3 Reasons Why It’s Time To Recognize Identity As The New Marketing Discipline
If marketers want to truly be effective and understand their customers, they need to take identity more seriously, believes columnist Mike Sands.
In our fast-moving, data-crazed industry, CMOs spend their days crunching data, managing databases, worrying about budgets, buying media, deploying campaigns, working with vendors, evaluating new technologies, and on and on.
The marketing environment has become so complex that it’s easy to lose sight of the reason all that data is so important. It’s really not about the data; it’s about the people behind the data.
Consumers are constantly moving between channels and devices, looking for what they want, when they want it. They expect to be recognized and understood — or they’ll go elsewhere.
To be effective, marketers need to understand what customers like and don’t like, what they purchase and how they like to shop. You have to show customers that you know them, and remember them as they move between desktops and smartphones and tablets and stores in interacting with your brand.
Putting The Customer Experience Into Focus
But how can marketers engage with a customer in a seamless and relevant way if they don’t fully understand who they’re talking to? The answer requires looking at the customer experience through a more powerful lens — a lens that brings the fragmented journey into focus and pulls all the pieces together to better comprehend and engage with individual consumers.
Getting a handle on the customer journey these days is much harder than it sounds. A single customer appears to have multiple identities as he or she engages with a brand across different data sources and platforms.
It’s a herculean task: gathering and integrating the right data from the Web, mobile apps, email, and offline sources such as your CRM (customer relationship management) and point-of-sale systems, to assemble unified customer profiles. Then you merge it together and keep updating it as interactions occur.
Only a small fraction of brands have come close to succeeding.
But marketers realize that it’s also incredibly valuable, which is why the topic of cross-channel identity is drawing so much attention and discussion right now. Identity is fast becoming a discipline in its own right, just as search, media, analytics, and content have become specialties in recent years, each with their own unique methods, concepts and practices.
Resolving identity isn’t about putting cookies in the customer’s browser or placing an ad on a media platform. There’s a broader mission here for communicating with customers on a one-on-one basis.
There are many reasons why marketers need to take cross-channel identity more seriously. Here are three of the most important ones:
1. Identity Requires A Long-Term, Strategic Approach
Cracking the cross-channel identity code is an ongoing process, not a one-off project or a report in a binder. If you’re thinking about identity in terms of a particular campaign, or only for media use cases, or if you’re addressing it in only two or three channels, it’s time to look at the bigger picture.
Limiting your view of the customer to just some of the time, or to only a few channels, is like spending half of your life blindfolded.
Your customers are always connected, and they’re interacting with your brand across a wide variety of devices, platforms and technologies.
Your cross-channel profiles should be built carefully and over time. They should be rich and deep. You should use them actively and update them continuously to build strong customer relationships.
If you’re thinking about identity as a short-term issue, you’re neglecting the larger opportunity, and your customers may leave you behind.
2. Identity Must Be Future-Proof
It’s not that marketers don’t care about having about a holistic view of their customers. Of course they do.
But getting there has been like chasing a moving target. Just when you think you’ve nailed all your channels, Pinterest or beacons or Apple Pay pops up.
It’s exciting to have new ways of engaging with customers, but the stream of constant innovation makes it extremely challenging to prioritize your resources.
It’s a pivotal moment for brands in mapping their future. While it’s nearly impossible today to avoid working with walled-garden identity solutions, who knows what the future looks like? What channels and devices will be critical down the road?
If you’re not in control of your cross-channel identity solution, you’re at risk.
3. Identity Is A Corporate Asset
It’s time to treat identity as the valuable currency that it is.
Knowing the customer and being able to view the entire journey through a single lens makes bottom-line business sense. It’s the key to superb user experiences, stronger customer relationships and increased return on your marketing investments.
But to reach that goal, brands must own and control their first-party identity — just as they have to protect their first-party data.
Companies that invest time and resources in the ability to recognize their customers across channels and devices will secure a sustainable competitive advantage for the long haul. They will have attained the nirvana of “right message, right time, right place, right now.”
In our fast-moving, cross-channel world, it’s time to recognize identity as its own discipline. It’s the new currency for creating the seamless personal experiences that your customers expect — now and in the future.