What Is Identity Resolution?

A Marketer’s Guide

    Identity Resolution is the process of collecting and matching identifiers across devices and touchpoints to build a cohesive, omnichannel view of an individual consumer, enabling brands to deliver personalized, contextually relevant messaging throughout the customer journey.

    Never before have brands had access to so much data. Yet never before has there been so much duplicate, disconnected and inaccurate information collected about their customers. In the race to win customer attention and loyalty, brands must be able to recognize and relate to customers with personal, seamless and meaningful brand interactions that make life easier… or lose to competitors who can. 

    Clearly, most brands are struggling to connect all the dots. That’s because they are missing the one thing that ties all consumer engagement together: customer identity. Customer identity means knowing what a customer wants, needs and where she is in her buyer journey. It means realizing the opportunities to improve the relationship by solving her problems, anticipating her needs or purely delighting. Simply put, identity creates a connection point between all consumer interactions, online and off, past and present. As such, it’s the foundation for all consumer engagements — across the web, mobile apps, stores, email, digital ads, contact centers and beyond.

    Resolving customer identity requires the ability to connect all the information a brand may have about an individual — data in offline CRM storages and POS systems, web browser history, app searches, chat box queries, etc. — and tie it back to a customer record, or profile.

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    Identity resolution allows marketers to recognize individuals as they move among devices, channels and platforms. Identity resolution technologies that work with persistent identifiers continually collect new data and update profiles, so marketers can craft personal, relevant and consistent brand interactions at significant moments throughout the customer relationship.

    How Does Identity Resolution Work?

    To resolve identity, customer identity technologies work with an identity graph, or ID graph. Basically, an ID graph is a profile store that houses all the known identifiers that correlate with individual customers. 

    Across a consumer’s journey, one or many personal identifiers may be associated with an individual: email addresses, a physical address, mobile phone numbers, device IDs, account usernames, customer IDs, loyalty numbers and an ever-changing array of cookies picked up in browsers. The ID graph collects these identifiers and connects them to the customer’s profile and any related data points, including behavioral data like browsing activity or purchase history.

    There is no standard model for an ID graph. Different solution providers use ID graphs that work with different types of customer profiles, matching methodologies, speed and control. Brands may own their own ID graph or they may tap into ID graphs that have been assembled by social networks, advertising partners or onboarding providers.

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    Technical Components of Identity Resolution

    • Data onboarding is the foundation of identity resolution. Onboarding is the technical process of uploading offline customer data, such as CRM, into an online environment to match with digital identifiers.
    • Identity Graph: a database that houses all of the known online and offline identifiers correlated with individual customers. Customer email addresses, device identifiers, phone numbers, and cookies comprise identity graphs, as well as behavior trends, such as purchase history and web browsing data.
    • Activation: connect customers’ digital profiles to ad platforms, media partners, analytics tools, or a combination of endpoints to suit business needs), synchronizing profiles to activation channels to continuously recognize customers. 

    Why Identity Resolution is Crucial for Customer Experience

    Understanding customers and knowing where they are in their customer journey plays a major role in providing positive experiences. 74% of Millennials would switch to a different retailer or brand if they had a negative customer service experience. With nearly three-fourths of consumers ready to jump ship after a negative experience, it is crucial for brands to foster positive customer relationships.


    However, armed with an identity resolution solution, marketers can deliver experiences that customers want, not marketing messages they want to ignore. And herein lies the marketer’s greatest challenge. Most marketers are working with multiple technology solutions and partners, their customer data strewn among dozens of different platforms, channels, applications and silos. While the capabilities for each may be powerful in their own right, when each piece of the marketing pie has its own recipe for customer data and identity, brands are left with fragmented slices of consumer behavior past and present, online and off. Which takes the ability to identify and relate to customers at the right time and in the right context off the table.

    Hampered by disconnected and siloed data technologies, marketers are unable to onboard and reconcile massive data sets — a method that commonly involves batch processing — in time to do anything with it quickly, let alone identify and reach customers “in the moment” across the web and mobile. Plus, many brands work with technologies that rely on data from cookies, which is web-restricted, often outdated and, typically after 180 days, non-existent. To recognize individuals and the digital signals they’re sending in real time across all channels, marketers must work with persistent identifiers that can find and continuously follow individuals as they move across touchpoints, becoming more robust with each interaction.

    Sure, marketers have options. For years now, solutions providers have been offering data onboarding, the process of connecting a company’s offline customer data with the digital environment. Onboarders are able to upload a brand’s data, match customer identities across channels and devices and push out these customer IDs to media vendors, a process that typically takes five to seven days, or longer. But five days is five days too late for engaging the customer who’s shopping for your product today — not to mention that precious little data is returned for attribution.

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    And then there are the internet giants, the walled gardens such as Facebook or Google, which are able to upload and match a marketer’s data with their own massive lists of logged-in users in a matter of hours, delivering unrivaled scale. Yet neither share back user-level data or insights, making it impossible for brands to connect what happens inside the walled gardens with the rest of their marketing efforts.

    Marketing Use Cases For Identity Resolution

    Consumers value experiences that lead to faster, simpler and convenient shopping journeys. Identity resolution allows brands to keep pace with customers at critical moments:



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    • Sending an abandoned cart reminder to urge the consumer to complete the purchase. These relevant, timely messages reinforce positive experiences for the customer and help to increase brand loyalty.
    • Activating reminders and promotions for a flight the customer searched several times yesterday.  These convenient, helpful messages are tailor-made for the consumer and elicit a sense of appreciation for recognizing their needs, as well as assisting in moving them along the path to purchase.
    • Recognizing once a customer has already purchased a product to suppress them from retargeting ads or provide a related offer. 34% of consumers agree  that the best way for retailers to improve retargeting is by understanding when shoppers are no longer interested in a product.  
    • Improve return on ad spend (ROAS) and avoid sending inappropriate messages to the wrong audience. 

    Identity Resolution With Signal

    At Signal, identity resolution is our expertise. We help brands make use of all their first-party customer data to transform experiences across all human, physical and digital touchpoints. 

    Signal’s platform combines first-party data collection, persistent identification, real-time onboarding, audience-matching and segmentation for cross-channel execution and analytics. Using Signal’s platform, marketers can immediately recognize and engage with known customers wherever they are, no matter the touchpoint or stage in their buyer journey. Which means marketers can create relevant and consistent consumer experiences that deepen engagement, build brand affinity, reduce churn and boost the bottom line.

    Build a data asset that lasts for the lifetime of each customer.

    Signal’s technology employs persistent, cloud-based identifiers, so brands benefit from long-lasting, durable customer profiles that continually enrich with each interaction.

    Recognize customers in real time, all the time.

    Signal’s platform continuously processes and updates customer profiles as new data is received at every touchpoint.

    Integrate data with flexibility and control.

    Signal’s single solution directly syncs data with preferred activation platforms, minimizing data leakage and maximizing insights.

    Own and control an enterprise-wide data asset.

    Customer profiles can be used to fuel connections across the business, enabling personalization across human, physical and digital touchpoints.

    So, is your marketing suffering from an identity crisis? If you don’t have an identity resolution solution that allows you to truly understand the person behind the ever-changing screen of choice, odds are it is.

    Consumers already switch among four connected devices each day. With new smart technologies continually hitting the market — kitchen appliances, cars, even umbrellas — customers’ cross-device habits will become even more complicated. Which means so, too, will the marketer’s ability to recognize and relate to them with relevancy, consistency and timeliness across all touchpoints.

    Fortunately, there is a solution. With the right technology and a strategy built around resolving customer identity, marketers can start to make wonderful things happen for their customers — and a brand’s bottom line.

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