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Interaction Studio helps businesses aggregate all of their customer data in one place for analysis and activation purposes. One result of this aggregation is that it is now possible to understand every one of your customers on an individual level so you can recognize and communicate with each one across channels. For this reason, the concept of individual identity plays an essential role in the customer experience and in any customer data platform. 

This Article Explains

This article explains the concept of identity resolution as it relates to Interaction Studio.

Sections in this Article

What is a Customer Profile?


Central to Interaction Studio is a unified customer profile which defines the customer's identity using data gathered from a variety of sources across all channels, regardless of whether that person is known or anonymous. 

This single, comprehensive profile is the foundation of any data analysis effort or activation (personalization) campaign. You can use it to determine things like whether each individual should qualify for certain promotions, which product or content recommendations each individual should see, which channel to use to communicate, or when to send an email and which one to send, all based on information gathered across all channels, whether they are on or offline.

The profile includes data that helps you understand the prospect or customer (e.g. purchases, browsing history, email interactions, attributes, subscriptions, loyalty membership and status, interests and preferences, browser type, location, demographics, predictive scores) as well as identifying data elements that provide a connection between different records (e.g. cookies, email address, full name, physical address, phone number, system ID).


Multiple Profiles for One Person

Your goal is to have a single profile for each individual, but it’s still possible to end up with multiple profiles for the same person. When data comes from different sources, it needs to be stitched together into one single profile. This is simple when there is clear identifying information (i.e. the same email address), but not every person will clearly identify themselves in every channel for every interaction. The separate profiles created in the following situations all contain important customer data, but each one doesn’t fully account for the person’s true and complete identity:

  1. A B2B site visitor completes a form to download a report and includes her name and email address. The company now can identify her when she is on the website. However, sometime later she uses a different browser to visit the site again. While her named profile still exists, she now has a new profile that captures her website activity as an anonymous visitor.

  2. A retail store shopper makes several in-store purchases with his loyalty number. The retailer has his name and other identifying information through the loyalty program, along with a history of his in-store purchases. Later, he browses the e-commerce site numerous times, but never makes a purchase or identifies himself in any way, so his named in-store profile remains separate from his anonymous website behavioral profile.

  3. A customer of a bank or insurance company receives an email from that firm, reads the email, and then clicks through to the website. Later she calls the call center to discuss the same topic covered in the email and that she researched on the company’s website. In this scenario, she may be seen as three different people, based on her interactions across the company’s email, web, and call center systems.


Resolve Identities through Profile Stitching

Interaction Studio will stitch profiles together when the data becomes available to do so. For example, consider a visitor named Mary Smith who has one “Mary Smith” profile and one “anonymous” profile in Interaction Studio:

  • "Mary Smith" profile – Mary has a named profile in Interaction Studio that encompasses data from several different channels (store, call center, mobile app)
  • "Anonymous" profile – Mary also has an anonymous web profile for your site because she has never identified herself on her laptop

Interaction Studio will merge these profiles together once she identifies herself in some way, such as clicking through from an email to the company's site while on her laptop. Once it becomes clear that the anonymous person is actually Mary Smith, both profiles need to be stitched together to create a full picture of Mary.

To do this, Interaction Studio constantly monitors identifying information, then uses deterministic matching to determine if two or more profiles represent the same identity. 

Then, Interaction Studio stitches these different profiles together based on clear, unique identifiers such as system ID or email address. For example, if a person visits your site multiple times but never identifies himself by doing something like making a purchase, registering for a webinar, or signing up for a newsletter, his profile remains anonymous. The first time he does provide his email address, Interaction Studio will recognize all of his past sessions that took place with the same cookie, and stitches his anonymous profile together with his new identified profile.


Interaction Studio Channels and Systems Using Identity

Web

Traditionally, for the system to look up an existing user, web events sent to Interaction Studio had to specify either the primary user ID or email address. As of October 2020, one or more identity attributes can be specified in an event, which are then used by Interaction Studio to look up an existing user. If multiple users are matched, they will be merged into a single user. To enable web identity-based lookup, please reach out to Salesforce Support. For details on updating your sitemap to send identity attributes, please refer to the Web Integration developer article.


ETL

The Interaction Studio ETL system provides APIs for existing user lookup based on a list of identity attributes obtained from an ingested CSV file. These APIs can be used by User and Transaction ETL jobs to determine whether incoming data can be mapped to an existing user in Interaction Studio. While Interaction Studio still provides an API for user lookup using primary ID, the better approach is to use newer Interaction Studio APIs that look up users using identity attributes. For details on the APIs that are available and how to use them, please refer to the articles on ETL in this knowledge base.


Open-time Email

Traditionally, the Interaction Studio Open-time Email system obtained the primary user ID from the “userId” query parameter in email open and click requests then used it to look up any existing user. However, the best approach is to configure the system to interpret the “userId” parameter as an identity attribute of a certain configurable type. For example, it could represent the “emailAddress” or “sfmcContactKey” identity type. Contact support if you would like to enable Open-time Email identity-based lookup.