New coats in August, sandals in April: American marketing activity and consumer shopping behavior have long been dictated by the calendar. Marketers scheduled campaigns week by week to align with holidays, school schedules and other time-fixed events.
But shopping has now joined TV and work in the land of time-shifted behavior. Consumer shopping habits have shifted away from the traditional seasonal cycle, as online retailers make all types of products available all year round and consumers buy when it’s convenient for them.
With consumers operating on a more flexible schedule, it’s harder to predict when they’ll be in the mood to explore and buy. Consequently, brands are scrambling to adapt from strictly calendar-driven campaigns to more context- and behavior-driven marketing that responds to individual shopper signals.
Consumer targeting strategies must evolve accordingly, particularly with regard to the use of a brand’s own customer data. The traditional approach of onboarding customer data on a campaign-by-campaign basis simply isn’t nimble enough .
In addition to being able to recognize and respond to customer signals more quickly, here are three more benefits to a continuous identity approach.
1. Greater 1:1 customer reach for day-to-day marketing
It’s harder than you might think to pinpoint a specific customer for addressable media targeting, as consumers switch between devices, delete cookies, use multiple email addresses and don’t log in to a brand’s site or app on a regular basis.
With campaign-based identity, a brand will typically match less than 50% of its customer email addresses to individual-level digital identities and lose another 15–25% at activation. Match rates can fluctuate quite a bit from month to month, and there is no way to bring on additional customer matches during a campaign without re-onboarding the entire customer file.
In contrast, a continuous identity approach is always working to update these critical digital connections to your customers and can significantly improve the percentage of your customer base that you can reach with 1:1 messages.
2. More customer knowledge to create relevant personalization
Emotional engagement with brands is something that develops over time, and an even exchange of value is expected. The more information a customer gives to a brand — by subscribing to emails and faithfully participating in its loyalty program, for example — the more the customer expects the brand to use that information to deliver relevant, individualized marketing interactions. If the brand is unwilling or unable to apply individual-level data to improve these interactions, the customer can easily unsubscribe from emails, quit the loyalty program or churn out of the active customer base.
Brands wanting to build engagement, then, must be able to recognize an individual customer, access a robust customer profile and personalize the customer experience accordingly. With campaign-based identity, the information available for personalization is generally limited to broad segment-level attributes and/or the individual’s online activity captured only within the timeframe of the campaign. Furthermore, this customer knowledge typically dissolves when the campaign ends. In contrast, a continuous identity solution maintains a full historical profile on each individual customer and updates the profile in real time as new activity occurs, so that messaging can be fresher and more relevant.
3. Better servicing and retention of top customers
One-shot wonders aren’t profitable; repeat customers are. As revealed in a Bain & Company study, acquisition costs make it nearly impossible for a brand to break even on a one-time buyer, whereas repeat customers increase both purchase frequency and dollars per purchase over time, spending 23–67% more in months 31-36 than in months 1-6.
Keeping high-value customers in-house requires continuous effort that goes well beyond personalized ads and emails. A continuous identity solution not only supports relevant, real-time marketing, but also provides a unified view of customer behavior that can be used enterprise-wide to inform in-store clienteling and remote customer service, evaluate customer lifetime value and spot signals of impending churn. A campaign-based approach to identity can’t do any of those things.
Continuous engagement requires continuous recognition.
Marketers need to stop thinking about customer identity resolution as merely a tool to improve ad targeting efficiency on a campaign-by-campaign basis.
With a continuous identity solution that relies on an independent, persistent customer ID (rather than short-lived cookies), brands can dramatically improve their ability to activate addressable marketing, reaching a greater percentage of their known customers, having better data available to personalize messages, and better meeting the expectations of their top customers. Just as consumers have time-shifted their TV viewing and shopping, it’s time for marketers to shift to continuous identity resolution and marketing.