Single customer view is a 20-year-old idea - so why aren't we there yet?
"72% of businesses understand advantages of Single Customer View, but only 16% have one in place".
This was the headline quote in a recent Experian survey on UK businesses. The main barrier to progress, it says, is: "a lack of resource to implement a solution". I challenge this.
Possibly 16% have Single Customer View in place post-sale, post-login – a good CRM system would give you that. But I would be surprised if more than 1% of UK businesses were able to recognise and target existing customers on their site – or off it.
How many of them still blindly advertise to existing customers as though they were prospects? How many target individuals (customers or prospects) according to their segments, across device, across different media, and respond in real-time to changes in their behavioural patterns?
That, in my books is what Single Customer View gives you: real-time, personalised, tactical marketing, leveraging whatever data you have about them (first, second or third party), smarter and quicker than anyone else they might buy from.
"Hello Mrs Smith, the pollen count will be high today, you might need something for your hay fever…"
Are we not there yet?
There's nothing new in wanting a 360 degree view of the customer; so why are we not there yet?
I don't believe it’s the lack of resource to implement, as the survey claims. If the business case is there, most companies will find the budget, and put together a project team.
It is not the technology. Unifying the data and making sure it flows properly in real-time is a challenge. However now, cookie-based unique customer IDs, integration with third party data sources, and the use of Data Management Platforms to do programmatic advertising can be achieved.
Finding customer segments is not the problem. Be it SAS, Hadoop, Oracle, Google Big Query or whatever, there is plenty of technology to merge disparate data sets and find new and exciting high net worth segments. Maybe data scientists are a bit scarce, and a bit expensive, but they are out there.
Being able to respond in real-time is not the problem either. We now have technology like Webtrends Segments, Adobe Marketing Cloud, Tealium AudienceStream and Innometrics Profile Cloud to identify customer types the moment they hit your site and trigger promotions through multiple channels. It's clever stuff.
It could be restrictions on data, at least Personally Identifiable Information (PII) and the sharing of that data between organisations. But there is a LOT of data out there. A lot that is fairly benign but nevertheless highly useful. And there are ways of bringing PII into the mix too. Loyalty card, anyone?
So if it's not the technology, it must be the people and process. More specifically, digital marketers themselves. Single Customer View may simply be too organisationally disruptive for all but the bravest marketing directors to cope with.
The end of civilisation as we know it
So what can we do about it?
Marketing directors need to grasp the nettle. Once again, the old order is changing. The one-size-fits-all campaign is looking like a very blunt and wasteful instrument.
We don't need to debate which single creative will get the best result across a mass market. But we will need multiple promotions to an infinite number of target segments.
Managing that complexity and trusting a machine to do the heavy lifting takes a very different-looking workforce.
The structure of the team needs to be moulded around the process of finding high net worth segments and targeting them. Teams structured around marketing channels (the paid media team, the SEO team…) need to be broken up. The campaign manager, in theory, maybe a thing of the past. There is no campaign; just a constant stream of targeted offers, sent out like drones, to seek and convert specific individuals.
The most valuable person in the team would be the one who finds and defines the segments, the one who truly understands who those customers are and how they think and behave. Could a data scientist do this job? Possibly. But a pure numbers guy will struggle to get to grips with the qualitative and behavioural traits of any given customer type. What we need is a data-driven engagement manager. Someone that has worked out that, for example, lawyers have a high propensity to buy life insurance when they change their business address, and then creates an offer specifically for them.
So with the engagement manager and a data scientist generating segments, insights and offers, the rest of us will be figuring out how to target those segments. We will need experts in PPC and SEO as before, but the teams will look more like agile scrums, with the engagement manager as a scrum master and one expert from each of the channels to help with delivery.
The scrum will move from segment to segment. Once a segment has been targeted, and some success measured, there will be some refinement of the targeting but essentially it will be job done for a while… and time to find a new segment.
How do we get there?
So how do we change our organisation without a dip in performance? The same way you eat an elephant… One bite at a time.
One way to get everyone on the same page is to produce a very simple proof of concept. Test and learn.
For example, find one segment that everyone agrees is worth targeting, work out how to identify them and then find a single point in the conversion process to target. Work out the cheapest way to deliver that solution. Pull together a swat team (a proto-scrum) and let them deliver it. Then sit back and watch the results.
This is lean marketing, but it works because, if you have kept costs low and you have targeted the right segment in the right way, you can produce a simple ROI to justify all the rest of your activity. You create a model, you replicate it. As it gathers momentum, it builds its own business case for future efforts.
Single customer view may not quite be the end of civilisation, but a series of steps towards a less wasteful, more productive marketing world.