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Identity: The Constant During the CDP Evolution

Editor’s note: This is the first part in a series that will discuss the value of identity and third-party data for any Customer Data Platform.

“What should I be looking for in a CDP?”

It’s the first question from nearly every brand that’s in the market for a Customer Data Platform. As a leading data provider, we have conversations on the exact subject with brands and publishers virtually every single day.

CDPs are an evolving technology, and they can still feel nebulous at times to the brands that are considering them for their martech stack. They’re not all created equally, and many CDPs have core areas of strengths when compared with others. But there is a universal way to make your CDP and the brands that leverage it more competitive: provide the best foundation of deterministically linked, updated, complete and enhanced customer identity data possible.

Brands need to know exactly who their customers are — especially in rapidly shifting online and offline environments. And their marketers demand a blend of authoritative deterministic data as well as probabilistic data resources in order to be confident in their decision making. To keep pace with the evolution, your CDP has to help unlock the power of brands’ first-party data and deliver the third-party data that fills in the gaps from the moment of ingestion all the way through deployment.

Third-Party Data: The Glue for Identity Resolution

As Winterberry has said in its research, among CDPs’ biggest challenges are “wrangling customer data into a persistent, universal profile and making the data available for analysis and action.” But taking a step back, a CDP must begin with having access to robust, normalized and — maybe most importantly — linked customer data as the foundation to build on.

A brand must have up-to-date first-party data as well as third-party data in order to provide relevant engagements in all channels and improve customer experience — especially with the imminent demise of third-party cookies. Linked consumer data with lifestage and preference insights is the glue that creates the “stickiness” that will make your CDP an essential part of any brands’ martech stack. Continuously fighting data decay and keeping data up-to-date will make your CDP nearly impossible to unplug from.

This includes accurate names, physical addresses, email addresses, phone numbers, mobile ad IDs (or “MAIDs”, which are rapidly growing as alternatives in the post-cookie world), hashed emails, transactional data, and more. Updated data will drive real-time relevant personalization for inbound engagements, segmentation, analytics, and outbound activation messaging.

The most competitive CDPs are the true drivers of identity resolution for their clients. They provide authoritative linking, and utilize a combination of client data, third-party deterministic consumer data, and powerful linking technologies. But they don’t do it alone.

Powerful Data from the Start

The unification of customer data across platforms and marketing channels is the crucial first step for any CDP. It ensures accurate linking at the moment that your client’s data is ingested into your platform. But ingestion must also include rigorous processes to verify, clean, hydrate, normalize, complete, and score the data, ensuring that a brand’s first-party identity information is complete, accurate, and deployable.

These are the questions we ask the leading CDPs:

Are you scoring and verifying identities? Inbound inquiries can be instantly validated and assigned a score. The higher the score, the more marketers can be confident in the identity data’s accuracy and prioritize the best leads and customers in order to maximize ROI and lifetime value.

What is your identity completion strategy? Once you ingest the data, are you completing the data for your clients with additional identity information such as name, physical address, phone number, or email? Lifestyle attributes (more on this later) and even predictive intelligence can also be added to drive the most effective inbound and outbound marketing initiatives.

Inaccurate, incomplete and poorly linked identity data can have a significant downstream impact if it makes its way into other systems. By verifying, scoring, correcting, and completing customer data at the moment of ingestion, customer data, your clients will have the confidence that they can create the best experience for their current and future customers.

Ongoing Data Optimization

Data can be messy. It must be cleaned and completed upon ingestion in order to build a foundation for success. But that’s not the end of data maintenance; it’s only the beginning. The next step for CDPs is the continuous optimization of brands’ customer data.

Optimization processes for any CDP should link multiple (and conflicting) data elements from disparate silos to ensure that identities are resolved to a single consumer, while keeping the data up-to-date. These are the keys to data hygiene:

Data linking: Mismatched data is among the biggest challenges for CDPs, and poor matching can be extremely costly for brands. Whether your clients utilize exact matching or fuzzy matching, deterministic data is the key to ensuring their customers are always correctly identified. By assigning a unique identifier to every individual and household, a single, persistent, authoritative identity record is created and duplicate records are consolidated to drive improved marketing effectiveness and accurate reporting.

Data hygiene: Keeping data up-to-date and linked is an ongoing battle. Data decays rapidly, meaning that about 30% of the identities and attributes in a CDP without proper data hygiene are wrong or missing critical identifiers at any given point in time. But decay in your CDP can be neutralized by working with a provider for continuous data cleansing to ensure accuracy and maintain strong identity links at all times.

In maintaining linked, de-duplicated and cleansed consumer identity data, your CDP will empower brands to put an end to data silos and minimize costly data decay. In doing so, marketers are able to reduce waste and maintain their ability to reliably reach the right consumers at scale with relevant and compelling messaging as their lives evolve and change. Maximizing data hygiene now minimizes the mess that customer service agents must clean up after misidentifying a loyal customer later.

Paint the Full Picture for Your Clients

Accurate linkages within your system ensure a 360-degree view of consumers. But once you have this great foundation of deterministic matching, you must continue to add value by providing a wealth of demographics that your clients — no matter their industry — can activate. Providing the ability to fully understand customers for personalization is critical in creating stickiness with your CDP and adding value to your customers to ensure longevity in the relationship.

Brands and marketers require a CDP that can offer a comprehensive view of each customer that consists of both online and offline indicators. Aside from identity markers such as name, address, phone and email, CDPs should also include rich attributes to enable personalized messaging and segmentation such as:

  • Gender
  • Age
  • Marital status
  • Presence of children
  • Home ownership
  • Financial indicators
  • Lifestyle and interest data

Personalization is no longer optional. Customers expect it in nearly every interaction with a brand. CDPs that leverage the best third-party data available ensure marketers are in a position to create relevant and valuable 1-1 messaging. And your CDP’s lifestyle attribute data and intelligence should not only fuel personalization, but also track changing preferences and needs as life journeys unfold (e.g. marriage, presence of children, new homes) so brands’ messaging can evolve along with their customers. By filling these gaps in consumer records with third-party data, brands are empowered to drive smarter marketing that leads to better conversion rates, ROI, and lifetime value.

Data Separates Your CDP

No matter the end user’s goal, third-party identity data is going to be crucial now and in the future for your CDP. Work with a provider to verify, score, link, cleanse, normalize first-party data, and you’ll provide the strongest possible foundation for your CDP and become an integral part of your clients’ martech stack. Empower brands to personalize interactions with relevant messaging no matter their customers’ life stage through identity completion and enrichment. Provide the rich third-party demographic and lifestyle attributes that will truly separate your CDP from the pack and enjoy the same brand loyalty from your clients as they’ll see from their own customers.

Next in our CDP series: Part 2 will show you how a third-party data provider improves intelligence and activation in your CDP.

About The Authors: Michelle Tilton & Jason Ford
Michelle serves as vice president of marketing for Infutor, focused on brand, content, thought leadership and lead generation. Her marketing and consumer data insight comes from more than 15 years of experience including 10+ years of BtoB technology, data and media marketing expertise.

Jason serves as vice president of partnership development for Infutor. He is a strategic technology leader who has worked in both early/late stage start-ups and established organizations with an extensive history of understanding online media products, analyzing their performance, communicating value and building out partner revenue streams.

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