The Next Billion-Dollar Opportunity? Consumer Data Onboarding

Advertiser spend on consumer data onboarding is expected to grow in the U.S. from $250 million in 2016 to $1 billion in 2020, according to research from Winterberry Group, a management consulting firm. The growth is attributed to the explosion in omnichannel marketing and the desire by marketers to tie offline data to online data.

Winterberry’s report, “The State of Consumer Data Onboarding: Identity Resolution in an Omnichannel Environment,” defines onboarding as “the process of matching (temporarily linking) owned consumer data (personally identifiable data) with consumers’ corresponding digital a attributes (such as cookies, IP addresses, device IDs, and other identifiers) to create a cohesive and comprehensive identity for more actionable marketing.”  

Generally, LiveRamp is considered a leader in this space, according to Bruce Biegel, senior managing director, Winterberry Group.

“As digital advertising increasingly seeks to address the individual—as opposed to a geographic area—marketers have moved toward ‘people-based’ matching, which necessitates greater onboarding accuracy than household-level solutions,” the report states. This has led to increased demand for deterministic matching, where onboarders use email addresses, device IDs, pixel tags, and other match keys to look for an exact match between online and offline data sets.

The report notes that while all of this may sound relatively straightforward, “there are a number of roadblocks to truly accurate deterministic matching including the sourcing, aggregation, cleansing, and standardization of both CRM and digital data across various sources and systems.” The report remarks that it’s challenging to find deterministic data sets large enough to accurately match and target audiences at scale today, "though third-party providers and onboarders are actively expanding their deterministic universe.”

Consumer data onboarding has several use cases. One is onboarding within the walled gardens of Facebook, Google, Twitter, and others. Marketers can use Facebook Custom Audiences to  upload data to companies like Episolon, Acxiom, and Experian.

Attribution and measurement is also a fast-growing use case for consumer data onboarding. In addition, in the case of addressable TV, Verizon and Comcast won’t give out personal information from set-top boxes. So a marketer needs an anonymous match between the audience and the TV sets they’re targeting. Onboarding enables them to anonymize that audience and retarget them through the set-top box through addressable TV.

Winterberry identified 50% growth year-over-year in consumer data onboarding in the  U.S. In order to reach the “holy grail, omnichannel marketing, marketers need to recognize people where they are and target them appropriately,” Biegel said.

Biegel emphasized that marketers must must make sure their privacy policies give them permission to to practice consumer data onboarding. He maintained that marketers need more education in this fast-growing yet under-adopted area. One best practice is that once data is anonymized, it shouldn’t be de-anonymized, he said.

The U.S. is far ahead of global marketers in consumer data onboarding, Biegel said. Other countries are at least a year to 24 months behind, as they have more advanced privacy policies that require a country-by-country assessment.

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