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Mastering Data Onboarding in the Omnichannel Era

Keeping pace with consumers’ digital footprints is exhausting. In the era of short attention spans, digital distractions, and cross-device advertising, effective data onboarding is a top marketing hurdle. Not to mention, flawed data collection and targeting methods yield low match rates and questionable consumer trust. 

For brands with years of historical records, these pitfalls hit hard. Moving forward requires data onboarding strategies that capture new, digital touchpoints with all customers, old and new. Doing so builds the foundation to craft targeted messages that connect emotionally and drive action amidst the age of distraction.

What is Data Onboarding and How Does It Work?

At its core, data onboarding is the process of linking offline data, typically residing in customer relationship management (CRM) platforms, with online identifiers to form a cohesive and unified customer profile. The data from CRM platforms may include email addresses, phone numbers, and postal addresses, while online identifiers span from IP addresses and first-party cookies to mobile ad IDs (MAID) and universal IDs.

This combination of data points and signals allows marketers to gain a comprehensive, “joined-up” view of customer journeys and behaviors across various offline and online channels. As consumers seamlessly switch between devices, experiences and platforms, the need for a holistic view is more critical than ever.

Probabilistic vs Deterministic Matching 

Data matching, a fundamental aspect of onboarding, can be achieved through two primary approaches: probabilistic or deterministic matching. The choice between these methods depends on factors such as the quality and quantity of available data, the sites or devices being linked, and the overarching objective of the onboarding process.

Probabilistic matching involves leveraging AI and machine learning algorithmic models to assess the likelihood that offline consumer data corresponds to its online counterpart. On the other hand, deterministic matching aims to identify an exact one-to-one match between offline and online profiles. Often, a combination of these approaches is used, as many CRM datasets may not be large enough for deterministic matching at scale.

Challenges of Data Onboarding

A brand can’t implement a successful onboarding strategy, without quality customer data. But for some brands, this in itself can be challenging. Marketers can offer incentives so individuals voluntarily share personal details through channels like account sign-ups, loyalty programs, or subscriptions. However, brands must carefully assess the value and actionability of this data to ensure it aligns with its target customers.

Even when brands possess customer data, activation can be challenging due to its dispersion across various departments, including customer services, e-commerce, marketing, and media buying. Breaking down these data silos and transitioning to a unified Customer Data Platform (CDP) is crucial for ensuring data accessibility throughout the organization. Although this process introduces its own set of challenges, recent advancements in machine learning have simplified tasks such as data transformation and duplication filtering.

How Data Onboarding Enhances Omnichannel Marketing

Successful data onboarding provides brands and their agencies with significant advantages across a spectrum of channels.

1. Empowering Digital Experiences:

  • Onboarding facilitates the delivery of highly tailored and engaging digital experiences on a brand’s owned properties and channels.
  • Utilizing onboarded data in personalization platforms allows brands to customize website content, offers, and messaging in real-time.
  • Monitoring the effects on customer relationships, engagement, and conversion rates becomes a data-driven endeavor.

2. Streamlining Digital Display Advertising:

  • Data onboarding streamlines the transmission of data from marketers to their DSPs (Demand-Side Platforms) .
  • This streamlined process enables precise targeting of specific audience segments, ensuring that the right ads are delivered to the right consumers at the right time.

3. Effective and Personalized Campaigns:

  • Brands and agencies can create more effective and personalized campaigns through strategies such as suppression, retargeting, and lookalike modeling.
  • Device graphs associating device IDs with customer data enable a consistent experience across devices, minimizing overexposure through frequency capping.

4. Navigating Challenges in the CTV Space:

  • While the Connected TV (CTV) space is still evolving, platforms are developing capabilities for marketers to onboard their data directly, similar to a private exchange.
  • Integrating data from various sources allows marketers to deliver more relevant and personalized ads to specific households.

5. Walled Gardens and Data Onboarding:

  • Walled gardens, such as social platforms, Google’s advertising suite, and retail media networks, allow marketers to directly utilize data onboarding to reach consumers within their closed digital ecosystems.
  • Match rates and accuracy within these ecosystems tend to skew higher than the general digital environment due to users typically signing up via their primary email.

6. In-Depth Analysis and Attribution:

  • Anonymized data passed back to brands and agencies that onboard their data allows for in-depth analysis of cross-channel measurement and attribution.
  • Collaboration with attribution partners provides a holistic view of the customer journey, enabling informed decisions for future campaigns.

Navigating the Complexity: The Ever-Evolving Landscape of Data Onboarding

Data onboarding is complicated, and that complexity increases as media channels multiply. Yet it remains a critical component in today’s omnichannel world. Brands today, however, have access to specialized onboarding partners and a growing number of data-savvy agencies that can assist with the heavy lifting. Whether managed internally or externally, the reality is that no brand can afford to ignore the significance of data onboarding in today’s dynamic and omnichannel-driven marketing landscape.


This article was originally written by Lotame’s Chief Growth Officer, Alexandra Theriault, and published in Performance Marketing.