August 27, 2015

 The Marketer’s Guide to a Modern Single Customer View


‘Our customer experience is our brand’

The imperative for a Single Customer View has come from companies and institutions trying to manage customer relations in an increasingly complex multi-channel environment.

A recent survey published spring 2015 by Econsultancy found that 89% of senior retail marketers agreed that ‘Our customer experience is our brand’.

Delivering a consistent experience across all channels requires both complexity as a result of integration across channels and technologies, and simplification; i.e. reducing big data volumes down to meaningful summaries so that customers’ needs can be understood and met.

Another dimension is time; customers expect real-time responses, and immediately updated information, despite their own use of multiple touchpoints. The implication is that to successfully manage customer relations any new data received has to be integrated immediately into the customer record.

Lastly there is the problem of identity itself: most of us would agree with John Locke, the philosopher, that ‘personal identity (or the self) to be founded on consciousness’ (viz. memory). However the humble marketer only has access to external identifiers such as an email address or cookie ID.

Maintaining an individual’s identity when any external identifier can change is another requirement met within the Single Customer View.  We call it the digital passport.

Why is a real-time Single Customer View becoming a necessity, not a luxury?
Successful customer relationships need to be based on a high level of service, and on the provision of a continuous quality of customer experience, fed by a deep understanding of customer needs.

Why need scv




This service factor can then replace price as a key component of customers’ purchase decision making. To start to achieve this, a real-time Single Customer View, or something close to it, is a necessary infrastructure component.

Research has shown that customers don’t mind having their data collected if they feel it is being used to provide the level of service they require.

In managing customer relationships there is a long list of requirements for which the Single Customer View is a necessary precursor including:

  • Allowing a marketer to pick the more important issues on which to base communications, not just for example responding to the latest web based content viewed or dropped basket (a customer’s purchase levels may be in a state of long term decline, and a phone call may be needed to find out why)
  • Enabling an understanding of customer interests, purchases and value across all channels, and supporting personalisation across the customer experience
  • The ability to correctly attribute campaign response, for instance if a catalogue or brochure is driving web browsing and purchase (using the Single Customer View it will be possible to look at a sequence of events and to set in place attribution rules that take account of prior contacts)
  • Respecting client preferences across channels (this will become particularly important when the new EC Data Protection Regulations are introduced in 2017, and customers will be empowered to give far more specific consents concerning how their data is to be used)
  • And very generally enabling the development and attribution of customer insights across the relationship (for instance placing a customer in the right segment based on a full view of their purchase history)

We are not the only ones to believe this, DQ global states that the three benefits of a SCV are:

  1. Predicting behaviour
  2. Enhancing service
  3. Increasing revenue

Whilst Econsultancy ask:

What are the primary advantages of unifying digital marketing applications and data?


 Econsultancy - scv advantages  

What are key elements in Single Customer View technology?
The Single Customer View can be fed from any type of data source provided that there are identifiers or links that enable one to join together in real time the 360º view of the customer. Hence for instance web browsing, transactions, POS activity, and inbound and outbound contacts can all be included.

The Single Customer View is then updated in real time meaning that for instance purchase history or customer preferences are always up to date.

To support the Single Customer View we require a digital passport, or permanent unique customer identifier. This key element contains a rolling history of several kinds of personal identifiers including email address, cookie ID, account number or mobile number.

In practise a Single Customer View, if left uncontrolled, will contain far more information than you will need to manage a customer relationship. So the Single Customer View needs to build a structured view of each customer containing strictly controlled data elements which we call an Analytical Data Mart or ADM. These elements can include raw data, such as actual products purchased, and derived information, such as propensities to purchase specific services or an RFM score. The ADM is the basis of most individual customer decision making and service provision.

A Single Customer View is often cloud based and access is provided via a web-interface. This means that reports and dashboards are available for your team wherever they are. Also the cleansed SCV (or ADM) can be accessed by your planners and analysts.

Single Customer View should not attempt to replace elements in your systems architecture beyond building the central customer data repository; hence your transaction, POS, call centre, campaign management, and emailing systems can continue largely as before with the difference that customer facing systems will have a new source of customer data. From the perspective of your analysts and planners they can continue to use their existing technologies, whether that is SAS, SPSS or Excel, but with the benefit of the Single Customer View on which to base their insights.

Where does Single Customer View fit in a conventional systems’ architecture?

As we have seen above the Single Customer View sits within, rather than replacing, existing technology except for the customer database. Every company or organisation will have their own systems architecture and this diagram provides an overview of how the parts might fit together:

SCV data sources1


As part of Single Customer View there should be a facility for building customer reports which can be presented as dashboards that are updated in real–time.

As a function within this, there can be campaign reporting for which you should provide your own attribution rules; for instance associating sales through any channels with prior outbound communications.

The ADM will allow analysts to enjoy a stable, normalised, source of customer data to which they can add additional information such as propensity, RFM or segment membership scores. In reality we find that an ADM normally contains a reasonably standardised set of information on transactions, browsing summaries and customer contacts.

What data normally feeds into a Single Customer View?
A Single Customer View often has an ever growing list of data sources; a few examples include transactional feeds, customer data, web browsing data, POS and contact history. But marketers are always looking to add to this and may call for social and mobile data to be included!

What is the Single Customer View digital passport?

The digital passport is the term we use to describe an approach to maintaining the identity of an individual customer over time, often as many individual identifiers such as email or customer number change.

Whilst it is essentially a customer reference number, it is built and maintained with advanced algorithms to link historic account information together.

The Single Customer View digital passport is central to the system and provides a permanent unique customer identifier, which is used to key together data coming in from all the Single Customer View feeder systems.


The key problem it solves is that customers no longer have a single identifier and any of them can change at any point in time. Also customers may have several identifiers for the same role, so you may have more than one cookie ID, or email, with which you communicate with an organisation. You may also have been given more than one account number having arrived at the organisation via different channels.

The digital passport holds all your unique identifiers in one place and records the date and time when replacement identifiers first arrive. In this way, as long as you don’t change just a single identifier by which you communicate with an organisation, and not provide any other identifier clues at the same time, the Single Customer View can keep track of you. However cookie IDs can change or you may refuse cookies, so the system cannot be perfect. What it does do is to make the best job of the information it has.

What reports can we expect from a Single Customer View?

A Single Customer View provides business critical reporting capabilities. Without it you can only track sales, and not customer performance.

With it you can generate a vast array of information including:

  • Reporting by customer segment such as RFM
  • Understanding customer recruitment and retention
  • Relating product category to customer types
  • Tracking longer term customer value
  • Joining on-line and off-line sales performance
  • Assessing recruitment channels by the value they generate

Why do we need an analytical data mart (ADM)?
An ADM is a table, or set of tables, in a fixed format but not held in a database structure, used to build reports and insight tools and deploy them.

Crucially it has one row per digital passport per table so that data derived from multiple data sources is joined together.

ADMs solve a number of common issues for planners, analysts, and for the provision of reports and dashboards:

  • Because the data is transformed from the raw source to the ADM, it is consistent, and analyses produced in time period one can be compared with analyses in time period two
  • As most of the ADM remains fixed, users will easily get the hang of where to find data, and how to use it, without having to revert to large numbers of data tables
  • It is relatively simple to set up additional columns in the ADM, so that if you add a channel, or build a new propensity model, you can quickly include the last contact date and type, or the propensity score
  • The ADM can store derived data like length of the customer relationship, rate of increase or decrease in sales to an individual, overall amount of web browsing time, region derived from postcode, gender from title and forename etc.
  • The ADM can interface with campaign management systems and/or email systems hence streamlining the use of models for campaigns.
  • The ADM may also contain a real-time recommendation of the next communication to make to a customer in batch mode or in response to a browser activity.

How difficult is it to set up Single Customer View technology?
A Single Customer View should be designed to automatically create FTP sites and API’s to call or receive data. What follows is a set of mapping rules to get the data in the right format. However a Single Customer View, like any other solution, is still entirely dependent on your website and fulfilment platforms to provide the data.

Obtaining session data from your website is a key element in setting up a useful Single Customer View, as it enables you to determine engagement by each of your customer segments.

And the Single Customer View is a provider, as well as a recipient, of data. It can interface with your campaign management software or your emailer.

Overall the complexity of setting up a Single Customer View is driven by the number of feeder data sources and their complexity. However in doing so cross channel reporting comes easier, as does analytics, which makes insight more actionable. Therefore the good news is that this development cost can be seen as an investment in generating customer value, and is not a perishable expense item.

Can Single Customer View support the new EU Data Protection Regulations?
The EU are developing an entirely new legislative framework for data protection and, unlike previous versions, individual countries will not be able to make their own often quite liberal interpretations of the requirements. It is called the ‘EU Data Protection Regulation’ and will come into force by the end of 2016.

To quote an EU source the ‘objective of this new set of rules is to give citizens back control over their personal data’. This may have some quite profound implications that could not be met without a well-developed Single Customer View including:

  • The right to object to data processing. This right will include a requirement for opt-in rather than opt-out, and the scope of the objection can be at a much more detailed level than in the past. So a data subject may not agree to have their data used for statistical analysis, but agree to have it used for email communications. Customers may lodge a consent on-line but expect it to be applied to all other channels.
  • The right to be forgotten, across all customer facing systems.
  • The right for data portability if the customer wants to move their business to another supplier

The legislation is still being fiercely debated and is not finalised, so it is likely that some aspects of the opt-in requirement may well be loosened.

However we suggest designing a Single Customer View to cope as far as possible with this new legislative challenge. This will mean that, as well as providing the Single Customer View so that all customer consents can be linked to the customer, that there is a logical structure within which to hold the consents, and apply them to any customer data processing.

Enter UniFida
If you have read this far about the Single Customer View you may be interested to know that at Berry Thompson we have developed a low cost real time Single Customer View solution that covers all the functionality and requirements mentioned in this brief guide.

Please see our product page – UniFida – for more details, or contact us.