Determining audience “identity” has become a major priority over the past year for U.S. marketers, many of whom plan to increase their investment in finding and developing identity solutions, according to a new study.

The study, “Know Your Audience: The Evolution of Identity in a Consumer-Centric Marketplace,” was published by the ANA (Association of National Advertisers) based on research conducted by the consulting and research firm Winterberry Group.

According to a release, the report revealed “that 58 percent of survey respondents indicated their company has intensified its focus on audience identity over the past year, while nearly half (47 percent) reported their organization will increase their investment on audience identity solutions over the coming 12 months.”

The following is from the release:

For purposes of the study, the term “identity” was defined as “The effort to recognize and understand individual audience members (including customers, prospects, and other visitors) across channels and devices such that brands can interact with those individuals in ways that are relevant to, meaningful to, and supportive of overarching business objectives.”

 However, the report also revealed that despite the growing appetite for identity solutions, marketers lack the tools, data, and expertise needed to recognize audiences across all addressable touchpoints. In fact, only 15 percent of respondents said they can identify their audiences accurately and consistently; the majority of respondents (69 percent) reported only partial success with their identity efforts.

“Marketers today face complex, numerous, and costly challenges that affect their brands’ ability to engage with their audiences in relevant, respectful, consistent, personalized, and meaningful ways,” said ANA CEO Bob Liodice. “This report clearly shows that marketers are seeking tangible strategies for identifying and engaging customer audiences in ways that are responsible, personalized, and optimized to meet both consumer needs and business objectives.”

CHALLENGES

The report identified several key challenges facing marketers:

  • The emergence of new communication channels. Adults in the U.S. today typically interact with an average of 3.5 such devices (including computers, smartphones, and tablets), and the growing adoption of connected speakers, virtual assistants, smart TVs, wearables, smart home management solutions, and connected cars has led to speculation that this number may jump to more than 20 per person by the year 2020.
  • An increasingly complex customer journey. Enabled by the proliferation of devices and the growing addressability of touchpoints for both promotional and transactional purposes, this journey offers consumers a virtually unlimited range of pathways to engage with a brand.
  • Regulatory changes and consumer scrutiny of data collection, management, and use practices, which in some cases serve to inhibit more rapid innovation in data-driven marketing.

ADDITIONAL FINDINGS

The survey defined “identity solutions” as “The coordinated activation of platforms, data, and supporting services (both provided by third parties and sourced from among marketers’ in-house resources) that support persistent recognition of audience members across all devices and other promotional and transactional touchpoints,” and reported:

  • Marketers are excited about the potential contributions of emerging “linking and matching” identity solutions (such as orientation services, identity graphs and, recently, CDPs) — but say that well-established data-driven marketing tools, like CRM databases, typically represent the centerpiece of their identity efforts today.
  • Marketers are currently leveraging identity solutions primarily in support of audience segmentation and targeting.
  • Marketers’ efforts and investments in identity solutions are being inhibited by challenges to their direct return on investment, or to understanding how efforts are affecting business outcomes. This may in turn be inhibiting investment in new and dedicated solutions.

CONCLUSION

“The U.S. identity market will expand rapidly as investments in dedicated solutions increase from $900 million in 2018 to $2.6 billion in 2022,” the study reported. “Marketers who prioritize developing and implementing a strategy, including identifying key use cases and requirements for their business, will be best positioned to use a growing set of focused services and solutions. Collectively they will create transformative value for their customers, and consequently their businesses.”
 
Marketers are increasingly coming to see ‘identity’ as the key to delivering improved customer experiences and personalized interactions with audience members across all touchpoints,” said Bruce Biegel, senior managing director at Winterberry Group. “That focus is only likely to intensify in the near future, especially as marketers get a better handle on the changing regulatory landscape and gain a better understanding of how to address the complexity inherent in integrating data with the right collection of platforms and processes.
 

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