The digital universe is projected to reach 40 zetabytes of data by 2020 (EMC). There are over 6 billion mobile devices in use across the globe (Digital Trends). And every minute, Facebook users share over 680,000 pieces of content (Domo). But as devices get smarter, more data becomes available and consumers look to connect in new ways, a single golden thread presents the possibility to tie everything together: IDENTITY.

With the ability to tie all user activity and personas across channels and devices back to a single, unique fingerprint, identity is undoubtedly shaping the future of our digital world. Let’s take a look at 3 of today’s top digital trends, how identity holds the key to their future development, and what your business can do to improve identity collection and management.

Trend #1: Omni-channel Experiences

Over 20% of consumers age 18-49 visit websites from 4 different devices each week (Experian), while 67% of online shoppers admit to having recently made purchases that involved multiple channels (Zendesk). Today’s always-on consumer is constantly connected, often via multiple devices at once, and expects modern brands to be fully present across all channels.

So how does a brand know that Sally just spent 15 minutes browsing sandals on her tablet, has now switched to her computer, and intends to make a purchase in-store? And how does it make this a seamless process that keeps Sally coming back? With access to Sally’s identity, the brand can greet her by name when she returns to its site via desktop, presenting her with a list of recently viewed items. It can then email her a coupon for summer footwear to be redeemed in-store.

To Do: Implement a flexible database that can capture and aggregate consumer identity data across devices. Choose a solution that integrates with other third-party marketing platforms so that you can provide consumers with cohesive messaging and experiences across channels and campaigns.

Trend #2: The Internet of Things

As consumers continue to build their arsenal of smart gadgets, they will look to leading brands to enhance connectivity and improve user experiences. Case in point? The number of connected devices across the globe reached 8 – 10 billion in 2012 (Forbes), and is expected to grow to more than 25 billion by 2020 (Information Management).

The wristband that measures your activity level will soon be a dime a dozen. But the one that evaluates your heart rate and adjusts the speed of your treadmill based on the ideal rate for your fitness profile? That’s golden. Not only does identity effectively customize connected experiences, but central identity between devices takes the Internet of Things to a whole new level, enabling them to communicate with one another and create a personalized lifestyle.

For Example…When consumers use their social identities to login to Dick’s Sporting Goods, they are able to create personalized, virtual Gift Lockers featuring their favorite items. Items can be added not just by browsing online, but by taking photos of items in store or scanning catalog QR codes via mobile phone. These users can then seamlessly share their favorite shows with their social networks from any device.

Trend #3: Social Commerce

Although 74% of consumers state that social networks influence their purchase decisions (ODM Group), 88% of marketers still have an unclear view of social ROI (Webmarketing123). As marketers attempt to attribute traditional KPIs like traffic, registrations and revenue to their social marketing efforts, the sheer number of anonymous user interactions across today’s plethora of networks makes this nearly impossible.

Accessing and authenticating consumers’ social identities is key to effectively driving and measuring social commerce. Users’ social profiles contain a wealth of data that can be used to reach them with more timely and relevant messaging across channels. Establishing social identity also enables brands to tie social activity like sharing, leaving comments and taking part in gamification directly to on-site behaviors like checkouts and repeat visits.

Take Action: Give users the option to login to your site or app using their existing social identities, and get permission-based access to their social data in return. Leverage a database that has the power to link and consolidate data from users’ social accounts across networks for a complete picture of social identity.

As channels and devices continue to expand and diversify, identity is quickly becoming king of the digital world. Insight into consumer identity gives businesses the ability create the types of connected and personalized experiences that build authentic consumer relationships and grow value over time.

For more insight on taking an identity-centric approach to customer management, download Making Sense of Consumer Data: A Guide to Responsible Data Collection and Application.