Things happen. People react accordingly. That’s why brands must be ready to quickly shift their marketing tactics. Snow in the forecast? A hardware store should move snow shovels front and forward. Home team in the championship game? An apparel company should be ready for a huge run on team gear.
But rarely, if ever, has consumer behavior been altered as quickly and dramatically, on a global scale, as during the coronavirus pandemic of 2020. Predictable consumer behavior and marketing conventional wisdom have been upended on a massive scale.
People who never considered buying groceries online now do so weekly. Customers who have always done their banking face to face are now banking online. The examples are endless. Brands that thought they had a fairly good handle on who their customers and prospects are, and what’s important to them, must now rethink everything.
But with this enormous change comes an opportunity to meet unique needs, serve communities and consumers in new ways and ultimately establish relationships that could endure long after this crisis has passed. But to build lasting relationships brands have to first recognize the people engaging with them.
Rewarding deserving recipients
So-called “gated offers” are a great example of how some brands are doing this. With a gated offer, brands offer special discounts for people who meet certain criteria. These have been around forever, but perhaps never have we seen them employed at the current scale. Medical professionals, educators and first responders, in particular, are deserved recipients of many of these gated offers. These offers, at this scale, require a mechanism to ensure consumers are who they say they are and that they meet the offer criteria. Usually, this can only be done by working with an identity solution provider.
Before coronavirus began to spread around the globe, Acxiom released An Identity Buyer’s Guide for Data-Driven Marketers, an eBook that addressed questions marketers need to ask themselves as they develop identity services and solutions. We’ve now released Key Questions to Ask Identity Solution Providers  , a follow-up eBook that serves as a very timely guide for those seeking help to solve the identity puzzle.
Solving the identity challenge was incredibly important well before the whole world knew about COVID-19. People have always wanted to be recognized and they want engagement with brands to feel relevant. But they play hard to get, albeit by and large unintentionally. They masquerade behind a growing number of devices that serve as proxies for their identity, devices that are brought online, retired, and shared. The identifiers within the proxies become stale and outdated. These constantly “moving targets” of identity are not only technology-based. The essence of people also just change, as do their behaviors. Names, online profiles, street addresses, and email addresses – they all change. And the offline and digital channels they frequent that serve as a mechanism of advertiser engagement also change.
Solving the identity puzzle
Imagine you are completing a jigsaw puzzle, yet the pieces don’t remain the same. They appear and disappear with little or no warning, or change shape out of the blue. For most businesses, solving this puzzle is best served by engaging with an external identity solutions provider that specializes in identity services and support.
But not all providers are created equally, and their fundamental business models and the capabilities they use to solve for identity can be quite different. Some offer fully customized solutions at a significant cost, and some offer off-the-shelf products that may be more affordable but may or may not meet the brand’s needs. Others offer a mix of both.
The speed and the global scope for which a provider can offer actionable data can be quite different as well. And with consumers’ increased sensitivities about the uses of their data, a solution provider must ensure data compliance and privacy. The way data is processed, stored and updated can also vary dramatically from provider to provider. And from a results perspective, the output and reporting deliverables, as well as the overall strategic guidance available, are not all created or delivered equally.
Regardless of how a solution provider addresses these challenges, there are four fundamental principles they all must consistently get right.
They must get the data right. As our lives change, so does our data. A provider must be laser-focused on data hygiene to cleanse, standardize, and enhance consumer data. As the saying goes, garbage in, garbage out.
They must be able to both solve the identity challenge and maintain that identity relationship across channels, touchpoints, and devices. This must occur for the messaging to customers to flow, make sense, and be constantly and consistently relevant.
The solutions must maintain compliance throughout the process. Failing this test can cause irreparable damage to a brand’s reputation and expose a brand to a significant financial penalty.
When the current global coronavirus crisis wanes, it is safe to assume this experience will cause people to significantly change their buying patterns, loyalties and priorities. Solving the identity challenge now, amidst this backdrop of change, can pave the way for brands to ensure solid footing. Asking the right questions to find the right identity solution provider that meets a brand’s needs both now and in the future is critical.
About The Author
Acxiom  provides the data and technology foundation for the world’s best marketers. We enable people-based marketing everywhere through a simple, open approach to connecting systems and data to drive better customer experiences for people and greater ROI for business. A leader in identity, customer data management and the ethical use of data for more than 50 years, Acxiom now helps thousands of clients and partners around the globe work together to create millions of better customer experiences, every day. Acxiom is a registered trademark of Acxiom LLC and is part of The Interpublic Group of Companies.
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