In order to communicate with our customers we need to understand them and treat them as individuals rather than multiple touch points. To treat people as individuals we need to see them as such. We need to see one person who just happens to have an email address, a mobile phone, browses the internet and has a presence on multiple social networks.

We held a webinar on this subject in November 2015. We recommend you watch the recording for How to create one view of your customer – learn more at every touchpoint.

Our job as marketers is to provide a seamless brand experience across these channels. But how do you achieve this? One of the corner stones of this cross-channel approach is the ability to have one single view of your customers – not disparate ones split by channel.

Essentially, we need to have the ability to join up that email address, mobile number, address and social profile so that we get one picture of each individual. That way our marketing channels can start working in tandem – complementing and supporting each other to provide as relevant and useful an experience as possible.

Most marketers appreciate the need for such a Single Customer View (SCV) but it is a complicated and potentially painful process with numerous roadblocks and difficulties to overcome. In our recent Digital Marketer Survey of more than 1,000 marketers worldwide, 89 per cent of respondents admitted they are having difficulty creating a Single Customer View.

The top three challenges to creating a Single Customer View

The top challenge highlighted by survey respondents was poor data quality (cited by 43 per cent of marketers), followed by siloed departments (39 per cent) and the inability to link different technologies (37 per cent).

Single Customer View

The Single Customer View is a critical stepping stone towards cross-channel marketing

In the following sections we’ll take a look at how marketers struggling with these issues can start to overcome them.

Poor data quality

Data quality is critical to marketing efforts. Without accurate and reliable data an SCV simply won’t be possible. Before you start working towards achieving an SCV you must make sure your data is in a good place.

Consider these five steps:

  1. Get involved in the data collection process

Marketers need to understand how their customer data is collected. A high degree of inaccurate information can have a dramatic impact across the entire organisation, especially for marketers as they look to drive customer engagement and revenue.

Marketers should align with the data owners across their organisation to better understand the data-collection process and how it can be improved to prevent human error. Encourage the implementation of validation software at key capture points and try to enforce consistent data-governance standards around the business, making it easier to consolidate and maintain data over time.

  1. Encourage a central data-management strategy

Marketing should be an agent of change within an organisation. A central data-management strategy is the only way to make sure organisations have a single and complete view of each customer within their first-party data. Maintaining that complete view internally and then pairing it with external, third-party data can create an incredibly powerful and actionable view of each customer to enable many marketing initiatives. Larger organisations may consider adding a Chief Data Officer or a Chief Marketing Technology Officer to oversee a centralised data strategy.

  1. Find the right technology

The volume of data is so high that organisations can’t simply manage it with manual processes. They need technology to ensure accuracy of information. Luckily, there are many vendors in the market today that can help with data-quality technology. However, marketers need to take care in finding the right fit for their organisation. There are several factors to consider when evaluating vendors, including strategic fit for the organisation, usability/accessibility of the suite of tools, the completeness of the data-quality tool and the ability to easily test these tools to ensure they work in the environment.

  1. Invest in analytical talent

The tools and skills for successful marketing have changed. Much depends on an analytical skillset to mine and analyse data. Be sure to invest in analytical talent to help understand key customers, marketing campaigns and response attribution better. If you don’t want to consider hiring new talent try up skilling your current teams. Better yet – work with data experts who have plenty of experience.

  1. Monitor information over time

Data becomes out-dated quickly. It is important to monitor information over time to ensure its on-going accuracy. Marketers can either use monitoring technology as part of their broader data-management strategy or keep track of campaign response rates, such as email bounce or returned mail, to get an idea of contact-data accuracy.

Siloed departments

A fully integrated marketing team is centred on the customer rather than a channel, taking a progressive approach to meeting the demands of the modern day consumer.

An aligned team should be aligned by persona and be responsible for marketing to that customer segment regardless of channel. A marketing team broken out by channel on the other hand, consists of separate teams — email, mobile, social, website, etc. — each executing and measuring performance individually. This does not lend itself to a customer-centric outcome.

For more on customer-centricity read this post.

As the graph below indicates, the majority of marketing teams aren’t fully integrated*.

Team Structure

65% of marketers do not work in a fully integrated business structurewdc

So how do you move towards a fully aligned approach? The best piece of advice is not to feel overawed by what may seem like a complete overhaul when there are some simple steps you can take.

Do Right Now: I urge you to physically sit your teams closer together. Get rid of some of the physical walls between teams before you start on the virtual ones.

  • Combine teams when planning a campaign
  • Always include more than one channel on every campaign
  • Involve your data team in your customer journey planning.

Start This Year: Look at your KPIs for your teams. Do you have email teams targeted on engagement and digital advertising teams targeted on conversion? Try and align your KPIs and targets so that all your teams are incentivised to pull in the same direction. Then go and tackle your infrastructure and systems so it reflects those decisions.

Check out this webinar recording on ‘unlocking your cross-channel marketing potential’ for more.

Inability to link different technologies

With more channels come more technologies. Different channel teams will be using different technology to communicate with their customers. How do marketers join those together? It’s a tough one.

The key drive here has to be done alongside breaking down the silos and it involves transitioning all your comms into one location. How can you treat customers as individuals rather than individual touch points if the communications you are sending out are not connected and co-ordinated from a single location? Your data needs to be joined up and so does your technology.

This is again a large project so start as above by ensuring your KPIs and teams are aligned and then start considering how to join up your tech.  Most of all marketing technology needs to be considered as a strategic asset and decisions on what is required and what isn’t need to be taken on a strategic level. There might be a lot of money available to spend, but you simply cannot have everything.

Achieving a Single Customer View

A Single Customer View won’t come over night. Neither do you need to throw the baby out with the bath water. The best advice I can give is breaking you larger problems down into smaller manageable chunks.

Find your most engaged channels and look to pair them together first. A Single Customer View doesn’t have to be EVERYTHING in your organisation in one place, it could start with just sharing what you know of your customers on two or more channels.

Data remains the mainstay of creating a Single Customer View. Without a winning strategy and the right technology for collecting, linking and managing all the structured and unstructured data coming into an organization today, brands will not be able to create customer experiences that will hold the attention of today’s cross-channel consumers.

In fact, throughout our survey, many of the top barriers to key marketing activities — such as personalisation, attribution and cross-channel marketing in general — are data-related.

For more on Single Customer Views take a look at our Link product.

For more insights into data-driven marketing and digital marketing in general download the Digital Marketer Report 2015

*Experian 2015 Digital Marketer Report

Experian Marketing Services is the leading global provider of consumer insights, targeting, data quality and cross-channel marketing. We help organisations intelligently interact with today’s empowered and hyper-connected consumers.

By helping marketers identify best customers, find more, and then coordinate seamless and intelligent interactions across the most appropriate channels, Experian Marketing Services can deepen customer loyalty, strengthen brand advocacy and maximise profits.