What Every Marketer Should Know About Identity Graphs

What Every Marketer Should Know About Identity Graphs

Data are a brand's biggest asset. Customers are willing to provide valuable information at many touch points, and it's up to the brand to organize and utilize it. But how? Data collection, while valuable, is cumbersome. With hundreds or even thousands of pieces of information collected from a variety of channels, how can a brand keep it all straight? The answer is identity graphs.

What Is an Identity Graph?

An identity graph, or ID graph, is a database that creates individual customer profiles from information across multiple platforms. Everything, including a customer's name, email, hometown, and browsing preferences, is captured and assigned to each customer.

Let's say one of your customers enters a contest on social media, fills out a survey via email, signs up for your newsletter online, and browses your shoe collection on your website. An identity graph collects every piece of information the customer provided across different channels and creates one centralized profile.

The idea is to correlate information that's traditionally siloed, and create a unified profile that provides a real-time view of your customers.

What Are Customer Profiles in the Graph, and How Do They Work?

There are two kinds of customer profiles that can be created within an identity graph: authenticated and non-authenticated.

Authenticated information is more concrete data that requires proof of ID. For example, a customer login or a purchase made by a credit card provides ID authentication. This information is linked to other pieces that are continually collected to create a strong profile.

Non-authenticated profiles are built from identifiers that are more "flexible," such as tracking cookies or device IDs. This information may change over time, or might not be consistent across multiple devices. It provides more of a partial view, but is still valuable.

How Does Identity Resolution Work?

Identity resolution goes one step further than creating individual profiles, and works to match or link records that are tied to a specific household or device.

Identity resolution explores the concept of shared accounts. For example, a household typically shares an Amazon Prime account or food delivery account like Doordash. To explore individual users within an account, brands rely on device clustering, which groups similar devices based on shared IP addresses and browsing patterns.

How Do You Choose an Identity Graph Program?

There are many identity graph solutions, some offered by platforms with which you're probably familiar. However, selecting an identity graph program should be done with care. Here are several things to consider before selecting a program:

You want real-time collection.

To make sure marketers work with the most up-to-date information, identity graphs should be updated in real time. Customers expect relevant, personalized promotions, and the only way to ensure their creation and delivery is to work with real-time information.

Know what's shared.

Some vendors only share a certain amount of data with brands. You want a program that shares all matched data sets and campaign insights, rather than broader information like audience size or the shopping preferences of your entire customer base.

Understand data ownership.

In many cases, working with a solution provider means they'll share data with you, but you won't own it. What happens if you terminate the contract? Do you retain the information? Will access change over time?

Ideally, you should work to own as much data as possible. Some brands are even investigating the concept of creating their own identity graphs to make sure the information collected is theirs.

Customers expect personalized marketing, but to effectively deliver it, marketers have to find a way to harness data. It's not enough to collect names and email addresses or keep data siloed within individual platforms. You need a 360-degree view of each of your customers. Identity graphs can help provide the clarity needed to create effective revenue-driving campaigns.