Achieving a Single Customer View

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The following is an excerpt from the whitepaper ‘Achieving a Single Customer View: The Holy Grail for Marketers’ by Dave Scott, Chief Marketing Officer at Gigya. Scott is also the author of the books ‘The New Rules of Lead Generation: Proven Strategies to Maximize Marketing ROI’ and ‘The Essentials of Small Business Marketing’. 


The IDC says that consumers created 1.8 zettabytes of information in 2011 – that’s 56.5 billion 32GB iPads’ worth of data – and that the world’s information has more than tripled since then. To put it in perspective, that’s enough iPads to build a wall taller and wider than the Great Wall of China! And the data deluge won’t be slowing down anytime soon – the IDC predicts that data will increase 10-fold by 2020.

Every single data point is an opportunity to connect with your subscribers in more meaningful ways, and managing today’s volume and variety of data effectively is an imperative for businesses to meet customer expectations.

The Big Benefits of Big Data

  • 73% of consumers prefer to do business with brands that use personal information to make their shopping experiences more relevant (Digital Trends)
  • A retailer using big data to its full potential can increase its operating margin by more than 60% (McKinsey)
  • More than two-thirds of business execs believe they could lose their market position in the next 1-3 years if they don’t adopt big data strategies (Accenture)

Subscription businesses are trying to collect as much data as they can in an attempt to learn more about their customers. But while data has the power to help you develop more personal customer relationships and relevant user experiences, if it is not collected and managed properly, it can lead to a totally disorganized and inaccurate view of your subscribers.

So how can your subscription business manage big data in a way that effectively gives you a single, complete view of your customers that leads to meaningful interactions and relationships?


“You’ve Got Mail”

Remember the days of AOL? The Internet was a largely uncharted, somewhat daunting landscape driven by user anonymity. You went online to escape yourself, not to be yourself.

But with modern consumers publicly sharing information about their relationships, hobbies,

locations, desired products and plans for the weekend via mobile apps, social networks, blogs and more, their real identities have become intertwined with their “virtual lives.”

Online Anonymity is Dead

As more interactions move to the digital realm, customers are demanding increasingly personal, real world experiences across digital channels and devices.

Take your local Starbucks, for example. If you’re a frequent customer, the baristas will greet you by name, start making your favorite drink before you can even order, and ask about your two kids. They know you.

This is the type of relationship-driven experience today’s consumers expect businesses to bring to the online world:

  • 40% of consumers buy more from retailers who personalize the shopping experience across channels (Monetate)
  • 79% agree that their relationships with brands are more personal than ever before (Latitude)
  • After receiving irrelevant information or products from a brand, 43% ignored future communications from the company, while 20% stopped buying from it altogether (Gigya)

Missing the Mark

Online anonymity is dead – and that’s a good thing. But in an attempt to combat unknown users and give customers the “Starbucks experience,” too many brands are still using prehistoric third-party data techniques that cross the line.

Not only is being unknowingly “cookied” and tracked across the Internet creepy, but third-party cookies do little to tell you who your customers really are, merely providing a peek at device-specific browser history that may or may not belong to a known user. What’s more, data brokers often combine cookie data with unauthorized offline data such as purchase history, credit reports, medical records and more in an attempt to build out “complete” consumer profiles.

Focusing on First-Party Data

To truly understand their subscribers, forge genuine relationships and create relevant cross-channel experiences, leading brands are turning to first-party data. First-party data can be captured using a variety of techniques, including email subscriptions, purchase forms, site analytics and more.

Because it comes directly from your customers, first-party data promotes transparent data collection and consumer privacy, and is more accurate than insights that have been bought and sold by third-party vendors.

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Leveraging Subscriber Identity

One of the most common ways to collect first-party data is via user registration and login.

Prompting site visitors to register for and login to your site or app gives them the opportunity to self-identify and share select information about themselves directly with your brand.

Capturing consumer identity is a major stepping stone to achieving a single customer view because your customers carry this identity with them as they move across your web properties, enabling you to tie all cross-channel activity and insights to a single, fully developed user profile.

Social Login as a Solution

In addition to traditional sign-in, your registration solution should also support social login. Social login reduces barrier to site entry by allowing visitors to authenticate their identities using an existing social network or pre-validated user account. It is particularly convenient across mobile devices as consumers are often already logged in to their social network(s) of choice, making registration a seamless, two-click experience.

When subscribers login socially to your site or app, they can also grant your brand permission-based access to specific data points housed within their social profiles, such as their relationships, interests, and activities. This information is extremely powerful when it comes to creating more personal, relevant user experiences.

Registration Done Right

Here are some elements needed to encourage unknown site visitors to identify themselves as known customers:

  1. Give visitors the option of both social and traditional sign-in.
  2. Provide multiple social login options.
  3. Clearly list the benefits of becoming a registered user.
  4. Specifically state the data points being collected, and don’t ask for too much information at once.
  5. Let users know upfront that their data is protected.
  6. Incorporate custom opt-in fields.

Account Linking & SSO

Giving users options when it comes to registration and login makes it necessary to choose a registration software that is able to automatically link multiple user accounts to a single profile.

Single sign-on (SSO) is another tactic to facilitate a single customer view while providing a streamlined user experience. As web-based services and applications multiply, SSO allows users to move seamlessly across properties by tying all activity to a single, known username and password or social identity.

SSO can also be used to create frictionless identity verification between separate yet affiliated systems; for example, between websites and customer service providers like Zendesk, or a TV network and cable provider.


Identity Implications

Making the decision to embark on the quest for a single customer view and focus on consumer identity has many implications for your subscription business from both a technical and operational standpoint.

Many businesses fail when it comes to achieving the “holy grail” because their customer data management system is out of date, and marketing and IT execs are out of sync when it comes to implementing the infrastructure needed to support modern marketing goals.

Not All Data Is Created Equal

80% of the world’s data is unstructured, meaning that it cannot be efficiently stored in a predefined manner, and comes from sources like social networks, text messages and videos. In contrast, “structured data” refers to information that fits neatly into pre-defined database fields, like name, email address and zip code.

Legacy databases were not built to reconcile both structured and unstructured data, but without a clear and aggregate understanding of both data types, achieving a single customer view is impossible.

Calling All Data Types

To get the single, real-time view of cross-channel consumer identity data needed to make timely marketing decisions and build relevant user experiences, marketing and IT must collaborate to choose a dynamic, schemaless customer identity management database.

This database should automatically collect and reconcile all types of data in real-time, including demographic, social, behavioral and transactional. This data must be stored in an organized manner that enables your business to conduct real-time analysis and make data-driven decisions quickly.

Security and Compliance

Data is every company’s biggest asset, and when your customers entrust you with their information, it’s your responsibility to protect it. Security must be a core feature of your customer database – not bolted on as threats emerge. Go beyond security protocols and look for a database that is inherently fortified and certified by industry recognized standards such as ISO 27001 and Safe Harbor.

When it comes to managing consumer identities and data from today’s multitude of networks and applications, your business must adhere to the privacy policies created by countless lawmakers and third-party identity providers. Choosing a solution with the ability to automatically manage these privacy updates in real-time is the key to staying compliant and maintaining customer trust.

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From Storage to Action

While adopting a database with the ability to store all customer identity data in a single place is a huge organizational milestone, this still doesn’t necessarily mean your subscription business has a single customer view.

To achieve this elusive “holy grail,” your database must be configured in a way that enables marketers and other non-technical decision makers to take action on the goldmine of data housed inside.

Break Down Data Silos

A modern customer identity database should not only aggregate data across multiple sources; it should also be able to seamlessly share this data with your existing third-party marketing platforms and business systems.

Direct integrations and automatic, bi-directional data syncs between recommendation engines, CRM solutions, ad platforms, email marketing systems and more turn your database into a single source of customer truth, regardless of channel or device.

Integration in Action

Delivering customers with relevance at each touch point throughout the customer journey is the linchpin of creating direct customer relationships and lifetime loyalty. Consider the following simple yet powerful example:

A customer logs into an ecommerce site using her Facebook account. After browsing for a few minutes, she shares two dresses with her Facebook network. She adds one to her cart, but abandons the purchase mid-checkout.

To combat this, a site with a fully integrated marketing strategy could then email her a coupon for 25% off the dress of her choice, re-target her with ads for women’s clothing and

accessories on Facebook, and greet her with a personalized showcase of items matching

her desired dress the next time she logs in.

If that’s not a personal, Starbucks-esque experience, then what is?

Data → Insights

One critical and often overlooked hurdle to achieving a single customer view is the inability of non-technical business leaders to independently analyze end-user data.

Collaborate with IT to ensure that the key stakeholders in the marketing organization have

the ability to analyze customer identity data via an easily accessible dashboard, giving them the power to make strategic, data-driven marketing decisions anytime, anywhere.

This dashboard should allow marketers to run complex queries, build custom filters and audience segments with no code required, and save and export reports.

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