Why the single customer view is fundamentally flawed - and how to fix it

3rd Nov 2016

The single customer view (SCV) has become a Holy Grail for marketers trying to understand how their customers behave across numerous digital devices as well as offline. For brands to be able to deliver a seamless and personalised customer experience this all-encompassing view is crucial to know where the customer is in their shopping journey.

According to Experian’s global marketer survey, outdated marketing team structures are hindering 81% of brands from achieving this single customer view. For over half of these brands, limitations in their technology’s ability to integrate customer data in real-time is the biggest barrier, followed by the inability to integrate multiple data sources and the struggle to access data across the organisation.

But the challenge doesn’t stop there. The fundamental flaw in the single customer view is that it’s based on customers - those shoppers who have actually already made a purchase. So what about all of those people that visit a brand’s site and then don’t convert? That’s the much bigger slice of the pie where brands are really missing out.

Brands need to understand why certain people become customers and why others abandon their basket. Without a joined-up view of both converting and non-converting journeys, brands are blind to a huge amount of valuable information. Marketers who have made it their mission to harness the behavioural insights offered by customer data are realising that it’s only showing them a part of the picture.

Avoid tunnel vision

The single customer view helps advertisers to improve service levels, retention, conversion rates and even lifetime value. It can also help to drive transformation within the organisation, leading to better communication between traditionally separate teams, such as customer service and marketing.

In order for brands to understand which marketing channels are and aren’t working however, non-converting data can actually provide the best insight. Marketing efficiencies, wasted ad spend and consumer preferences all come to light with this data.

Brands are now expected to deliver personalised campaigns to all consumers, not just the specific people that have joined their customer database. This is the only way to stand out and engage consumers to make a sale at some point in the future. With tailored communications, brands can capture attention and lead consumers down the funnel towards a sale.

Super CRM

By analysing the way that consumers behave and interact with a brand’s content, marketers can identify where improvements can be made and can drive additional results. For example, is there a high level of searches for an out of stock product? Which creative is causing the highest bounce rate? Which product collection on a website homepage increases dwell time?

Brands should also learn from their experience. They can use data about the consumers who have purchased to gather information about the profiles of people that would likely buy something from them. Facebook has then made it simple to merge customer data with demographic targeting to create a lookalike audience from those customers. These consumers can then be directly engaged with across social media and other channels.

Attribution reporting uncovers not just what people have purchased, but how they purchased it; the channel combination that drove the conversion, how quickly it took to get them there and what they placed in their basket. By using this, and information from non-converting journeys, you can get closer to what may have stalled the conversion and make improvements going forwards. By providing a more detailed view of a larger number of consumers, attribution becomes a ‘super CRM’.

The complexity of dark social

It’s impossible for brands to ignore the chat apps and private messaging services that have become so popular for consumers to share content on. However, they present a real problem for marketers because they cannot be tracked. Often friends will share links to the latest sale or fashion collection - but as a digital marketer if this has been done across the dark social, I don’t know that that interaction has taken place.

It is possible however to analyse some of dark social’s impact if we can see how customers behave within the context of the entire purchase journey. For example, marketers are able to identify when a customer lands directly on a specific product page immediately. In this instance, it could have been shared with them on a dark social platform – it’s one of the few ways that they could have landed on a page without a longer purchase journey.

Although understanding every consumer’s behaviour on a personalised level is challenging, it’s becoming increasingly important for brands to do this. If marketers prioritise finding ways to measure consumer journeys, they can understand which parts of their marketing mix are most effective and switch the dials to make changes that drive sales and better customer relationships. Technology now allows a complete 360 view of what drives consumer behaviour, so brands no longer have to be marketing blind.

Nick Fletcher is director of multichannel at Rakuten Marketing.

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