[Editor’s note: This article was originally published on Digiday, and has been republished with permission. View the original here.]
Each rose to power by a different route, with Facebook and Google dominating digital media, and Amazon close on their heels. Today, Facebook, Google and Amazon offer up their own brand of the marketer’s holy grail: people-based targeting. With a slight catch, of course, that this is only within their walled gardens.
Each platform provides people-based targeting capabilities against unique consumer profiles, and are well positioned to help marketers at different points during the path to purchase. These 3 titans also have a common denominator: Identity Resolution.
Identity resolution—the ability to connect people, data, and devices – is the foundation for powering people-based targeting. The big 3 can identify consumers with precision at scale across desktop and mobile- no small feat in today’s fragmented digital media landscape – and apply data on those individuals to each and every marketing touchpoint. And it’s hard to argue with the results they’ve seen.
So how do the big 3 compare, and how can marketers tap into these powerful capabilities outside of the walled gardens?
But first, what is Identity Resolution?
Identity resolution, at its core, is the ability to link people, data, and devices. It allows marketers to recognize individuals across channels and devices, and use first, second, and third-party data to apply context—like interests and past purchases—to each interaction. It is the foundation for all people-based marketing.
So why do the big three have such strong identity resolution capabilities, and how do they use them to the advertiser’s benefit? The answer is their users must be logged-in in order to use their services. So they know who is viewing their ads.
The logged-in state is a powerful form of identity because it’s a more accurate data source based on verified personal information, in this case, discrete consumer accounts. And while marketers are not keen on the vice-like grip these walled gardens hold on their own data, each offers tremendous scale and the ability to track a variety of behaviors and interests at the individual level, giving them unparalleled targeting capabilities.
But which key data points should form the basis of effective identity resolution? Google’s version? Facebook’s? Maybe it’s based on Amazon’s take on what makes a customer unique. Ultimately, the context in these environments has a profound impact on where each platform really succeeds.
To Facebook, you are what you like
When you see a person on their smartphone, it’s a safe bet that they’re on Facebook “liking” things: movies, celebrities, products.
That huge investment of time on the platform means consumers leave behind hour-by-hour logs of their days that can easily translate to specific points along the path to purchase. As Kathy Norford, VP media director at Spawn Ideas, described, the platform’s tactics “complement each stage of the consumer journey.”
This is where the power of Facebook’s customer profiles and identity resolution capabilities come in. All that profile data, collected in the logged-in state, is linked to individual users’ emails. The social network also knows which ads individual consumers have seen and can constantly take the pulse of its over 1 billion users’ brand and product awareness.
To Google, you are what you search
Google’s treasure chest has always been users’ search histories. But from a people-based perspective, the real treasure comes from the scope of what it means to be logged into Google’s network.
When consumers log into Gmail, Google Maps, Google Calendar or even just their Android phones, they’re identifying themselves via their email addresses. Google also collects identifiers such as users’ phone numbers and second or third email addresses. Ever been asked to verify your account with another email, or a text message? Google has your number.
Pile a comprehensive search history on top of that valuable identity information, and marketers can target individual consumers based on their searches, hobbies, and possibly even what they’re going to be doing next month. “Maybe they’re going to be traveling and are researching a trip,” said Tim Woo, vp research and analytics director at RPA, in describing how his agency taps into Google’s unique customer insights.
To Amazon, you are what you (plan to) buy
From shower curtains to textbooks, you can buy pretty much anything on Amazon—and consumers do, frequently. Typically logged in and returning regularly for supplies, Amazon users are legion—about 300 million—and they all come attached to detailed contact information.
Amazon’s identifiers include emails, mailing addresses, billing addresses, and likely phone numbers. They may even include a user’s work address or parent’s address if those are more convenient for deliveries.
As to connecting data to consumers, Amazon’s value lies in users’ “actual purchases and purchase intent,” explained Woo. This becomes even more powerful considering Amazon’s recent developments for advertisers.
Using Amazon Media Group, agencies can now buy ads directly through the e-commerce giant. The pitch is that Amazon’s data can tell advertisers not just how users forge their paths to purchase on Amazon, but also how they do it just about everywhere.
To marketers, you are all of the above
While it’s clear that Facebook, Google, and Amazon each dominate their own realms when it comes to engaging real people, marketers haven’t had an easy time marrying these separate social, search and e-commerce campaigns. Luckily, independent identity resolution solutions exist to unify people-based targeting and measurement across these platforms and the rest of digital and offline channels, because your customers are everywhere and your marketing should be too.
Manager of media strategy for Honda and Acura, Phil Hruska, noted a “real challenge” in unifying marketing across Facebook, Google, and Amazon channels. “All of the major media companies are kind of contained environments,” he said. “They all have their own identities.” Which makes robust measurement a notorious challenge.
As savvy marketers increasingly invest in their own identity resolution capabilities, omnichannel nirvana is starting to come more and more into focus.
Learn more about identity resolution, and the cool ways it can be used to bring your marketing into the people-based era, take a look these 13 Sweet Identity Resolution Use Cases.