A single customer view has been the dream of many a marketer for years, but there are still very few organisations that are living that dream. This poses two questions

  • Why do we need to have a single view of our customer?
  • Why are there so few organisations that have achieved it?

“I am a snowflake”

You may have heard this saying, according to Collins dictionary it refers to the generation of people who became adults after 2010. It’s often used as a dismissive term for people who seem less resilient and more prone to taking offence than other generations. However, in ecommerce terms it could be used in an entirely different way. Like snowflakes, every visitor is often seen the same yet they all have different aspects which makes them individual. We all want to be treated as an individual, whether we are old, young, frequent purchasers or first time customers. Like snowflakes, customers can be very fragile things and they can disappear as quickly as they arrive. Knowing more about them is the key to keeping them engaged.

So how do you keep your customer engaged?

Well it may be time to go back in time and look to the corner shop that was around in the 50’s and 60’s. Then the grocery store was at the heart of the high street, it was a place where people shopped daily out of necessity and their shopping experience was based on personally interacting with sales assistants. It was not just what they bought that mattered it was the understanding of the customer, what she bought last week, how were her children, the conversations’ that took place before and after the purchase. Even then a personal experience was based on data, just not the way we see it today – Old fashioned personal service was not just politeness, it was at the very core of the growth of the shopkeeper’s business.

Engage with, and keep the conversation with your customer going.

This is a tricky one- mainly because we are all different. Some of us like to hear from our favourite brands and others don’t. I will use my wife as an example. She, on the surface of it, is a dream customer. She signs up with all the brands and one would think that she is willing and interested in hearing about what those brands are offering. Despite that she has over 1800 unopened emails in her inbox, nearly all from the brands she has signed up to. So engaging with your customer is not bombarding them with email, it’s about understanding their browsing habits, their buying profile, their gender, colour preferences, the early season adopter or the late season bargain hunter. Not one of my wife’s suppliers see that she often buys two items in the same colour but in different sizes, whether she is online or on the high street. Surely they should know that her spend is half of what she purchases as the “wrong size” is always returned. 

How can you become a master of engagement?

Use data. The more data the better but only if it’s relevant. If, as in the above example, emails are not being opened, but there are frequent visits to your website, then use that the website as the primary platform for communication. Use text alerts for special promotions where products have been viewed but use them sparingly. Encourage use of loyalty cards, add returns labels to packages with free post included. These are just a few examples, but to make this work you need to collect and assimilate data and interpret that data to your customer’s benefit and not yours.

It’s easier said than done.

Now you know what possibilities you are trying to achieve, you will see that gathering the data and putting it into “one view” is extremely challenging. Just think of all of the touch points that a customer may have with your organisation.

Online In person
Website In store
Mobile device By telephone
Email Direct mail
SMS Customer services
Delivery services

Only a few companies have the ability to draw the necessary resources to create one customer view. It’s a very costly dream but the reality of time effort and money gets in the way for most.

Don’t give up

Whilst having a single view of your customer may be out of reach at present, you can still make decisions that will help you get there at some time in the future. If you are looking at technology changes, make sure that data can be extracted into third party systems and if possible think about systems that can deliver real-time information rather than batch processes. Use your analytical tool to continue to build segments of “personas” and optimise online web and email engagement aligned to them. Connect devices (mobile, desktop etc) by the use of persistent cookies. Promote loyalty schemes to deliver real value to the customer and don’t forget to ask the customer how they would like to be engaged with.

After all, it is not who you know that matters, it’s what you know about who you know and when you use that information that makes a difference.