How To Build A Single Customer View

By Paul Boudet | 25 Apr 2019

Data disparity is the reason for so many customer and business hurdles. Paul Boudet explains how to overcome this and achieve a single customer view.

Working with large and established Australian retailers, I’m often surprised by the lack of customer data unification in most of them. By data unification, I mean the ability to unify all data that a retailer would have, for each of its customers, in one centralised location.

This ‘disparity’ of data is the reason for so many customer and business hurdles, including:

  • Why customers are getting irrelevant offers or generic recommendations from a brand they’ve purchased before.
  • Why marketing dollars are misspent, targeting the wrong audiences, the wrong channels and promoting the wrong products.
  • Why email databases over a certain size are often driving less revenue than before.
  • Why brands have difficulty knowing who their best and worst customer groups are and how they can identify them.

Ultimately, data disparity has a negative impact on business growth.

Thankfully, it doesn’t have to be this way. The process of unifying your customer data results in what’s called a Single Customer View (SCV). This view empowers an organisation to easily see, at an individual or aggregate level, all the data it has on its customers.

Customer data in retail would mostly include:

  • Identity data: first name, last name, email address, physical address, etc.
  • Demographic data: gender, age, location, marital status, income level, etc.
  • Behavioural data: store visited, collections looked at, products left in the cart, etc.
  • Interaction data: email opened, ad clicked on, customer service ticket raised, etc.
  • Purchase data: products bought, stores bought from, coupon use, spend with brand, etc.

Nowadays, large amounts of customer data are often isolated in different ‘silos’: POS, ERP, 3PL System, E-commerce Platform, DMP, Google Analytics, CRM, ESP, and more. The reason for this isolation often comes from the natural evolution of large established retailers, who started with a few stores and little digital marketing, to hundreds of stores with a new online proposition and a proper digital workforce (in-house or outsourced). Through this evolution, bits and pieces were added to the tech stack over time, collecting more data but also building more silos, and so creating a fragmented view of customer data.

The organisational structure is the other reason behind customer data fragmentation in large retail businesses. Consider all the departments: Marketing, Buying, Merchandising, Wholesale, Warehouse, Retail, E-Commerce, Customer Service, Finance, and more. They all have their own objectives, their own KPIs and collect data in their own systems with no link between one another (for example the ESP often falls under the responsibility of the Marketing team, the ERP under the Finance team, etc.).

Nonetheless, it is possible for any committed organisation, small or large, to build a Single Customer View. Here’s a short crash course on how to do it:

The first step is to empower one senior member within the company or an external specialist (yours truly!) to lead this initiative across all departments, with the full support of the senior team and board members. Without backing at the highest level, this initiative will most likely fail. This person will be responsible for leading this project through but also for educating and supporting the different departments with it.

The second step is to map out all the data points to include in that Single Customer View. A good starting point is to centralise all order (order total, order details, discount, location…), product (price, attributes, collections…) and contact data (name, email, contact preference…) in one place, using common identifiers like the email address and the product ID. This would usually involve merging data from your e-commerce platform, POS and CRM.

The third step is to decide how this Single Customer View will be built and used. It can be built in-house through a standard data warehouse coupled with a business intelligence solution like Looker or leveraging existing technological solutions specialised for retail like Ometria.

A Single Customer View is the ultimate starting point for building a customer-centric organisation. In other words, for creating relevant and inspiring shopping experiences, for increasing customer retention and word of mouth, for a striving and growing business. Organisations ignoring this will negatively increase the gap between the services they offer and rising consumer expectations, putting in jeopardy their ability to survive in the long term.

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