Thank You, Batch Onboarders. Next.

You thought you paid for real-time identity resolution. But that’s impossible when data files are onboarded via individual batch.

You assumed you were continually enriching your identity graph. But you must constantly start over from scratch.

Even now you’re still paying to re-onboard customers you already know. You wish you could own and control an identity asset that will continually grow.

You know you need speed. You know you need control. You know you need accuracy. You’re throwing money down a hole.

You lost time, customers and revenue, that’s plain to see. But look what it taught you — what identity resolution should be.

And for that, you say “Thank you, batch onboarders. Next.”*

The Next Generation of Data Onboarding and Identity Resolution

At Signal, we’re thanking batch onboarders, too. Because the shortcomings of this first-generation of data onboarders has paved the way for the next generation of onboarding and identity resolution: a continual process of ingesting, refreshing and persisting customer data for in-the-moment insights and activation. That’s what we call real time.

Here, let’s break it down.

The Need for Speed

First off, there’s the issue of processing speed.

Traditional onboarding vendors still onboard customer data in batch files. This means that any time a brand wants to onboard its offline customer data to match with digital identities for media activation, an onboarder uploads the data files in individual batches, matches them against digital identifiers and pushes out customer profiles to media vendors — a process that takes five to seven days! Any data that is not matched to a customer during the initial batch upload disappears, and any customer activity that takes place after is not recorded. (And customers do a lot in five days. Heck, they do a lot in five minutes.)

Signal, on the other hand, can onboard 100,000 profiles in the time it takes you to finish reading this sentence. In just one minute, we can activate one million profiles in any chosen destination. A continuous onboarding solution that refreshes customer data sets as new interactions occur, at any touchpoint, is the only way to keep pace along buyer journeys.

Match Rates Don’t Equal Accuracy

Next is the issue of accuracy.

First-generation data onboarders are keen on promoting high match rates. And for good reason: third-party onboarder match rates are typically high, largely due to their use of probabilistic data (i.e., device IDs, IP addresses or browser types) to create highly likely statistical connections. However, due to their transient nature, often more than half of these IDs are expired, duplicative or incomplete.

Notwithstanding high match rates, many batch onboarders’ days-long processing and the absence of data cleansing or appending before matches render its addressability rate — the metric calculating an onboarder’s ability to accurately recognize, reach and engage individuals across channels — quite low. So while a high match rate may imply greater reach, it does not represent how many individuals are actually reached, nor if they are even the right customers. As Forrester stresses in its 2018 report, Everything Marketers Need to Know About Match Rates, the only matches that matter are quality matches — the ones that can be reached and served.

Signal, too, has high match rates — averaging above industry standard. But match rates mean nothing if they don’t map to actual people, which is why we report on addressability rates rather than just match rates. By rooting customer profiles in deterministic and authenticated data, such as hashed emails or anonymized login information, and eliminating any duplicate files, we know precisely which customers are addressable and on what channels.

You Lose Control, You Lose Customer Connections

This brings us to the issue of data control. After all, if you’re going to provide a third party with your most precious asset, you better be sure you maintain control over how it’s used.

When you work with third-party onboarder, you’re required to “rent” its identity graph for the duration of a campaign. Once your data is onboarded, typically the onboarder generates an ID that works within its ecosystem only. Once your campaign is over or your partnership ends, all of that customer data disappears — along with all of those customer connections. Thus you must start the onboarding process all over again to reach the very same customers.

At Signal, we give our clients full ownership and control of their identity graph. Once data is onboarded, Signal assigns customer identifiers in a flexible format that can be used across a brand’s other business systems, enabling the same customer identity asset to be leveraged across all channels and all programs at any time, for complete portability and seamless connectivity.

Black Boxes Leave You in the Dark

Of course, all of the above means little if you have no transparency into what is actually being done with your data.

With most onboarders, there are no automatic reports. These black-box solutions mean you must submit a request to obtain specific information about your customers and performance metrics. Which means you must contact customer service. And wait. By the time you get your information, you will probably need more.

Signal, however, believes you should always be able to see what is going on with your data. Literally: all of our clients have a dashboard with complete visibility into how data is matched within their identity graph, as well as within the Signal Identity Network. You see how accurate your data is, how much it is growing and how it can grow even more.

Bottom Line: Batch Onboarders Take a Toll on… Well, Your Bottom Line

Which brings us to the issue of cost.

Most onboarders levy a fee each time a brand onboards its customer data. Because a client must start from scratch every time, this means you are paying to reclaim the same identities over and over and over again.That’s highway robbery.

And this poses the question: At what cost are you willing to accept an outdated and incomplete data asset that you don’t even own?

So, thank you, batch onboarders. Thank you for shining a spotlight on the importance of onboarding and the key factors that influence real-time marketing.

But your 15 minutes are up. Signal is next.

*And thank you, Ariana Grande, for Signal’s storytelling inspiration.

Originally published December 12, 2018

Lara Compton

Lara was formerly Vice President of Marketing at Signal.

Subscribe for Updates