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Turning on the lights for retail identity resolution

Author: Laura Ballam


Over the last few years, retailers who use and share third-party data have found themselves in a pickle. It’s now easier than ever for consumers to protect their privacy through legislation, cookie-blocking browsers, and data opt-outs. But this means brands who rely on this data sharing are increasingly left in the dark on what their customers want.

So how can a brand continue selling and reaching the right people? The answer is first-party identity resolution.

The importance of real-time identity resolution for retailers is crucial - in fact, it’s the key to their future survival as ecommerce sellers. Let’s dive into what identity resolution looks like for retailers and how they can start moving away from third-party cookies.

What is identity resolution in retail?

It’s no secret: retailers not only want to build a positive brand experience for consumers, but they also want to provide users with tailored products or services by understanding how they interact with digital channels (and therefore hopefully increase the brand’s bottom line).

So, how do retail brands do this when they can’t identify their customers?

In the real world, you can look at another person, see IDs, or confirm who someone is through technology like fingerprint and eye scans. But if it’s digital, you don’t have that same opportunity, so it becomes about understanding and trying to remember who someone is and better understand their previous interactions and purchases.

Unfortunately for retailers, their long-term reliance on third-party data sharing – the way advertising and marketing used to operate online – has essentially ground to a halt due to new regulations over the last several years.

As such, retailers are opting for first-party data captured on their owned channels vs. collected through third-party cookies. It’s about maximizing the data from your stores, websites, mobile apps, call centers, etc. and bringing it all together to deliver the experience consumers still expect.

There are two building blocks for successful identity resolution in retail. The first is setting true first-party cookies or identifiers so they aren’t blocked or restricted. The second is leveraging a first-party customer data and identity graph solution that unites all these different identifiers instantly. This means the different actions, triggers, and identifiers captured on the retailer’s various sites and apps are quickly linked back to the overall profile of the data that’s being collected. These ID graphs build a comprehensive profile about each individual user and can be leveraged to deliver personalized, real-time experiences in-the-moment.

What does “real-time” mean, and why does it matter?

In-the-moment personalization in retail isn’t a new concept. In fact, the term “real-time” is often used by brands to describe their ability to market quickly to users. But more often than not, these same vendors take days to update their supposedly instant, accurate data.

Think about when you buy a pair of shoes one day, but the advertisements popping up on your screen a couple days later are still trying to convince you to buy that exact same pair. This is because retailers are acting on old data. The data was collected in real-time, but it’s only updated 24 to 48 hours later, and it has to cycle through the whole system before updating the activation or delivery system to show you purchased the shoes.

There are two aspects to real-time data: when the data is collected, and when it’s available. This is critical in retail. Across a lot of retail technology being used today, “real-time” means getting portions or very small pictures of data available in-the-moment. But if brands need any of the valuable information, like remembering a user’s profile or building their identity to deliver relevant offers, it’s going to happen hours or even days later. Consumers don’t have patience for that kind of delayed “personalization”, you’ve only got a split-second attention span before they’ve moved on to something else – and you've lost the sale.

Retailers need to identify who their consumer is on that device right now through actionable data they can use to create a truly live-time, personalized experience while the consumer is still on the site.

By remembering and immediately identifying who someone is and understanding their previous interactions in that moment and on that device, brands can use that insight in live time to try to either direct them down a path they started previously, or to cross-sell or upsell them based on things they’ve purchased before.

What’s possible for retailers who aim for first-party identity resolution?

In addition to connecting identity faster and improving personalization, first-party identity resolution offers retailers a host of untapped opportunities.

Establish consumer context for better targeting: The right customer data solution will provide context around your consumers’ interests and behaviors to develop stronger audiences and set campaign parameters more accurately.  

Nail the last mile in multivariate testing: Making changes in live-time, before the person moves on, is critical in digital retail. Being able to test and measure those campaigns and theories is equally important. For example, if you want to promote an offer to people who’ve been to your site three times in the last two weeks but haven’t made a purchase, instant identity resolution empowers you to deliver, measure, and adjust that campaign in live-time.

Integrate across all channels for full visibility: Retailers need to be able to capture and collect data from their online and offline systems, such as point-of-sale, customer service, loyalty programs, and brick and mortar stores, to complete the profile of an individual user. A true first-party data and customer context solution can do this easily.

Better campaign segmentation: You can use all this first-party data to create some really segmented campaigns. Most retailers are only able to target larger groups of people because they can’t get the level of detail needed to hyper-segment. Comprehensive identity resolution lets you get very granular, and it’s extremely powerful because it enables one-to-one personalization at scale. 

Improved ROAS: With live-time, first-party data retailers can fine-tune their advertising to not only personalize offers, but stop wasting ad spend on, for example, that customer who already purchased the shoes. In retail this can result in millions of dollars in savings just by optimizing paid media spend.

What’s the future of identity resolution in retail?

We’ve all seen the articles about the death of cookies and the shaky future of third-party consumer data. In short, the data sharing environment has fallen apart. More and more people are opting out of or not accepting cookies at all, or they’re on a browser that restricts it for them by default. A recent Adobe study revealed that third-party cookie deprecation means companies are unable to reach 30-50% of their potential customers, and it’s only going to get worse.

When that happens, the figurative lights go out for a brand. They can’t collect any data, they can’t identify who a customer is, and they can’t self-select their users into any personalized experiences they're trying to deliver.

Retailers who can’t personalize their experiences risk losing sales, alienating customers, and jeopardizing growth. For example, if a brand doesn’t customize a user’s experience, that user likely won’t care about or remember their shopping experience. Which means they won’t become a customer, or repeat customer. In fact, 66% of consumers say they’ll quit a brand if their experience isn’t personalized. On the flip side, 86% of consumers say that personalized experiences increase their loyalty to specific brands.

As third-party cookies become more deprecated, and identity resolution isn’t possible due to privacy restrictions, the only option for retailers is to turn to a cookieless solution that will help them truly customize interactions with consumers.

How to turn on the lights for opted-out consumers

A major hurdle for retailers is managing the experience for opted-out visitors – because those consumers still want you to deliver a personalized experience. A cookieless solution helps retailers better meet the wants and needs of their opted-out customers by capturing context without sharing or tracking any data, and without using cookies. There's only one solution that does this, and it's called CX Vault.

“Celebrus CX Vault gives brands a fighting chance, when the lights are ‘out,’ to turn a few of the lights on to help them navigate through the house. It’s the only solution that can help close the data gaps retailers are fighting today.” - Bill Bruno, CEO of Celebrus.

By leveraging machine learning and rulesets, retailers can deliver relevant experiences in-the-moment, without overstepping on privacy, based on the insight generated within that unique session, on that unique device. Celebrus CX Vault generates signals of interest based on a user’s behavior and the products they’re viewing, which can then trigger rules and actions to customize their experience. All the data captured stays in the consumer’s browser, owned and controlled by them.

For example, if a visitor’s on your site and they’re looking at shoes, CX Vault can recognize the size, style, and characteristics of the shoes they’ve been researching, as well as the search pattern they’re using. It then customizes the experience to show the most likely products the visitor would be interested in, based on the interests displayed in that session.

Want to learn more? Watch the full Omni Talk podcast  episode on identity resolution with Celebrus CEO Bill Bruno.

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