2020 Will be the Year of Identity

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Online identity and data privacy will continue be at the center of our conversations

Is it too soon to make a prediction for 2020?  We generally only think about the year immediately ahead, but while I was making my 2019 predictions for marketers, I realized that the next year was becoming clearer and clearer. 2020 will be the year of identity.

What do I mean by identity? To a brand, or a marketer within that company, you are represented as a collection of the internal, or personal details that make you who you are, as well as the external details that can be gleaned from watching you, collecting information from you with or without you knowing. All of this adds up to an identity which can range from being mostly accurate to mostly false. This is dependent on a multitude of factors from the methods used to acquire the information to the recency of the information, to the truthfulness of the individual as they filled out information (in addition to many others). As marketers, we look at this identity in order to tell us what you might be like, what your purchasing habits might be, or when you might be ready to purchase something. The more information, and the more accurate it is, the better the profile or identity.

There are three reasons why I say that 2020 will be the Year of Identity.

First, as I predicted earlier that 2019 will be the Year of Experience, which means that a rapidly growing number of companies will be looking more holistically at a customer and their journey throughout the customer experience instead of siloed measuring of channels and tactics. While many (particularly larger ones) have been doing this for years, we as an industry will reach critical mass where the cost of doing so will become accessible for even smaller organizations.

What this means in terms of identity is that a larger group of organizations are going to piecing together a growing list of information about each of their customers to form a clearer picture of who they are, where they work, what devices they own, what their habits are, and what they like. Companies will be building more and more external identities of their customers. Some of these may be very accurate, but some of them might be way off. While the idea of an accurate view might scare some, an inaccurate view should frighten you just as much. You will have an identity that really isn’t you, floating out there.

All of this adds up to the need for better and more accurate identities to be created, maintained, and, ideally, controlled by the consumers themselves.

Second, identity theft, hacking of user’s personal and financial information, and the like will not diminish in 2019. Marriott’s breach of nearly 500 million people’s information is only the latest, but it certainly won’t be the last or the worst. At some point, there will be a breaking point for consumers who are sick and tired of this continually happening. Until then, it almost seems like a guessing game of which company will be next.

Some of this comes down to the sometimes archaic methods that organizations are using to collect, store, and process identity information. While newer and better technologies have become available, most organizations have been slow to adopt them. It wouldn’t surprise me to see some major announcements from organizations that are integrating newer technologies like blockchain into their security systems.

Finally, with a major U.S. election underway in 2020, identity and voter fraud will once again be a major topic of conversation. Look at its role in both the 2016 and 2018 elections, and how we are still dealing with the ramifications of each. Accusations of voter fraud, fake social media accounts, and the like are now the norm, not the exception.

Because of this, it will become more and more important to be able to verify who you are without a shadow of a doubt, which is difficult in a world where truth seems subject to opinion. This will be one of the great challenges to overcome.

Will we have solutions for any of the above challenges by 2020? I surely hope we will, but unfortunately I think we will still be struggling with all of them. At the very least, identity will be a key aspect of our conversation and likely continue to be so for years to come.