One of the many goals of marketers, if not perhaps their most central, is to interact positively with and better understand their customers. Though there is no one-size-fits-all strategy for achieving this aim, a popular topic of discussion is Single Customer View. But what is it, what are the benefits and potential pitfalls of this approach, and how can you take concrete steps to integrate it into your marketing strategy?
What is Single Customer View?
Like so many marketing techniques that move in and out of the spotlight, Single Customer View in and of itself is not new.
Nicholas Moore, head of marketing at Experian, wrote on their blog in summer 2016 that Single Customer View is the basis upon which cross channel marketing is built. He explains that Single Customer View ‘requires a customer’s relationships with your brand to be brought together, usually by matching name, address and date of birth, and applying a unique customer identifier (often described as a customer PIN) to each profile.’
Through this profile, it is possible to bring together all of the data held about a given customer together into one view, and by continuously adding information to this profile (such as demographic segmentation and lifestyle preferences), you can begin to build a holistic picture of their behaviour and inclinations.
There are some obvious pros to adopting Single Customer View to manage your relationship between brand and customer.
Clearly the main aim of this approach is to collect data from multiple channels into a single, manageable system which allows ease of access and takes the headache out of coordinating multi-channel campaigns and managing customer-brand relations.
For Econsultancy writing back in 2014, ‘the obvious benefits of this include much improved customer service levels, better customer retention, higher conversion rates and hopefully an improved overall customer lifetime value (CLV).’
For Moore at Experian, the fact that the data is not static and can be constantly updated with each new customer interaction, all being tied together with a single pin, is also a positive. This means that marketers will have a live data set they can work with to inform their campaigns using the most up-to-date information they have on their customer at any one time.
Although all this sounds overwhelmingly positive in its organisational capacity and impact on customer relations, there are some downsides to the concept.
In a recent emarketer article, Sean Brown from US based agency Organic argued that although he had witnessed ‘a marked increase in interest in furthering marketing technology’ in recent years, technology is in fact still holding marketers back from fully embracing Single Customer View.
He argued that though ‘the platforms available to help in these regards have come an enormous way over the past five years—the marketing-cloud-type website platforms like Adobe, Oracle and Salesforce,’ fully embracing Single Customer View is ‘still a ways [sic] out for the technology capabilities that are out there today.’
Making it part of your strategy
If you feel that your strategy could benefit from adopting Single Customer View, there are a number of first steps that can be taken.
Ometria provides a handy three step guide to starting out with Single Customer View, the first two steps being to collect data from each of your sources and to then clean and consolidate this data to ensure there are no duplicates and everything matches correctly. Clearly this can be time consuming, but is the foundation upon which the success of your later steps will be built. The third and equally important step is to make this data actionable by placing it into a useable format, thereby allowing you to segment and analyse it with relative ease, speed and of course accuracy.
The Drum argues that this approach should also be extended beyond the digital sphere, and marketers should not forget to integrate data from offline marketing platforms into the database. This is referred to as ‘data onboarding,’ which involves digitally activating your offline data so that you can ‘distribute your activated data into your online measurement, marketing or targeting platforms.’
With ‘64% of all marketers report[ing] that online and offline data are still handled by separate teams within the organisation,’ it should come as little surprise that in order to reach a completely holistic view of your customers, it is necessary to bridge this digital-offline divide.
Though there is no quick method for starting out with Single Customer View, it is necessary to remember that you are playing a long game. With the trend towards customer demand for strong relations with brands and effective cross-channel interaction showing no sign of slowing, the investment of time and effort in building this integrated approach on strong foundations could reap long term ROI rewards.