Across every category, retailers are awash in customer data. Transactional data, data from loyalty programs, CRM data, customer service data, third-party data, data from partners and suppliers.
This data comes through tablets, mobile phones, PC, point-of-sale systems, customer service logs, social media channels, and other direct channels. It gets stored in a database, or multiple databases across multiple brands or stores, or within disparate and siloed operational systems. Or maybe it isn’t stored at all.
Yet however daunting or intensive the data collection and alignment process may seem, it ultimately yields one of the most important assets a brand or retailer can have: the single customer view.
Put simply, the single customer view (SCV) is a single source of truth. It is an aggregated, consistent and holistic representation of everything a brand or retailer knows about its customers. By providing a unified picture of all customer activity paired with unique identifying information, the SCV allows brands and retailers to tailor their interactions to maximize engagement and create personalized experiences. The SCV serves as a trustworthy and accurate base for targeting, segmentation, and communications — not to mention customer service — and underpins the most effective marketing and loyalty strategies.
The importance of the single customer view corresponds with the rise of the multi-channel consumer, who interacts with the brand in a variety of ways. To appreciate the centrality of the single customer view in today’s retail operations, it’s important to understand the new consumer.
The Multi-Channel Consumer
With so many ways to engage with a brand —including multiple ways to shop and purchase — every customer must be considered a multi-channel consumer. Customers interact with a brand’s website, mobile app or in-store POS system to transact. They may engage in two-way channels for customer service, including email, Twitter, live chat, telephone, and online forms. They share their experiences with a brand on social media. And they participate in the brand’s loyalty program through a dedicated app or website, or via a loyalty card or identifying number.
In this multi-channel environment, opportunities for frustration lurk at every turn. Consider the all-too-common experience of buying something online and then being told that purchase is ineligible for an in-store return. Or having to rehash an entire conversation with several customer service agents in a call center queue when an online form already captured the nature of the issue and the customer’s identifying information. These frustrations are born from a lack of dialogue between channels.
This is due in part to the fact that within the same company, all these different channels may be run by different teams with different agendas and different priorities. In that scenario, it’s possible for a customer to have a wildly different experience within each brand channel he or she interacts with. But as far as customers are concerned, they are dealing with a single company, whether online, in a shop or via social, and they rightfully expect consistency.
A singular view cuts through confusion
Having a single customer view is the antidote to this disjointedness. With the ability to track customers and their communications across every channel, brands and retailers will experience improved customer service levels, better customer retention, higher conversion rates and increased overall customer lifetime value. It also leads to better communication between traditionally separate teams and a more cooperative approach to customer service.
More specifically, there are several benefits to being able to see every customer’s activity at each touchpoint:
- Improved targeting and tailored marketing communications — with greater insight into customer behavior and interactions, marketing messaging can be customized.
- Better business decisions — with more accurate and complete customer data, brands and retailers can make more informed marketing, merchandizing and positioning decisions.
- Increased customer loyalty — a single customer view facilitates personalization and improved customer service, both of which positively influence customer loyalty.
- Increased relevance of offers and promotions — understanding the behaviors and motivations of customers through a single customer view allows brands and retailers to present those customers with the offers and promotions that will mean the most to them.
How is a single customer view achieved?
To reap these benefits, there are several steps brands and retailers must take to create a single customer view. Because data quality and reliability are critical, the first step is assessing what data is being collected and from where, and gaining an understanding of key capture points. Retail brands then need to secure the right technology to connect their data, the talent and expertise to implement that technology, and formulate a strategy for leveraging their single customer view once it’s established.
Assess current data structure
A thorough audit of all data assets must also be undertaken, including identifying which data sources need to be pulled into the SCV. Accuracy and integrity of the data should also be assessed; incorrect, invalid or muddled data is as detrimental to creating a single customer view as no data at all.
Establish the right technology to connect data
Technology not only ensures that data is captured and connected in an automated manner, but ensures the accuracy of the information captured.
Create a single source of truth
To truly understand the customer and analyze their behavior, habits and preferences, a single customer view must be able to tie every interaction back to a single unique identifier.
Identify expert partners to assist
A third-party partner with the relevant experience and technological expertise can pay dividends.
Put the right strategies in place
Centralized data requires more than just combining various pipelines into a single database. It requires an organization-wide commitment to maintaining customer data standards, and a dedication to the concept and importance of gaining a single customer view.
The single customer view is the cornerstone of a successful marketing and loyalty strategy. In other words, the it is the platform on which brands and retailers can develop their marketing and loyalty infrastructure — a solid base on which to build. The single customer view is not an end to itself, however. It is not a marketing strategy in its own right. Rather, it is a tool to gain the actionable insight needed to engage customers with the right message at the right time on the right device, and a basis for ongoing analysis, technological innovation and evolving strategies. Brands that invest in this foundation will find themselves on solid footing for years to come.