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.