Data Onboarding Explained: When it comes to your customer data, are you in the driver’s seat — or just along for the ride?

September 24, 2018

And they’re off! Brands are scrambling to bring their offline data online for digital activation, pitting marketers in a neck-and-neck race for customers’ attention — not just in their inboxes, but in social and display ads across the internet. Thanks to data onboarding, in-the-moment buyers are now receiving in-the-moment advertisements across channels, devices and platforms.

But while the lure of targeting customers with relevant, 1:1 digital marketing is compelling brands to onboard their data, what happens to that data once they do? Controlling what data is owned by and accessible to the brand — as well as how, where and with whom it’s being shared — remains a massive blind spot that most onboarding solutions aren’t prepared to address.

These issues pose the question: If you’re not controlling your customer data, then who is?

The problem is that traditional onboarders and point solutions don’t have the foundational infrastructure to support the transparency, autonomy and ownership you need to get the most out of your onboarding solution. While they can ingest and activate customer data, their black-box modeling leaves you (and often the vendors themselves) in the dark about what’s going on behind the scenes.

Meanwhile, privacy regulations such as GDPR and the California Consumer Privacy Act have granted consumers the rights to request access to the data that companies have collected on them, and how it’s being used. As a result, brands are facing heat from both consumers, who are increasingly concerned about how companies use their data, and regulators, who have newly strengthened authority to make sure brands put consumers’ privacy interests first.

So whether you’re looking to use your data to inform campaign strategy, or protecting customer information from data breaches and unknown third parties or competitors, the need to seize and maintain control over customer data and insights is no longer just a nice-to-have — it’s a necessity. And it’s more important than ever.

To help brands understand the level of control they should demand from their onboarder, we’ve identified three key questions to ask when evaluating platforms, complete with how Signal stacks up:

1. Do I own my data, or is this a co-op?

From customer profiles to campaign performance insights, your brand has one thing your competitors can’t touch: Your first-party customer data. But once you onboard, all bets are off —  you’re going from a one-lane road to a congested highway, with no exits in sight.

That’s because many vendors will modify your data for use only within their solution, then take that customer information to enhance their own data network. This bait-and-switch not only leaves you beholden to the platform for any kind of reporting or analysis, but it puts your data at risk.

Signal, on the other hand, provides a closed environment for your data throughout the onboarding process, guaranteeing you are the sole owner and proprietor of your customer information and insights. As an enterprise identity resolution platform, Signal is a technology provider and not a data broker. So whether you want to conduct analysis from within the platform or pass it to another technology, you can use, distribute and measure your data however — and wherever — you want.

2. What’s going on behind the activation curtain?

Brands put an incredible amount of time, analysis and budget into each activation campaign. But black-box solutions cut the lights the moment you hit the gas, removing your ability to measure, adjust or confirm your strategy throughout the campaign’s lifecycle… and forget about tying performance back to individual customer behaviors.

Signal’s transparent dashboard reveals real-time feedback on your changing audience, including instant size and reach, and vendor performance once matched to the Signal Identity Network. This level of insight helps you learn in a dynamic environment, and shift your strategy accordingly as the campaign progresses and as your customers evolve — not after you’ve crossed the finish line.

3. Are my customer matches usable?

Many onboarders boost their results by including probabilistic links and matching to cookies that may have died long ago. But these low-quality data sources often mean that you can’t actually reach the customer you’re trying to target, because your onboarder has linked to someone else’s device or to a device ID that doesn’t exist any more. This kind of matching compromises the integrity of the known data you’re pairing with it, and can have a costly, long-term impact on the control you have over your customer profiles.

Signal’s Identity Network provides impressive match rates without these compromises. Signal only uses deterministic IDs to help brands resolve first-party customer profiles, ensuring brands only activate against known customers. And because Signal continuously onboards as customers authenticate throughout their lifecycle, you are able to activate in real time, not forced to wait until the next time you onboard. This increases addressability over time, and keeps the data integrity in your hands, not the vendor’s.

Entering the onboarding race is half the battle. But in order to win, you need the ability to maintain control over your customer data and insights. Choose a vendor that puts you in the driver’s seat: a vendor that’s invested in the data enhancement, reach and acceleration that will be decisive factors for brands looking to leave the competition in the dust.

Blane Sims

Blane Sims is Chief Innovation Officer at Signal where he defines the strategy and roadmap for an award-winning technology platform serving the digital marketing industry.

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