makes them act.

It takes a three-pronged attack to create a successful customer program for your brand: a combination of data diversity, data accuracy and data strategy.

Three Steps to a Successful Customer Identity Program

  1. Diversify the Data

Every customer is a complex, multi-faceted individual. To understand customers’ identity, you need a data set that captures their many sides. You need data diversity — combining information from digital and offline sources.

Go Omnichannel

Some marketers equate forward-thinking data initiatives with digital data alone. But the truth is, you can’t do effective customer identity management without online and offline customer data.

Online and offline data each provides different inputs about the customer — so to get the whole picture, you’ll need both. Digital data provides a granular view of (certain) customer behaviors; but data sources like cookies, device IDs, and IP addresses are pseudonymous and won’t tell you who you’re interacting with. Offline data, by contrast, reveals very little behavior — but knowing a physical address or an actual phone number, for example, can identify a customer more precisely. Look at just digital or just offline data alone, and you’re missing half the picture.

Even in our digital age, offline activity is alive and well. Shoppers still live in houses, ride in cars, and — as the likes of Amazon and Warby Parker have noticed, shop offline. Indeed, close to 80% of shoppers still favor brick-and-mortar outlets for half or more of their shopping and a full 67% of millennials head to brick-and-mortar locations to make purchases after first doing shopping research online.

Not Just Shopping Data, People Data

There’s also more to people than shopping alone. To fully understand your customers, you’ll need to expand your view beyond media data, ad engagement metrics and sales records. You’ll need to capture people data like family size, demographics and psychographics.

Customer identity management enables you to know who your customers are and how they behave so you can serve them better and acquire more customers like them.

  1. Get Accurate Data

Once you understand what kind of data you’re looking for, it’s time to turn your attention to data quality. After all, your customer identity program is only as effective as the data you put into it.

Start with a CleanUp

A mere 3% of companies’ data meets even basic quality standards, so there’s a good chance your data is not as clean as you think. And even if your customer data was accurate at one point, a lot can change. Cookies expire, people switch email addresses, single people get married, workers switch jobs and change income brackets. Given all this, it’s no surprise that an estimated 60% of U.S. customer data becomes outdated within two years.

So, before you activate on your data, cleanse it. Examine what you have today and work with authoritative data sources to pinpoint flawed information and get your records straight.

  1. Set Your Strategy

No matter how accurate, diversified, and up-to-date your raw data might be, raw data is still just raw material. To put it to use, you’ll need to set sound data strategies.

Data Strategy: Methods Matter

Data strategy matters on a technical level, and on an operational one. On the technical side is linkage methodology. Data strategy is a lengthy, rich topic in its own right; but suffice it to say that when you’re pairing dozens to hundreds of identifiers across thousands to millions of customers, there’s ample opportunity to confuse one customer’s data with another’s. How you go about linking matters a lot. Before you move ahead, educate yourself on the data linkage approaches that make most sense for your business.

Organizational Alignment: To Link the Data, Link the Teams

In customer identity management, you’re connecting signals from an array of channels. To succeed, you’ll need to align data across the many different teams that manage that data, groups as diverse as traditional and digital media, sales and customer support. You’ll have to foster cooperation between teams with divergent KPIs, compete for share of budget, and may even work under separate P&L’s. All of this takes an incredible amount of cross-organizational coordination and cooperation — complete with adjustment, learning curves and politics.

When you’re thinking customer identity, don’t just think in terms of the data alone. Think about the corporate strategy it will take to get all that data in sync.

If you can do that, you’ll be well on your way toward more successful customer identity management. You’ll also be on your way to a true customer-centric business: a company that has broken down the silos and united its teams around the customer.

Ready to begin creating a workable identity management strategy for your business? Learn how.

This post originally appeared here on July 13, 2018

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