The Reality Of A Single Customer View

After working in the internet marketing space for over a decade, integration has become a dirty word for me. We are still talking about it being a challenge, but it doesn’t have to be as big a project as we’re often led to believe.

At the moment there is a lot of industry buzz about the need for marketers to create a single customer view for their omnichannel marketing efforts. A single customer view is…

“…an aggregated, consistent and holistic representation of the data known by an organization about its customers. The advantage to an organization of attaining this unified view comes from the ability it gives to analyze past behavior in order to better target and personalize future customer interactions. A single customer view is also considered especially relevant where organizations engage with customers through multiple channels, since customers expect those interactions to reflect a consistent understanding of their history and preferences.” – Wikipedia

The problem I personally have with this stems from working with clients day in, day out during implementation. I can imagine the conversation after our friend in marketing says to the CEO, CTO, COO:

“I would like to put ALL of our customer data in one database alongside ALL of the campaign results so we can see what’s working well and where we should spend our money based on our customer lifetime value”.

Four Common Challenges in Creating a Single Customer View

There was a great report from eConsultancy and Tealium looking at the challenges marketers face in joining up their marketing activities. If we look at top four issues: Data is fragmented; it’s not available in all applications; the definitions are different; and a lack of standards make it difficult to “translate” the data across applications.

When carrying out our engagement profiling and RFM (recency, frequency, monetary) analysis, (typically known as ERFM) for clients we’re often faced with the same issues. For example, your eCommerce system, email service provider, website recommendations provider, display retargeting company, social media marketing tool, social listening tool, direct mail house and mobile marketing partner all have a system for generating a Unique Identifier, and they’re all different!

One of the main reasons people aren’t able to integrate data is that the data across various systems is different, even down to what makes a customer ‘unique’ and identifiable in that system. The reason for this is that all of these systems are doing a great job at their own piece of the puzzle more often than not and they don’t NEED to talk to each other to be able to be effective. Now as marketers we know that if they did talk to each other they could be MORE effective, but often it’s a daunting task because we can’t realize the ROI until we’ve done the analysis, we can’t do the analysis until we’ve done the integration and we can’t do the integration until we’ve done the cleansing, deduping and matching.

Herein lies the heart of the matter, the matching. Ask the question: how do I know that this email address is linked to this cookie, this app download, this Facebook like, this mobile phone number and this in-store loyalty card from last year?

What if instead of six unique IDs we had a UNIVERSAL ID? A way of analysing a customer profile and not just looking to create a unique ID, but to MATCH unique ID’s so we can actually get closer to answering one of the key questions in marketing: “Who is this customer and what do I already know about him?”

If we look for common threads, small interactions across channels, then we’re able to build up a picture of who a customer really is by piecing together all of these individual pieces of invaluable customer data into a single unified customer profile.

How can marketers do this?

Analyze Campaigns

There are some quick wins. First off, we can all look at campaigns designed to help us achieve this, Facebook competitions that use OpenGraph data to tie together the marketing email address or mobile number we have to a Facebook ID.

Identify Customers

At Emarsys we have been using Website Tracking to look at incoming traffic and associate customers to the cookies used for things like Website Recommendations which is an easy win for identification of customers and can enrich other channels such as email and mobile once those cookies are tied to an ‘addressable’ contact.

Create Unique References

Another common challenge in the modern age of marketing is customers who use a smartphone and a desktop or tablet, where they browse the website with their desktop/tablet but use the mobile app on their smartphone. By giving each cookie on a device a unique reference, when a customer does an identifiable action (such as create a new account or log-in to an existing account) then it’s a simple task to ‘merge’ those two cookies once we realize it’s actually the same customer.

Big data projects don’t have to be too big, and building a single customer view doesn’t happen overnight, but if we can take some small steps to figure out “Who is this customer and what do I already know about him?” then our task becomes a lot easier. Even if they live in different systems, if the identifier across them is consistent then this means when we transfer data to and from these systems we don’t lose valuable opportunities.

Final Thoughts

It might sound complicated but hopefully it’s something we can all start doing sooner rather than later and help us take the first steps towards a single view of the customer, not just a single customer view!

Find out how Emarsys can help you truly understand your customers and gain unique insights for your strategy.