LiveRamp Advances Data Identity Resolution in a Safe Place

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The data marketplace is nothing new, according to Benjamin Webb, head of data supply for identity resolution company LiveRamp. It’s the way that Acxiom company LiveRamp looks at their data marketplace a little differently that makes it uniquely valuable, Webb told Street Fight in a recent interview.

The company’s data marketplace, the Data Store, is only two years old, but it hosts more than 100,000 segments with content from 125 branded data providers. The term “identity resolution” refers to how LiveRamp matches user data across a variety of online and offline IDs to privacy-safe identifiers for marketing use. Tied to these IDs are useful data points such as age, gender, location, income, marital status, purchase intent, and other information that provide a detailed consumer picture – with close regard for privacy.

Information can be stitched together to create highly granular, deterministic consumer data points that are often, Webb says, exactly what marketers look for.

Marketers crave transaction, location, and intent data,” he says. “Transaction data in particular is difficult to get at scale.”

To help inform LiveRamp’s identity graph, the company has relationships with online publishers that share hashed email addresses tied to device IDs, such as when someone downloads a new app or registers for a blog. That touchpoint is important because it allows the company to match data with precision and at scale, about things like what social media networks certain audiences use, where and how they consume news, entertainment preferences, and purchase habits.

Webb says the company will blend attributes across anonymous users to gain knowledge about a “type” of person who might, for example, be interested in a Ford F150, and also shops at Retailer and likes Food & Beverage Company.

Webb led a panel discussion on marketing efficiency and the impact of segmentation, personalization, and retargeting at Ibotta’s Mobile Innovation Summit last week in Denver. Steve Miller, VP of marketing and business development for fabric and craft retailer Jo-Ann Stores, spoke on the panel about the differences between data for in-store converters, like Jo-Ann, compared to ecommerce options such as

“For us, just because somebody buys one skein of yard doesn’t necessarily mean they’re a hardcore knitter,” Miller said during the panel. “But our algorithms default to that, when in reality [the person is] buying yarn for school project or something.”

Miller says that building new personalization algorithms is the best option, but at the moment it’s not that simple. The Jo-Ann Stores headquarters is in Hudson, Ohio, outside Cleveland.

“Cleveland, Ohio,” Miller says. “It’s a great city and I’m proud to be from there, but the amount of data scientists we can call on demand to build these algorithms is not huge.”

Webb says that for a chain retailer with 870 stores, he was blown away by how sophisticated Jo-Ann Stores is with its marketing and how well they know their customers.

“When you walk into the store, the WiFi network prompts you to log in, and if you opt in, they know how long you’re in the store, your location in the store, they can tie that information to the CRM, via your email, and ultimately see what you purchase,” Webb says. “That becomes really powerful for better targeting and measurement and personalization for what promotions should be targeted to those individuals.”

At LiveRamp, privacy and security are top of mind when analyzing data like this.

“It gets complex around the rules,” Webb says. “We’re dealing with a lot of personal information, but it’s only used for matching purposes. It never leaves LiveRamp. It’s always in a safehouse.”

Referencing recent malicious user targeting on Facebook, Webb says that events like that give visibility to the need for everyone to be good data stewards. Though not every company can be trusted in good faith, LiveRamp has standards in place to ensure privacy.

“In our data marketplace, we review every provider, as well as every data segment,” he says. “We review all data passing through to make sure it meets our standards. We make sure [the provider] has a right to use the data. We make sure they’re a legitimate company. We make sure they have clear opt-out and notice so the consumer understands that this data could potentially be used for marketing.”

There are a fair number of companies that don’t pass the test, Webb says, whether they haven’t been in business long enough, or don’t provide proper notice to consumers, or if there’s evidence of questionable past activities. LiveRamp has contracts with buyers specifically stating what they do and do not do with the data.

“With Facebook being a walled garden, they can mine whatever data people are entering,” he says. “It’s kind of surprising because they have very rigorous reviews of third party data providers that are providing audiences for advertisers to use for targeting, but it’s funny because it doesn’t seem like they have the same standards internally.”

LiveRamp has a team of about 10 privacy employees, and all they do is review data, Webb says. For the last year or so, the company has been moving its business internationally, which has been complicated by the different legal policies that must be adhered to, and rules become more complex depending on how data is sourced.

“Our grand vision is, in terms of the Data Store, we want to monetize the world’s data, and do so in a privacy-safe place,” Webb says. “It’s a big goal and we want to make it very easy, whether it’s a tech platform or a hedge fund or someone in insurance, we don’t care. We just want to help companies access this data to help make better decisions. We’re use-case agnostic.”

April Nowicki is a contributor at Street Fight.