Identity 101: Why vendors never talk about accuracy

Personally, I love going into my local coffee shop, and the cashier remembers my name and my typical order. The people there know me—they know who I am, they know my interests (beyond coffee), and we share stories and recent experiences.

Our world is built on personal connections, but not every brand has the luxury of knowing me like my barista. In many cases, the interactions a brand has with a person are not frequent or deep enough to build a lasting relationship. For instance, I only see the guy who changes my oil a few times a year, so our interactions are less personal because we don’t see each other every day.  

Although the frequency of interactions with each individual is different, people are looking for personalized experience across all brands. In fact, 80% of consumers are more likely to do business with a company that offers personalized experiences. As marketers, you need to pick up the conversation where you left off the last time, with added information on what has changed. To achieve this in the digital world, the first step is to accurately identify who you are talking to.  

Accuracy is the third building block of proper online customer identification—also known as identity management. Accuracy is about continuously verifying people’s identities across all their devices and channels. Not only will it make sure your conversation is relevant, but accurate identity can extend a marketer’s reach as much as 50%.

To get accuracy right you need two things:

  • Quality matching data: Instead of using only cookies, device IDs or email addresses, use transactions based on real names and addresses to anonymously tie individuals to online behavior.
  • Scale: And you need the ability to do this billions of times every day—constantly verifying the connection. 

This relationship improves over time as connections get stronger, allowing you to advertise to the right people, with the right message and at the right time at scale.  Often times, vendors don't talk about accuracy in detail because these things are difficult to do well and to do at scale. 

How accuracy comes into play

It’s great if you can recognize and reach your customers across their devices, so why does accuracy play such a critical role in effective identity management? Here, we walk through a few examples that show how accuracy affects marketing efforts.

The duplicate device trap  

Just because you can recognize 100 cookies or devices doesn't mean that they're 100 different people. On average, a person is connected to six devices and browsers at the same time.

As a consumer, I’ll periodically browse online for products I’m considering or know I need to buy eventually. A few weeks ago, I was looking for a new pair of tennis shoes on my work computer. When I got home, I pulled up that pair of shoes on my tablet and purchased them. The next day at work, I continued to get ads for that same pair of shoes on my work computer even though I already purchased them on a different device.

When you can't tie a consumer's devices, browsers and cookies together, you end up having a less relevant conversation. This negatively impacts the customer experience and wastes your ad spend.


Dive deeper in our ebook: 5 building blocks of identity management

The cookie bomb

It’s impossible to accurately identify your customers when you can’t track cookies, devices and browsers as individuals. For example, we recently helped a large auto manufacturer look at their messaging overlap across different car brands and dealers. It turned out that their average customer had more than 27 cookies on the same device in a 90-day period.

For this client, if they planned on messaging a single person 10 times over the next three months but messaged those 27 cookies as individual people, they would actually message a single individual 270 times over that three-month period. When you assume each cookie or device is a different individual, you actually message the same person with the same ad over and over again—otherwise known as cookie bombing. 

The domino effect

When you get accuracy wrong, your campaign will have less than optimal performance, creating a domino affect that hinders your marketing strategy down the line.

You could even have a campaign that shows positive results, but it isn’t accurately reaching your ideal target audience. This could be from a lack of transparency, where you don’t get a full view into who you’re reaching and only know about the conversion. That’s why you need a full view of what your vendor can offer, otherwise you won’t be able to:

  1. Find the right people to message. Without proper accuracy, you lack confidence in who you’re messaging. We know that the average person has six or more devices, but if they’re not accurately tied to a single profile, then you run the risk of sending your message to the wrong audience.
  2. Know what message to send. Your customers are expecting unique and personalized messages, but without accurate customer identification, you run the risk of not sending the right message, sending a message at the wrong time of day or sending a message to the wrong device. This ultimately leads to wasted ad spend.
  3. Accurately measure performance. Working with a partner that can prove how they identify individuals is crucial. You should know your partner's definition of accuracy and if their metrics are verified by a third party. This ensures that you spend your media dollars effectively and with the right partners.

The ad tech industry is not known for it’s transparency—so you may not be getting the full picture of your audience through digital media. If you value data-driven marketing, you should work with a partner that can prove their accuracy. A reputable partner should be able to test their accuracy by predicting who someone is, when they will convert and then see it through to confirm that was the person they said it was.

Ultimately, if you have poor accuracy, you’ll have bad customer interactions, misplaced messages and ultimately wasted ad spend. And if I was a customer at your coffee shop, I likely wouldn’t come back for a refill.

Want to learn more about how you can accurately identify your customers across all their devices and channels? Read the ebook, 5 building blocks of identity management.