It's hard to stand out from the crowd when you're one of the hundreds, thousands, or tens of thousands.

That's how your customers feel. You can't help but group them into generic categories based on their general demographics. If you tried to target each customer individually, you would be drowning in a sea of personality traits, birthdays, and hometowns.

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You might say that your customers are suffering from a bit of an identity crisis. Luckily for you, you can help solve that with the help of an identity graph.

What Is an Identity Graph?

An identity graph is an online database that houses all the personal data that are related to an individual customer.

During an entire customer relationship, you'll come across many details about a customer. These include names, phone numbers, home addresses, email addresses, associated customer ID numbers, usernames, etc. All of these identifiers are collected and stored in the identity graph.

Along with these personal data, identity graphs can also store anonymous data related to behavior, such as cookies, device IDs, browsing history, and more.

5 Steps to Selecting an Identity Graph

Many third parties own identity graphs. These include social networks and ad partners, among other vendors. It can be difficult to choose the best identity graph to meet your company's needs. So, use the following tips to make the best decision.

1. Compare match rates.

Match rate is a metric used to compare your brand's first-party data with that of an onboarder's identity graph. Match rates measure the number of users that an identity graph is able to discover and analyze. Match rate is a great tool for understanding the size of your audience.

However, with match rate, you always want to ensure that you're not compromising accuracy for number of results. High match rate accuracy is essential; you don't want tons of data if it's actually inaccurate in predicting the size or demographics of your audience. So, make sure you choose a vendor who can promise both accurate and high match rates.

2. Check if the identity graph works in real-time speed.

We live in a modern world where customers expect to be offered the right solution immediately. Marketers need to be able to provide accurate, effective results to meet customer needs. Thus, marketers need an identity graph that can work in real-time speed to offer those immediate, consistent data analyses.

You can only meet customers at the right time with the right campaigns if your identity graph is constantly collecting and analyzing customer data. It's most efficient if your identity graph can sync data across different touchpoints in real time. Thus, ensure that the identity graph you're considering is able to work in real-time.

3. See if it works with persistent customer profiles.

Along with working in real-time speed, identity graphs should also be working with real-time customers. You can't judge who your current customers are if your identity graph is working with outdated cookies or analyzes identity only at times of campaign.

A strong identity graph works with persistent customer profiles through the use of authenticated IDs. This way, whenever a customer provides such authenticated data -- like email addresses or usernames -- the identity graph can immediately link that data to the customer's profile. As more and more data is created, the customer's identity grows, making for a real-time, accurate depiction of your customer base.

4. Ensure vendors are sharing all the data they analyze.

The issue with using third-party vendors for your identity graph is that you're putting a lot of trust in them. After all, you can't always see the data they're collecting, storing, and analyzing. Often, you have to trust their word on what they've received and the conclusions they've made.

However, analyzing customer identities isn't a matter to be taken lightly. You want to trust that your identity graph vendor is being transparent, whether or not the results are what you want to hear. To ensure you select a vendor who is completely open with you, ensure that they share with you all the matched data sets and campaign insights that help you get to know your customers better on a more personal level, rather than just sharing information on audience sizes.

5. Gain as much ownership as possible.

Along the same path, the issue with using third-party vendors is that you don't technically own the data. You know that these vendors have the capabilities to discover more data insights than you can, but that also means that you're at their mercy, in terms of the information they can offer you.

It can be frustrating when you feel like your customer identities are not in your hands. So, look for a vendor who can offer you as much control as possible. And, if possible for your company, look into creating your own identity graph. When you own your identity graph, you can have full access to all insights gained about your customers. Owning they key to your customers' experiences is worth the hard work, isn't it?

To learn more, check out this post about customer behavior analysis next.

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Originally published Dec 20, 2018 8:00:00 AM, updated December 20 2018

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