Consumers shop in stores and on websites, and on their phones, computers and tablets. To ensure offers are relevant and the brand message consistent, marketers must find a way to aggregate the data about each shopper and share that across the enterprise.

Aimee Irwin, vice president of strategy for marketing services, Experian

Aimee Irwin, vice president of strategy for marketing services, Experian

Today, the most appropriate word that captures the essence of the retail industry is options. There are an infinite number of stores and websites that people can choose from to purchase clothes, electronics, beauty supplies and sports equipment, among a host of other products and services. But the hundreds of thousands of competing companies also means people are bombarded with endless advertisements and communications—sometimes with irrelevant messages. And, as many people have experienced, this can often seem like information overload and at times, an annoyance.

Many retailers find themselves in a unique situation. How do they navigate the noise from competitors and reach their intended audiences, but also do so in a way that creates a positive retail experience for the customer?

Proper identity resolution ensures retail marketers are reaching the right people with a more meaningful message on the most effective marketing channel.

It may seem like an oversimplification, but it comes down to relevancy. And to be relevant, retailers need to better understand the customer by operating from a firm foundation of identity.

Many touchpoints

People engage with retailers and consume information through multiple personal devices and potentially hundreds of media channels. The consumer’s journey is informed through every combination of touchpoints.

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For example, a person may see a commercial while streaming a TV show on their tablet, then head to the brand’s social media page on their mobile phone. A few hours later, the individual may visit the store’s website on their desktop PC. Three different interactions on three different devices—each providing a glimpse into the customer’s journey, but more importantly, who they are.

The challenge for many retail marketers is that these thousands, if not millions, of interactions result in massive amounts of data, which makes it difficult to grasp. To make matters worse, retailers often view these interactions within silos and not as a cohesive group. For instance, the social media team doesn’t always share the information with the team managing web operations.

So, rather than painting a cohesive picture, retail marketers only see a portion of a customer. Conversely, a brand’s messaging and branding to consumers may not be cohesive, either.

The inability to engage with consumers in a cohesive manner is often rooted in issues with identity management. Inaccuracies in identifying your customers can lead to a less effective advertising strategy.

More precise marketing

The first step to improving this is to bridge the gap between online and offline data, such as in-store transaction history, previously viewed products on the retailer’s website, email and phone number, among other attributes. If a retail marketer can understand a customer’s path to purchase, as well as how they interact on different media channels, it opens the door to build more precise audience segments, optimize creative, and deliver relevant advertisements.

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Proper identity resolution ensures retail marketers are reaching the right people with a more meaningful message on the most effective marketing channel.

With all the data available, marketers need to understand how to find the right data source, and then apply specific data sets to address challenges and find solutions. Clear goals and objectives are imperative to this process.

For example, if the goal is to increase sales during the summer, leveraging online and offline data sets can help build accurate audience segments, identify which devices consumers are using the most to browse products, and how much time they spend on webpages. Using this data to ensure consumers are being shown relevant ads can increase the time spent on webpages, and ultimately increase their spend.

The right data optimizes advertising and helps marketers make the right decisions by directing the budget toward the area that generates the most revenue. Omnichannel communications are becoming the industry standard. Consumer expectation is that they can move seamlessly between devices and channels. The key to successful enablement of this is identity resolution. By understanding who the customer is and which platforms they use the most often, marketers are able to present messages to customers where and when they want to see them.

Building relationships

With the massive variety of retail options available to consumers today, another benefit of creating more meaningful interactions with customers is increased loyalty. Each message delivered is a relationship-building tool, and in a marketplace where relationship building can be difficult, that means that each message has inherent value.

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Marketers must not only use data and insights to interact with consumers in the right places at the right time, but understand what they want to see, and deliver on that. For example, showing cold weather products before they go skiing for a weekend or new swimwear before a beach vacation helps brands remain memorable to customers, and keeps them coming back.

At the end of the day, identity resolution can be daunting, but it’s vital to effective retail marketing, and with the array of tools available, it’s not impossible to achieve. For online retail marketers, it comes down to knowing your customer, understanding which data sets to leverage and delivering omnichannel messages that resonate.

By making more informed decisions, marketers are able to increase customer loyalty. Being able to engage customers with relevant messages at the right place and time will continue to draw customers in and keep them coming back.

Experian is a consumer credit reporting service that says it collects data on more than 1 billion consumers, including 235 million in the United States.

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