From rich resources that are stored offline, such as CRM and point-of sale warehouses, to endless digital touchpoints, where every click, open or swipe reveals something unique about a person’s interest, behavior and intent, brands now have access to more first-party customer data than ever before.
This is the beauty of our hyper-connected culture. Yet making sense of the all the data collected across channels, devices and disparate data sources to resolve identity and glean meaningful insights to inform customer interactions — now, that’s where it can get ugly.
Suddenly, that goldmine of data seems more like a vast pit of confusion.
When customers engage with brands on their smartphones, tablets and desktops, multiple fragmented profiles are created across the many platforms and tools that enable those interactions. This leaves marketers with a collection of partial, often anonymous views into consumer activity. Add to that, data from brick-and-mortar stores, call centers and loyalty programs. Without the ability to continuously connect all historical data about a customer to real-time behavioral data about that same person, marketers see parts of — but not the whole — consumer journey. This leads to inaccurate insights, misinformed strategies and inconsistent measurement. And that, in turn, may lead to annoying customers, fueling indifference and forcing customer defection.
In the race to win today’s fickle, device-centric customers with the type of immediate 1:1 experiences they’ve come to expect, brands must be able to unify all of their data into a centralized, durable profile that can be used for targeting and personalization across all touchpoints. Marketers know this, of course. Yet while 90% of marketers agree that achieving a single view of the customer across all touchpoints is essential for marketing success, only 6% are able to do so.
For many brands, this is because they are working with fragmented, siloed and legacy technologies that aren’t capable of keeping pace with customers as they switch between devices and channels. For those that do have cross-screen tracking capabilities, few are fully integrated with all of an organization’s marketing systems. Most simply don’t know where to start.
That’s where we come in. In this guide, we break down the concept of a single customer view and highlight the core capabilities necessary for creating a durable customer profile that can power addressable marketing. We explain how, when built right, a single view of the customer can make targeting and measurement more precise, brand engagements more meaningful and marketing efforts more profitable.
Today’s perpetually connected consumers can research options within moments and make decisions—and purchases—within seconds. Which means brands must make sure the right message hits at the right time at the right stage in a buyer’s journey. A single customer view is what makes this possible.
A single view is the result of collecting and connecting identity, behavior and attribute data about a specific customer and consolidating it into one, universal record that is always on for real-time consumer recognition.
Two key components are necessary to make this happen:
As the foundation for addressable marketing, a single view must be built around a persistent customer profile. Persistence, here, is critical.
Customer profiles are a collection of different types of personally identifiable data, such as physical and email addresses, mobile phone numbers, device IDs, account usernames, loyalty numbers and all types of cookie data, as well as various behavior and attribute data, like browsing activity and purchase history. What makes a profile persistent and, therefore, able to continuously accumulate data and become richer over time, is that it is rooted in authenticated IDs. For example, email addresses or customer IDs that require a log-in, making them more durable than cookie-based data that expires and is restricted to the web.
This doesn’t mean that cookies don’t have a place in the customer profile; they offer limited insights into browser behavior, for instance. But in order to understand and relate to a customer’s behavior across all channels with precision, personalization and timeliness, the profile must be built from deterministic and long-lasting IDs. Simply put, persistent profiles are not created for one-time campaign execution — they exist for a lifetime of targeting across the digital ecosystem.
An identity graph, or ID graph, is what houses the persistent profiles and enables the data connections that result in a single view. Essentially, an ID graph is a database that creates connections between a customer profile and related data points, such as cookies, mobile IDs or specific behavior and attributes of a person.
When a customer “authenticates,” i.e., logs into a site or makes a purchase, the ID graph links the individual to the various bits of data used to uniquely identify her across channels or devices. Brands may own their ID graph or they may tap into ID graphs that have been assembled by social networks, advertising partners or onboarding providers.
Now that we have the concept down, let’s take a look at the technical requirements and capabilities necessary for creating a single view that can be used for people-based targeting: collection, connection, matching and activation.
It’s important to understand how the efficiencies of each impact the accuracy and value of this critical addressable marketing asset:
Customers expect immediate gratification; they operate in real time. So, too, should a marketer’s data collection. While many single-view solutions collect data from multiple channels, some collect it by retrieving static batch files from a marketer’s various channel platforms, which takes days or weeks to process, making it impossible to analyze the most recent data. To optimize campaigns with more accurate messaging and targeting, marketers need a solution that enables them to seamlessly integrate live streaming data from all digital touchpoints and simultaneously synchronize these insights with offline data, such as CRM storages, call centers, POS systems or other engagement points.
Today’s consumers are “always on,” their journeys ever-changing. Thus it’s critical that recognizing and unifying customer identity across channels and devices be a continuous process as well. One-time, campaign-based identification results in only a partial view of a customer; essentially, a snapshot in time. Conversely, always-on recognition allows profiles to be continually updated with each customer interaction across screens, creating accurate persistent profiles that grow even stronger – and more valuable – over time.
There are two types of matching methodologies: deterministic and probabilistic. Deterministic matching occurs when a user authenticates across channels, such as via a login, an email address or loyalty account number. Probabilistic matching uses algorithms to analyze various data points and predict possible matching across channels. While probabilistic matching achieves greater scale, the match is still an educated guess. No question, leveraging first-party data for deterministic matching enables the most accurate single view of customers.
What good is a single view of the customer if it’s restricted in use? Some solutions package their own data analysis tools into their single-view offering, limiting marketers to those tools and the insights they can uncover. Some lack the processing capabilities and speed to activate a unified profile when, where and how a brand wants. And some solutions only integrate with specific platforms. Marketers should seek agnostic solutions that give them the flexibility to work with the tools and platforms they prefer.
A single person may look like many as she moves between devices and channels. Having a persistent profile for each customer allows marketers to recognize where they are at each stage in the buyer journey and target them with relevant messages at the right time in the right context across addressable devices.
Merging online and offline customer profiles into a unified dataset enables highly accurate and granular offline/online customer behavior analysis. In addition to individual insights, a single view helps marketers better understand the macro trends of customers in general: Where do new customers find a brand? What are the most successful conversion methods per channel? With a single customer view, brands can determine who their best customers are and create strategies to keep them active.
Knowing whether or not consumers are still in research mode or are in market for a product right now allows brands to customize messages so that they reach and engage customers with meaning and value. Ultimately, marketers can use these insights to predict future behavior and enhance customer relationships with relevant and positive brand experiences, including opportunities to upsell and cross-sell. Delivering marketing messages without knowledge of a customer’s previous activity can result in repetitive, irrelevant brand experiences that can actually turn customers away.
Connecting and merging numerous customer IDs into a single, unique profile provides the ideal starting point to better segment customers into specific engagement groups across channels and devices. Knowing who their customers are and where their interests lie allows marketers to better manage media spend. That means no longer sending promotional emails about a product a customer has already purchased. Or no longer sending the same customer the same ad multiple times because that customer appeared to be three different people. Simply put, no longer wasting money.
In an increasingly fragmented digital landscape, it’s no surprise that measurement and attribution have been a challenge. But with cross-channel strategies now the focus of most media plans, it’s now a top priority. The only way to accurately gage marketing reach, frequency and effectiveness is by being able to merge all of a brand’s channel and device data into a single record for each customer. With this type of control over all customer data, measurement and attribution become incrementally easier. Which means so does optimizing strategies–and increasing ROAS.
As the global leader in people-based marketing, at Signal, we created the industry’s first customer identity platform to help marketers unlock the single view of the customer on an always-on basis. No other identity resolution provider offers one technology that combines first-party data collection, persistent identification, onboarding, audience matching and segmentation for real-time, cross-channel execution. Using Signal’s platform, marketers can immediately recognize and engage with customers wherever they are across digital touchpoints when they are actually shopping their product – not just assumed to be. And this leads to greater conversions, less waste and an increase in ROI.
The ability to view the customer through a single lens enables critical measurement, optimization, efficiency and personalized use cases. The Signal Customer Identity Platform is helping empower us to understand the panoramic customer journey.”
– Jason Niemi, Associate Director, Digital Engagements & E-Commerce, Kraft Foods Group
Never before have consumers had so much access to so much information through so many touchpoints. And never before has there been so much duplicate, disconnected and inaccurate information collected about them.
With so much data moving at such rapid rates, it’s easy see how marketers can lose focus from the start and lose sight of the ultimate goal: learning more about their customers to better engage them. Working with a unified, persistent people-based data set, brands can understand past behaviors, interactions and purchases through a single lens. This single view allows marketers to precisely target customers at any touchpoint with relevancy and value in the moment, driving better marketing outcomes in the future.
Sure, knowing a few parts of a customer’s story has value. But understanding the entire journey — from brand awareness to purchase to customer loyalty — now, that’s priceless.