With more and more ways for customers to interact with brands, companies today have access to a mind-boggling amount of data from different sources. And although having lots of data is a good problem, challenges arise when businesses need to effectively combine disparate data bits to understand customer behavior, preferences, likes, and dislikes.
That's why a unified customer view (also called a customer 360 view or single customer view) is crucial — it solves the fragmented data problem by taking ALL the data and merging it into one coherent source of truth. Without this view, businesses can't truly understand their customers, effectively personalize, or create successful marketing campaigns.
The problem is, every vendor claims to be able to produce one, but achieving a single customer view isn't as easy as it sounds. Pulling it off involves overcoming technical hurdles and requires a Customer Data Platform (CDP) that can:
Upload data in any format
Create a stable, persistent identity that updates seamlessly
Give access to teams that need it and build relevant views
Execute tasks quickly and efficiently
Why is customer data such a mess?
Let's start from the beginning: why is customer data still such a problem, even after many years and investments spent trying to solve the issue? The most straightforward answer is that humans are complicated and change constantly: their phone numbers, addresses, jobs, likes, dislikes, and wants. They use different channels to interact with a business, such as social media, email, phone, or in-person visits, and make typos or provide incomplete information. These factors, combined with the challenge of reconciling all the bits of data scattered across different systems that were never designed to talk to one another (in-store, e-commerce, email, clickstream, social media, service interactions, etc.) make it extremely challenging to see through the customer data chaos.
The ingredients for the ultimate customer view
When brands reach out to customers with only a partial understanding of them, any messages and experiences they deliver will be wrong, resulting in incidents like this:
Jodie has been a loyal customer of Halcyon Bank for 20 years, but she still receives new customer offers in the mail regularly. Frustrated after throwing out another mailer and yet again having to explain her banking history when calling the service center, she's looking for a new bank that will remember her preferences and treat her better.
Everyone has been in Jodie's situation and understands her frustration — consumers today have higher expectations than ever, and they know that brands have incredible amounts of information about them, so having a poor encounter is infuriating. So what capabilities are needed to build a complete view that allows brands to understand their customers as a whole?
Accuracy: Identity resolution is critical; done right, it turns messy data into value. Done wrong, it wastes money in the form of duplicate marketing and makes it impossible to identify your most valuable customers, which leads to bad personalization and sub-par experiences. Transparency: This can't happen in a black box. Many options on the market require you to send data off and wait, which means you have no visibility into what happens with the data, making it harder to trust that you're working from the right source of truth. And although ideally you want a solution you can trust without having to dig into the process, you should have the option to look and see how the work is done when you need to.
Comprehensiveness: The customer view can't be considered unified unless it truly brings together all of the customer data (bonus points if it's easy to pull off!) — this means you need a solution that can look at the entire history of your customers, encompassing both offline and online behavior, and allow you to use that data together seamlessly.
A unified customer view (also called a customer 360 view or single customer view) is crucial — it solves the fragmented data problem by taking ALL the data and merging it into one coherent source of truth.
Getting down in the data disco
With the right ingredients in place, businesses are well on their way to getting value from their customer data, but they still need to get it in the right shape. What does this process look like in practice?
Get data in: A common problem marketers face is having data they'd love to use but not being able to transfer it to a system that allows them to work with it. The most expensive, fancy tools in the world are only good if they're able to easily and quickly consume the data you want to throw at them. So you've got to find a CDP that will adjust to your data – not one that requires you to adhere to a strict schema and format to ingest it. Make it usable: You have to understand your data before you can actually use it. Bringing all of your rich customer data together is pointless if it's not combined into a coherent view of the customer. Your solution should also support all parts of the business and have the ability to create more than one view of the customer for teams that need it. Finally, you should be able to use and orchestrate your data out of the system at any stage of the data lifecycle — it's your data, after all.
Make it better: With your data combined, you can start to get value from it by applying customer attributes like lifetime value (LTV) or product affinity. Look for a CDP that makes it easy to change or add additional customer attributes as your needs change and is trained on actual transactional data, not just clicks.
Use the data: With a solid foundation of quality data, you can begin to work magic. Identify and nurture high-value customer segments and build lookalike audiences to find similar customers. Use smart segmentation to create different audiences and run A/B tests to see what type of messaging works best with what group of people — the possibilities are endless.
Better business with a 360 view
What can businesses expect when they have access to a unified customer view?
Here's one example: Wyndham Hotels & Resorts worked with Amperity to build unified customer profiles for both loyalty and non-loyalty members. This gave their teams a single source of truth for customer insights and the ability to segment audiences and send targeted messaging to increase bookings and loyalty sign-ups. Their insights allowed them to create more segmented audiences, such as non-loyalty customers, and better target communications within email and digital media for the first time.
The results? A 60% increase in conversion rates and a 35% decrease in media spend.
And that’s just one use case. The unified customer view is the foundation on which to build more informed marketing campaigns, build long-term customer loyalty, stay competitive in a changing data landscape, and unlock the full value of all the data your customers have shared with you.
If you’d like to learn more about what a unified customer view can do for your business, check out our webinar.