Adobe Experience Platform Identity Service

In order to deliver relevant digital experiences, you need a comprehensive and accurate representation of the real-world entities that make up your customer base.

Organizations and businesses today face a large volume of disparate datasets: your individual customers are represented by a variety of different identifiers. Your customer can be linked to different web browsers (Safari, Google Chrome), hardware devices (Phones, Laptops), and other person identifiers (CRM IDs, Email accounts). This creates a disjointed view of your customer.

You can solve these challenges with Adobe Experience Platform Identity Service and its capabilities to:

  • Generate an identity graph that links disparate identities together, thus giving you with a visual representation of how a customer interacts with your brand across different channels.
  • Create a graph for Real-Time Customer Profile, which is then used to create a comprehensive view of the customer by merging attributes and behaviors.
  • Perform validation and debugging using the various tools.

This document provides an overview of Identity Service and how you can use its functionalities within the context of Experience Platform.

Terminology terminology

Before diving into the details of Identity Service, please read the following table for a summary of the key terms:

An identity is data that is unique to an entity. Typically, this is a real-world object, such as an individual person, a hardware device, or a web browser (represented by a cookie). A fully qualified identity consists of two elements: an identity namespace and an identity value.
Identity namespace
An identity namespace is the context of a given identity. For example, a namespace of Email could correspond with the identity value: Similarly, a namespace of Phone could correspond with the identity value: 555-555-1234. For more information, read the identity namespace overview.
Identity value
An identity value is a string that represents a real-world entity and is categorized within Identity Service through a namespace. For example, the identity value (string) could be categorized as an Email namespace.
Identity type
An identity type is a component of an identity namespace. The identity type designates whether identity data is linked in an identity graph or not.
A link or a linkage, is a method to establish that two disparate identities represent the same entity. For example, a link between “Email =” and “Phone = 555-555-1234” means that both identities represent the same entity. This suggests that the customer who has interacted with your brand with both the email address of and the phone number of 555-555-1234 is the same.
Identity Service
Identity Service is a service within Experience Platform that links (or unlinks) identities to maintain identity graphs.
Identity graph
The identity graph is a collection of identities that represent a single customer. For more information, read the guide on using the identity graph viewer.
Real-Time Customer Profile

Real-Time Customer Profile is a service within Adobe Experience Platform that:

  • Merges profiles fragments to create a profile, based on an identity graph.
  • Segments profiles so that they can then be sent to destination for activations.

A profile is a representation of a subject, an organization, or an individual. A profile is composed of four elements:

  • Attributes: attributes provide information such as name, age, or gender.
  • Behavior: behaviors provide information on the activities of a given profile. For example, a profile behavior can tell if a given profile was “searching for sandals” or “ordering t-shirts.”
  • Identities: For a merged profile, this provides information of all the identities associated with the person. Identities can be classified into three categories: Person (CRMID, email, phone), device (IDFA, GAID), and cookie (ECID, AAID).
  • Audience memberships: The groups in which the profile belongs to (loyal users, users who live in California, etc.)

What is Identity Service?

Identity stitching on Platform

In a Business-To-Customer (B2C) context, customers interact with your business and establish a relationship with your brand. A typical customer may be active in any number of systems within your organization’s data infrastructure. Any given customer may be active within your e-commerce, loyalty, and help-desk systems. That same customer may also engage both anonymously or through authenticated means on any number of different devices.

Consider the following customer journey:

  • Julien has created an account on your e-commerce website and ordered some items in the past. Julien typically uses her personal laptop to shop and logs in to her account with each use time of use.

  • However, during one of her visits to your site, she uses a tablet to search for sandals. During this session, because she used a different device, she neither logs in nor does she place an order.

  • At this point, Julien’s activities are represented in two separate profiles:

    • Her first profile is her e-commerce login ID. This profile is used when she uses a username and password combination to authenticate her session on your e-commerce site. This profile is identified by a cross-device identifier.
    • Her second profile is her tablet device. This profile was created after she browses your e-commerce site anonymously using a tablet without logging in to her account. This profile is identified by a cookie identifier.
  • Later, Julien resumes her tablet session. However, this time she logs in to her account. As a result, Identity Service now relates that Julien’s tablet device activity with her e-commerce login ID.

  • Moving forward, your targeted content could reflect Julien’s full profile, purchase history, and anonymous browsing activity.

You can use Identity Service to link identities and piece together a complete picture of your customer that might otherwise be scattered across different systems.

What does Identity Service do?

Identity Service provides the following operations to achieve its mission:

  • Create custom namespaces to fit your organization’s needs.
  • Create, update, and view identity graphs.
  • Delete identities based on datasets.
  • Delete identities to ensure regulatory compliance.

A link between two identities is established when the identity namespace and the identity values match.

A typical login event sends two identities into Experience Platform:

  • The person identifier (such as a CRM ID) that represents an authenticated user.
  • The browser identifier (such as an ECID) that represents the web browser.

Consider the following example:

  • You log in with your username and password combination to an e-commerce website using your laptop. This event qualifies you as an authenticated user, thus Identity Service recognizes your CRM ID.

  • Your use of a browser to access the e-commerce website is also recognized by Identity Service as an event. This event is represented in Identity Service through an ECID.

  • Behind the scenes, Identity Service processes the two events as: CRM_ID:ABC, ECID:123.

    • CRM ID: ABC is the namespace and value that represents you, as an authenticated user.
    • ECID: 123 is the namespace and value that represents your web browser usage on your laptop.
  • Next, if you log in with the same credentials to the same e-commerce website, but use the web browser on your phone instead of the web browser on your laptop, then a new ECID is registered in Identity Service.

  • Behind the scenes, Identity Service processes this new event as {CRM_ID:ABC, ECID:456}, where CRM_ID: ABC represents your authenticated customer ID and ECID:456 represents the web browser on your mobile device.

Considering the scenarios above, Identity Service establishes a link between {CRM_ID:ABC, ECID:123}, as well as {CRM_ID:ABC, ECID:456}. This results in an identity graph where you “own” three identities: one for person identifier (CRM ID) and two for cookie identifiers (ECIDs).

For more information, read the the guide on how Identity Service links identities.

Identity graphs

An identity graph is a map of relationships between different identity namespaces, allowing you to visualize and better understand what customer identities are stitched together, and how. Read the tutorial on using the identity graph viewer for more information.

The following video is intended to support your understanding of identities and identity graphs.

In this video, we’ll go over the concepts of identity and identity graphs in Adobe Experience Platform. A big challenge in making great customer experiences is making them seamless across channels and devices. The average customer may have over a dozen touch points with your brand before a conversion even takes place. They may browse your website, open your mobile app, visit your brick and mortar store, and so on. Understanding where a single customer is in their journey is complicated as each touch point often uses its own unique identity. Furthermore, data associated with these identities gets siloed in enterprise systems, such as CRM, ERP, DMP, CMS, and marketing automation. These disconnected identities are a barrier to achieving a holistic view of the customer in order to serve the next best experience. Active management of identities via linking, resolving, governing, and actioning is time-consuming, process-heavy, and difficult. Fortunately, Experience Platform provides a rich set of identity resolution capabilities which are built from the ground up to handle these tasks. For each customer that interacts with your brand, Platform can link their disconnected identities into a versatile identity graph creating a single, holistic representation of each individual person. Experience Platform has three key identity resolution capabilities, identity collection, identity graphs, and the Identity Service API. Identity Collection happens whenever you ingest data into Experience Platform, either through batch ingestion, streaming ingestion, or a source connection. All data that is ingested into Platform must conform to a predefined experience data model schema. When developing your data model and defining your schemas, any fields that contain identity information should be marked as identity fields. This is how Platform is able to recognize identity information whenever new data is ingested under these schemas. The second major capability is the Identity Graph. Identity Graphs are maps of relationships between individual identities, and Identity Graph for a single individual can contain their email address, CRM IDs, device IDs, and more. While the contents of each individual Identity Graph will naturally vary between customers, the structure of how these identities relate to one another remains consistent. Experience Platform maintains a complete representation of the identity relationships that have been built based on your data. This representation is referred to as the Private Graph, and is visible only to your organization. The third major capability is the Identity Service API. Experience Platform’s identity capabilities are exposed through Adobe I.O., so developers can use the same API endpoints as the Experience Platform user interface. Using the Identity Service API, you can programmatically interact with your Platform Identity Graphs from your experience application. Let’s talk more about Identity Graphs. An Identity Graph is constructed by discovering relationships between identities among your customer experience data using deterministic algorithms. The deterministic algorithms establish relationships between identities based on your own observations. For example, when a visitor lands on your website, they’re assigned an anonymous visitor ID. If they log in using their account ID, that account ID can now be deterministically linked to the anonymous one. Identity Graphs are a key piece for creating a merged view of a customer in real-time customer profile. See the profile documentation to learn how to combine Identity Graphs and Merge Rules to stitch together a complete representation of each individual customer. Identity Graphs also extend Adobe’s commitment to privacy. Adobe, as a data processor, has launched Experience Platform services that allow you to label your data based on data usage policies and enforce those policies as potentially sensitive identity information moves through the system. See the documentation on Adobe Experience Platform data governance for more information. You’ve now been introduced to the major capabilities provided by Identity Service. To learn more, please review the official Identity Service documentation. Thanks for listening, and good luck building out your own Identity Graphs to power your personalization capabilities.

Understanding the role of Identity Service within the Experience Platform infrastructure

Identity Service plays a vital role within Experience Platform. Some of these key integrations include the following:

  • Schemas: Within a given schema, the schema fields that are marked as identity allow for identity graphs to be built.
  • Datasets: When a dataset is enabled for ingestion into Real-Time Customer Profile, identity graphs are generated from the dataset, given that the dataset as at least two fields marked as identity.
  • Web SDK: Web SDK sends experience events to Adobe Experience Platform, and Identity Service generates a graph when two or more identities exist in the event.
  • Real-Time Customer Profile: Before attributes and events for a given profile are merged, Real-Time Customer Profile could reference the identity graph. For more information, read the guide on understanding the relationship between Identity Service and Real-Time Customer Profile.
  • Destinations: Destinations can send profile information to other systems based on an identity namespace, such as hashed email.
  • Segment Match: Segment Match matches two profiles across two different sandboxes that have the same identity namespace and identity value.
  • Privacy Service: If the deletion request includes identity, then the specified namespace and identity value combination can be deleted from Identity Service using the privacy request processing feature in Privacy Service.