advertisement
advertisement
The Fast Company Executive Board is a private, fee-based network of influential leaders, experts, executives, and entrepreneurs who share their insights with our audience.

What every C-suite executive needs to know about identity

At its core, identity is the ability to recognize people—customers and prospects—across channels and devices. 

What every C-suite executive needs to know about identity
[StratfordProductions / Adobe Stock]

Identity may be the marketing word of the year for 2022. Given the focus on the deprecation of third-party cookies, the changes Apple and Google have announced for accessing identifiers on their devices, and the ever-changing privacy law landscape, identity is everywhere.

advertisement
advertisement

But what is identity, and how does it impact your business? Is it just a digital marketing problem or an operations problem, or both? Do you need to do something now or wait? Can it help you drive growth or is it just another cost?

These are just some of the questions I regularly hear from executives across a range of industries. It’s time to make the definition and the benefits of identity clear. Here’s what the c-suite needs to know.

WHAT IDENTITY IS, AND WHY IT MATTERS

At its core, identity is the ability to recognize people—customers and prospects—across channels and devices.  Recognizing people requires identifiers (IDs), which connect the data that makes up a person’s identity and ties in information like contact information, preferences, and purchase history.

advertisement
advertisement

With hundreds of touchpoints, there is no single ID to rule them all, which means identity resolution is needed.  Is the Janelle who visited your store in Phoenix the same Janelle who emailed you for support, bought online, shipped to NYC, and received 10 ads from you across her social media feed, streaming TV, and mobile device in the last month?

To connect all the ‘versions’ of Janelle, you need to be able to resolve the various IDs into an identity graph. This is what highly advanced companies do to understand their customers. As a brand, you too, need an identity solution, built for your brand and your needs. Without it, you cannot have the comprehensive view of Janelle that provides the insights needed to serve, satisfy, and delight her.

To ensure you gain and maintain a competitive edge in all customer engagement activities, your brand must create identity solutions at scale, across multiple use cases and platforms. Understanding people across paid, earned, and owned media is paramount to your business success.

advertisement

THE IMPACT OF IDENTITY

Identity is a revenue driver and a cost saver—it’s about marketing and operations.

Driving revenue often comes down to a combination of increasing conversion and upsell with more personalized offers while also respecting customers, suppressing messages to existing audiences, and accurately applying frequency caps to avoid over-messaging.

According to McKinsey, 71% of people say brands should deliver personalized interactions, and brands that listen, benefit. Personalization can drive 10% to 15% revenue lift.

advertisement

Identity is also about cost savings. It’s critical to business operations, particularly when it comes to data privacy compliance. It gives you the ability to honor preferences and opt-outs, and to build automated processes for responding to privacy inquiries. Compliance is not just about avoiding large fines, it’s also about doing the right thing for people.

THE CHALLENGE WITH IDENTITY

At its core, identity is fueled by data about people, which is constantly shifting. Managing identity solutions therefore requires reconciling ever-changing identity information.

For example, 27.1 million Americans changed their address in 2021. Approximately 1% of the population is getting married or divorced each year. The Great Resignation has 55% of Americans in the workforce saying they’re likely to look for new jobs in the next year, which means potential changes in categories like housing, healthcare, and transportation. People are on the move, and so is the data.

advertisement

New data is constantly created and must be reconciled. According to the Global Databerg Report, an estimated 52% of data organizations currently store has unknown value to them, meaning they don’t know why they are storing it or how to use it. At the same time, 33% of stored data is redundant, obsolete, or trivial. There is a real cost to this, including legal risk.

Identity is as much about data management as it is about understanding.

HOW TO MAKE IDENTITY WORK FOR YOUR BRAND

How do you get a handle on identity and where do you start? There are four key areas to evaluate and invest in.

advertisement

1. Start with a foundation of quality data.

As the saying goes, garbage in, garbage out. Use data quality/hygiene services to clean, standardize, and enhance your customer contact data, e.g., names, emails, phone numbers, and postal addresses. This is the beginning of a high-quality data foundation.

2. Master identity across all channels.

advertisement

Your identity solution must be able to accurately cross-reference representations regardless of channel, allowing the opportunity to maintain identity and relationships across touchpoints, devices, and channels.

3. Maintain focus on delivering exceptional experiences.

Identity requires oversight and optimization to maintain evolving customer portraits over time. It can enable true engagement and balance the competing factors of precision versus reach. Layering artificial intelligence and machine learning into the identity process creates insights and efficiencies so you can focus on your next marketing challenge. 

advertisement

4. Prioritize compliance.

Your ability to meet compliance requirements and honor consumer requests is fundamental to building trust with people. Prioritize capabilities to meet, and ideally exceed, the requirements established by GDPR, CCPA, and other emerging consumer privacy regulations. Giving people control over their personal data builds better relationships.

THE GREAT OPPORTUNITY OF IDENTITY

advertisement

Solving identity challenges for your brand is one of the single greatest opportunities you have to create better customer relationships and growth. It is foundational to people-based marketing, great customer experiences, and data privacy compliance.

But identity is not easy. It takes understanding, commitment, and investment across your organization, especially your marketing, compliance, and IT departments. If you seek an identity solution from an external partner, look for ones that have expertise in the four key areas discussed above.

By delivering experiences that matter, across all channels, you can delight your customers and prospects while staying in line with regulations and, importantly, ahead of your competition.

advertisement

Chad Engelgau is CEO of Acxiom, the leader in helping brands use data, identity, and tech to better understand and connect with people.

advertisement
advertisement