Using identity resolution to personalize experiences for unknown website visitors


Richard Jonkhof
Strategy Consultant and
Customer Success Manager

Marketing personalization remains a much-discussed topic, and with good reason. A 2021 report from McKinsey & Company found that over three-quarters (78%) of consumers are more likely to make repeat purchases from brands that offer a personalized experience and nearly 80% are more likely to recommend them to friends and family. 

Furthermore, with a reported 90-98% of visitors to websites being ‘unknown’ (depending on the type of business), the potential for personalizing experiences for that large volume of traffic represents a huge goldmine of acquisition revenue for brands that adopt modern technologies that can help activate anonymous profiles in their marketing channels in a compliant way.

Personalization gives brands a competitive edge and it enhances the customer experience. But how do marketers create personalized experiences if they don’t know who is visiting their website? 

Most marketers have a good understanding of the tactics involved in marketing personalization, but not everyone is aware that it is possible to personalize for the large pool of unknown website visitors that every brand receives. 

So, how can marketers track and personalize the journey for unknown visitors, and how does the cookieless world impact the recognition of these anonymous users? Furthermore, once we have the customer information how can we effectively manage personalization across all the marketing channels we use? 

It’s simpler than you think. Read on to discover how to use real-time identity resolution to stitch together known and unknown customer information with a Customer Data Platform (CDP).  

Creating personalized experiences for unknown customers - the challenge

Unknown customers are visitors to the website that are not logged in, both existing customers and prospects. In reality, these unknown users are leaving a lot of data about their desires and preferences through their behaviors as they click from page to page, add/remove products to online carts, and consume content. However, the majority often abandon the website without logging in or converting. The majority of marketers personalize the experience for known or logged-in customers. This is mainly because most marketing automation tools and CDPs only have profile data available once the user is logged in, or authenticated in some way. Without this, there is not a clear view of the history or behavior of a non-logged-in user, or even of a user's behavior before logging in. 

Most people don’t log in until it benefits them. For example, at the point when doing so will mean being offered a discount or when they want to avail of a smoother checkout process. In a nutshell, brands are missing out on vital data and insights to be able to personalize the all-important discovery phase. 

How a CDP helps marketers personalize the customer experience 

Some customer data platforms (not all) can create and enrich anonymous profiles based on every interaction the visitor has on the website enabling the marketer to create acquisition journeys and personalization rules that can trigger the right content at the right time. The personalized experience then continues on the brand’s app, email, display advertising, and when a customer visits a store by passing that information from channel to channel. In short, as a marketer, you can create perfectly personalized customer journeys, even for anonymous visitors using the behavioral data they leave behind.

Once the visitor has completed the login process or identifies himself in any other way (clicking on an email link, for example), Relay42’s unique identity-matching capabilities stitch together the anonymous customer information collected with the known profile in real-time to create a single, unified profile. This includes earlier site visits made on the same device. For example, if the customer is a member of a loyalty program, Relay42 will recognize this once the user logs in and can then personalize their experience as their journey continues. The brand could enhance the buyer experience by delivering a message thanking them for being part of a frequent flyer program, or they might present them with targeted offers based on their browse history, lookalike models, and known preferences. 

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Likewise, once a browsing customer logs in, the brand can remind them of the interest they have shown for a product when they weren’t logged in. This helps boost sales and provides a more streamlined user experience for the customer. 

The stitching process also happens the other way around. If the customer logs in and completes a transaction the brand can still track engagement after they log out, including in subsequent sessions in the same browser. Therefore the experience for returning customers can be personalized even before they log in. 

A utility company might choose to present a contract calculator to a new customer on the homepage to move them through the buyer or acquisition journey. However, this should not appear for established customers as it could make them feel the company does not appreciate their business and that they are not valued. They are already a customer, after all. Instead, the brand can use this valuable space to present an offer, helpful guide, or up-sell opportunity to increase loyalty and customer value. 

Acquiring new customers with a fully personalized experience

If this all sounds like a great solution to personalizing the customer experience then you’ll love the next bit. 

With Relay42, brands can gather and store information on a website visitor even when they don’t log in at all. The unique identifiers for the visitor can be tracked over multiple sessions so you can personalize every session to respond to their evolving behaviors. This might be showing a clothing item they have looked at or automatically suggesting sizes the prospective customer has chosen before. The fact that this all happens in real-time allows marketers to respond immediately to changes in the customer’s behavior, to keep adapting and personalizing the journey, enhancing their experience, and driving conversions. 

Relay42’s CDP is also a powerful tool for building customer loyalty and increasing retention. The platform can be used to personalize other marketing experiences such as email marketing campaigns, apps, and in-store transactions. So, when a customer tries on an item the retailer can look up the customer’s information (with their permission) and add information about what the customer was interested in, what size worked for them and so forth. They can then present them with personalized, targeted offers when they next log into their account. 

In addition to the aforementioned benefits, Relay42’s CDP helps brands to deliver better customer service. When a customer calls or emails, the agent can see straight away what services the customer is signed up for, details of their purchase history and what kind of communications they receive from the company. This helps build loyalty and customer satisfaction and creates strong, long-lasting relationships. 

Relay42’s CDP is 100 percent compliant with data protection protocols and as long as there is a stable identifier the stitching process can happen across multiple sessions on the same browser. With Relay42 digital teams leverage a server-set identifier that is independent of the CDP. It has been created by the customer’s server so it is not impacted by the privacy measures on Safari, Chrome, and other browsers. All the sessions are connected and the identifier will exist for two years unless the customer deletes it.  

How to start personalizing the customer experience for known and unknown visitors

If you’re new to identity management, here are a few steps to help you get started:

  1. Start by creating a unique stable identifier from your server. This will allow you to overcome browser limitations and enable you to start building a profile. Creating a unique stable identifier can be done without a CDP which will mitigate the risk of it being blocked by search engines. 

  2. Decide what would be relevant interactions you want to personalize. Options include product views, pages visited, search queries etc. 
  3. Store the interactions using the CDP through the stable identifier.
  4. Have your customer data available so that as soon as the visitor logs in, the information can be stitched together and you can start building the customer profile.

As you can see, using a CDP is a powerful method for understanding and responding to customer behaviors in a cookieless world. If you would like to find out more about how a CDP can help you drive conversions and boost customer satisfaction and loyalty contact our team today. 

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