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PHOTO: Boudewijn Huysmans

When it comes to the topic of a single customer view (SCV), you’re likely to encounter a wide range of views. Opinions abound — as do more than a few misconceptions — about what a single customer view is and the benefits it can deliver.

Some believe an SCV can solve a host of marketing-related issues, whereas others feel a true, unified view of the customer is simply not possible. Therefore it’s understandable that businesses looking to improve their marketing strategies have reservations about what an SCV can achieve — and that’s assuming they believe such a thing exists in the first place.

What Is a Single Customer View?

Let’s start by saying this: an SCV is not a “mythical beast.” However, while it is not always quick and easy to achieve, those who have succeeded have seen positive returns as a result.

One of the most common misconceptions is the notion that an SCV is either a piece of software or an off-the-shelf product. The single customer view is in fact a process that your data follows to make it optimized, structured and holistic for marketing. All too often marketers with millions of customers, many marketing channels and disconnected systems, have no way to use the available data or join it together for personalization tactics.

The SCV helps to improve personalization through its process of cleansing, matching, merging and deduplicating all the customer touchpoints, online and offline, and then it brings them together. An SCV therefore provides the accurate foundation on which to base targeted communications, personalization and effective campaigns.

Related Article: Customer Data Platform vs. Single Customer View: What's the Difference?

How Does an SCV Improve Marketing?

Your single customer view takes all the data you hold about your customers on an automated journey of matching, cleansing and enhancement. The SCV can include details about:

  • Location.
  • Contact channel information.
  • Campaign contact history.
  • Transactions.
  • Online and offline touchpoints.

It can persist this data in a single database that marketing can connect to their channels (such as an email platform, CRM or marketing automation tool), with a single record for each customer flowing through each part of the technology stack. Each record is further enhanced by linking other pieces of information, perhaps from third-party sources, to drive intelligence and segmentation.

The SCV sits at the heart of your omnichannel marketing efforts because this clean, deduplicated data becomes the single source of truth for making offers and campaigns truly personalized and consistent. This therefore improves the customer experience and boosts conversion rates and sales.

Related Article: Your Single Customer View Isn't as Good as it Can Be

Where Customer Data Platforms Come In

Many marketers turn to customer data platforms (CDP) to achieve an SCV. CDPs are a relatively new breed of marketing technology that marketing analyst David Raab first defined in 2013.

A CDP unifies customer data from external systems (for example your CRM, mobile data, transactional data, website data, email data and third party data), unifying the fragmented data from silos where it undergoes the single customer view process. What sets it apart from other methods is that a CDP is “packaged software” rather than a black box of SQL magic that marketers have no control of. It provides marketing with the ability to load, automate and transform data feeds from operational systems. As new channels are added (a new ecommerce platform for example) it provides a single customer view that will scale with the business in an affordable and convenient way.

A CDP makes the single customer View available to all your marketing systems and applications, including segmentation tools, predictive analytics tools, personalization tools, and campaign and customer journey management software. By its very nature it needs to play nicely with other systems, thus improving the performance of those systems (such as personalization tools, email platforms and other channels).

Related Article: Customer Data Platforms: The Truth Behind the Hype

The Holy Grail of Marketing

Marketing has evolved considerably over the last few decades with the increase of digital data touchpoints, which has made the issue of fragmented data all the more problematic. An SCV therefore is more necessary than ever before. With a CDP, it is now possible to make data usable without having to replace an entire marketing stack. Some more than others, are able to merge online and offline data making it a “holy grail” for true multi-channel businesses that need to better understand the entire customer journey.

Implementing and building an SCV can be expensive and a cause for concern for organizations with entrenched legacy systems. However, with so many businesses becoming increasingly data-driven, taking control of that data, analyzing it and putting it to good use has become a necessity, thereby quickly justifying the need for an SCV.

So is a single customer view a mythical beast? Perhaps it has been for many organizations in the past unable to afford the time and money to achieve it, but with the advent of CDPs, the SCV is achievable for brands outside of the enterprise elite. It’s a very real solution that can be used by marketing teams to orchestrate more efficient, effective and targeted campaigns and move to delivering a more personalized, multi-channel customer experience.