Identity Resolution Demystified: What is an identity graph?

High engagement, more conversions, more ROI: these are the ultimate goals for the modern marketing team. A significant part of landing those goals is identity resolution, an effort that continues to gain traction as the world of martech continues to change with the looming cookie apocalypse. The more brands can piece together a 360-degree view of their audience, the more successful they will be with their marketing efforts.

At the heart of identity resolution is the identity graph: the tech that makes that 360-degree view possible.

So what is an identity graph?

One of the first questions marketers have when talking about identity resolution is, “What is an identity graph?” Here’s the simple answer:

An identity graph is a database that pulls together all of the information stored across different places where you collected consumer data and ties it to one, unified consumer profile.

That means that all of the data you’ve collected from your CRM, email marketing tool, social media platform, ad platform, and beyond can be tied together to create a single profile for the consumer. 

An identity graph gives you a 360-degree view of the consumer all in one place, which is often referred to as the “single view of the customer.”

Some identity graphs will enrich first-party data with second- or third-party data to offer tighter segmenting and better lookalike audiences. The more touch points you collect, the better picture you’ll have of your consumers.

Why is an identity graph important?

Consider this for a moment: The average consumer uses four devices per day and has around 20 digital identities. 

Take a look at your analytics tool to see what we’re talking about. 

When you look at the “New vs. Returning” report, you’ll most likely see an unusually high number of “new” visitors, to the tune of 80 percent or more of your traffic. That’s because your visitors are using multiple browsers and devices to view your site, and your analytics tool is counting each of those visits as a unique person.

So a consumer might visit your site in the morning from their phone, in the afternoon from their work computer, and again that night from their home desktop. These interactions are extremely valuable, but if you can’t keep track of them or pin them all to a single consumer, how can you achieve a people-based marketing experience? 

The answer is you can’t. 

And as all marketers know, the goal is to deliver a timely, one-on-one interaction through your site, app, ads, emails, point of sale, and any other way the consumer connects with your brand.

You want to provide a unified brand experience for each consumer across a variety of channels, which is exactly what an identity graph allows you to do.

How identity graphs work

We’ve covered how identity graphs collect a variety of data to create a complete view of a single consumer. But how exactly does that work? Here’s a breakdown of the steps involved:

  • Online data. Your consumers’ data from online channels like apps and websites are captured and combined to store identifiers.
  • Offline data. You will add all of your data from sources like your CRM to add more identifiers, like their lifetime value, customer ID, or demographic information.
  • Profile creation. With all of the data now collected, the profiles are connected to universal IDs, which are provided by the solution provider.
  • Stay updated. The technology will continue to search and match profiles to keep them up to date.

How to put identity graphs to use

Identity graphs pull together online and offline data and connect it all to a single person. Great, but now what? Beyond providing a unified brand experience for consumers — which is amazing — there are other uses for this technology:

  • Identify channel roles. You can see how each channel your brand is on played a role in converting the consumer, allowing you to better allocate your marketing budget.
  • Provide personalized customer service. The identity graph gives the agent the full picture of the consumer.
  • Meet them where they’re at. Being able to see how consumers interact with your promotions and other campaigns allows you to set up a workflow that will send them targeted content and promotions based off of where they are in the sales cycle.
  • Personalize experiences. Ever wonder how streaming or subscription services seem to know you so well, sending you recommended shows or products they think you’ll like? They use an identity graph that stores your browsing history and other data. You can create these target campaigns to send via email or even create personalized in-app experiences.

Some identity graph vendors will often give you the unique identifier for that person, which can then be used to ID that single person across execution, social media, or demand-side platforms. Examples of common unique identifiers include LiveRamp’s Identity Link or the Trade Desk’s Unified ID.

Furthermore, some ID graphs can enrich first party data with second- or third-party data for tighter segmenting and better lookalike audiences.

The bottom line? Identity graphs allow you to stitch together disparate digital and terrestrial customer data points into a single, unified customer profile for better insights and a deeper understanding of your audience. 

Table of Contents