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A Primer on Data Onboarding

  • - LiveRamp
  • 4 min read

In recent years, the successful activation of offline, first-party data has become table stakes for smart marketers looking to deliver customer-centric experiences. And with Google’s announcement of the end of third-party cookies as an identifier, first-party data has never been more critical in maintaining addressability and future-proofing your marketing initiatives. Because of this, the number of companies leveraging data onboarding for activation has grown considerably. But what exactly is data onboarding? What are the different use cases it enables, and what is required to get started?

What is data onboarding?

Data onboarding is a service that brings offline data online. It can dramatically improve cross-channel marketing insights and attribution, expand target audience size, and enhance campaign performance. 

In order to bring CRM data online, a “match” must be made between the offline user profile and the online presence of that user. In the offline world, common identifiers include email address, physical address, phone number, and name. In the online world, the common identifier used is a cookie, an encrypted text file that sits in a user’s browser. Onboarding is the process by which a match occurs of both data sets between the offline and online worlds.

In the future, with the end of third-party cookies as an identifier, this workflow will be obsolete. The absence of third-party cookies will severely limit these use cases, unless marketers have a strategy to maintain addressability to fully realize the value of onboarding. Marketers will need to rely on addressability solutions based on a strong identity infrastructure to still be able to target offline audiences online.

What should you look for in a data onboarding provider?

When a marketer wants to bring their CRM data online, they work with an onboarding provider who has a large network of match partners—essentially, a combination of the leading online websites and publishers. There are a handful of data onboarding providers, and each differs in terms of match technique and quality. 

Here are the key characteristics to gauge when looking for an onboarding provider: 


Match accuracy is based on how often the onboarding provider finds the correct match between the offline contact information and the online user. When accuracy is of paramount concern, it’s important to work with an onboarding provider that deterministically matches data and is transparent about the match process. With a reliable addressability solution, marketers won’t have to make these trade-offs and precision would be achieved at scale. 


For years, the digital advertising ecosystem has been heavily dependent on browser cookies, device IDs, and IP addresses. The proliferation of these disparate identifiers has allowed for an often fragmented view of the consumer. A viable onboarding solution will solve for this fragmentation by introducing a persistent, people-based identifier that allows for true omnichannel addressability. At LiveRamp, our platform provides onboarding customers the ability to activate their offline data across the online world with greater accuracy. All this was not possible when relying on cookies or device IDs. With the advent of LiveRamp’s Authenticated Traffic Solution (ATS), addressability will go uninterrupted, even after third-party cookies no longer exist.


Security and data privacy is fundamental to all organizations, but especially critical in the data onboarding process. Companies working with consumer data must have the dedicated safeguards in place to ensure data is being managed securely and in a privacy-conscious manner, with transparency for consumers to make choices about their data use.

At LiveRamp, data ethics is in our DNA. We believe consumer privacy is vital to the survival of our industry. We’re committed to ensuring personal data use is ethical and appropriate, and we always avoid unethical uses of data, like fingerprinting.

What types of use cases does onboarding enable?

A variety of marketing platforms and technologies are available for brands to activate offline data with onboarding. LiveRamp has integrated with over 500 destinations, ranging from demand side platforms (DSPs), data management platforms (DMPs), measurement and attribution providers, creative personalization platforms, social networks, and search engines. 

For example, you could onboard to creative personalization and tailor creatives based on the attributes in your CRM. By onboarding to one of the major search engines, you can expand your customer lists to include additional emails and phone numbers. Our integrations with the major social networks allow you to push audiences to those services without needing to directly share customer identifiable personal data, such as emails or phone numbers. As a neutral, independent service, LiveRamp is the connective tissue that unifies the online ecosystem. 

What are the benefits of data onboarding?

If you spend a lot of time, resources, and money building a robust customer database, you want to make the most of it. Onboarding helps you do just that. 

By activating data digitally, marketers can deliver better experiences and drive smarter business decisions everywhere. With a robust solution that focuses on addressable touch points like LiveRamp’s Authenticated Traffic Solution, you can continue reaping these benefits in a post-cookie world.
To learn more about how onboarding can power better experiences for both marketers and their customers, download our ebook, Turbo Charge Your Media Plan with Onboarding.