The single customer view: Are we chasing a myth?
Look at the competitive retail landscape of today and it’s not difficult to see why the prospect of achieving a single customer view is so attractive. Retailers are struggling to find advantage in a market where e-commerce giants continue to forge ahead, stealing traditional footfall, and where rumours about the death of the High Street prevail.
In order to win customers back from the likes of Amazon, retain more customers and grow the bottom line, retailers need to focus on the customer experience to drive sales and encourage loyalty. For the most part, this means giving customers a consistent experience across all the channels they use to engage with the brand.
This means having relevant, consistent messages across all a shopper’s touchpoints with the retailer – from in-store and online, to apps and social media. Importantly, consistent messaging doesn’t mean uniform messaging. It needs to be in line with the brand, and the levels of service and engagement should all be consistent, but the content itself should be more targeted towards the individual customer.
This ties back to the single customer view: retailers need to bring together all the data they know about a customer, across all channels, and then use it to deliver a targeted and relevant shopping experience via whichever channel the customer prefers to engage.
The benefits of the single view
As a retailer, the benefits of using this method are far-reaching and can shape your approach towards improving the customer experience, loyalty and personalisation efforts.
By having a single customer view, you can build an accurate, up-to-date and complete view of your customer based on information data including their shopping behaviour, visit frequency, how much they spend, the categories they buy frequently, and so on. This also helps you understand your customers, identify patterns and predict behaviours.
Collating all this data into a single view ensures that you can carry out analysis quickly, without having to seek out different datasets from different sources and software. Because you can analyse the data quickly, this makes you more agile when it comes to responding to customer or market demands.
A further benefit is alignment. A single customer view ensures that every area of your business, from sales and marketing, to customer experience and support, are aligned when it comes to the source of data. In essence, they’re all working off the same page, which eliminates wasted time in comparing datasets and debating differences in results.
Typically, this falls into three categories:
- Transactional data, which includes customers’ past purchases, communications and interactions with the brand;
- Demographic information, such as name, age, gender, etc.;
- And behavioural data, like browsing history, product preferences and so on.
Point of sale data
One of the most compelling sources of data is that which is generated at the point of sale. While other data can provide information on demographics, browsing behaviour and location, for example, data captured at the point of sale is important because it has been generated from a sale. The data points relate directly to a conversion and can be used to a large degree to understand the customer better.
As an example, customer A buys fresh produce on a regular basis. This opens an opportunity to use this information to offer timely and relevant complementary offers (money off cheese to go with grapes; or a message on a receipt for a vegetable soup recipe, for example).
But additional insights can be inferred from this data too. For example, shopper A spends more money on organic fruit and vegetables, which could mean they are more affluent, or maybe more health-conscious. It is these key insights that can be used to shape the ongoing customer experience in terms of special offers, rewards given or tailored promotions. Data generated at the point of sale is in real-time and therefore the resulting offers will be relevant to that customer at that time.
Creating this single customer view is all about data – bringing together different sources, gleaned from different channels and interactions, and using it to shape a customer profile in terms of attitudes and behaviours. The challenge for many retailers (apart from collecting this data) is knowing what to do with all this information or how to use it in the best way.
An additional challenge is the fact that data continues to be generated; there is always more data to consider and analyse. All too often, this data isn’t entirely accurate and needs to be cleansed in order to gain value from it and combine into a single dataset.
But in light of these challenges, is a single view of a customer really achievable?
Yes, it is achievable, in the sense that there is great benefit in centralising and combining data. However, the journey to success is ongoing and will never end as datasets are constantly evolving and being added. There is also the danger that this pursuit may be too time-intensive and detract from achieving any usable intelligence as projects like these take years to complete and significant capital investment.
While there are challenges in achieving a single customer view, there are also tangible benefits. In the move to implement this approach and make it work for your business, it is important to remember that you don’t need to deliver everything from day one. Instead, focus on higher value activity, obtaining those insights and using these as quick wins to better understand and engage with your customers.
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Michael brings more than 18 years of experience working in customer and loyalty analytics. In his role as Chief Analytics Officer, he helps Ecrebo's retail customers better utilise real-time data to generate impactful consumer insights. Michael has previously worked as Vice President of Aimia’s Analytics division in Canada; Head of Aimia’s...