Attend any major marketing conference and you'll hear marketers across the audience and onstage talking about the Single Customer View (SCV). But the notion of a SCV is not at all new - financial services has operated on this foundational philosophy for nearly two decades - however marketers worldwide are still struggling to deliver on this concept, according to Neil Capel, founder and chairman for Sailthru. This article is copyright 2015 The Best Customer Guide.

By collecting a wide range of data based on individual behaviours and interests across multiple channels, companies are able to better communicate with their customers and prospects because they are aware of both consumer interests and consumer intent.

Without the right technology in place, marketers will continue to face the challenge of not having a true SCV. The first roadblock to finding is a solution is to understand the barriers themselves. Here's a look at the top challenges and opportunities to solve them:

  1. Inability to link different technologies
    Data capture happens within every nook and cranny of the organisation but more often than not departments (or even single employees depending on the size of the organisation) use different technologies to do so - not all are not linked by a cohesive data roadmap! To build a true SCV companies must create an ecosystem that is designed to support data collection and influences everywhere that a consumer may engage. Marketers must be partnering with their CIO's to make sure that all technologies can contribute to a SCV through a well-planned ecosystem.
  2. Poor data quality
    Without accurate data, companies simply have no way of knowing what their customer base looks like, let alone each individual. Third-party data might seem an attractive option, but the data quality lacks the recency, accuracy and context that first-party data can provide. Consumers are often in a specific state of mind while interacting with your brand. First-party data is the true first-hand record of all your customers' actions. By using the right technologies marketers can both collect and access first party interests and behaviours and then use that data to communicate with increased relevancy and even predict the next actions of individual consumers.
  3. Lack of relevant technology
    Companies have vast amounts of customer data but without a coherent, cohesive strategy between the CMO and CIO, how can companies maximise the information to become a truly customer focused business?

    For example, most companies are still using SQL-based relational databases to store customer information. However, the relational data model - fixed predefined columns joined across many tables - is not designed to handle the explosion of big data and its three Vs: volume, velocity and variety. Nor is it built to handle the context of the cross-channel world in which we all live and consume.

    That's why modern marketers and CIOs require modern technologies and a solid foundation in order to work together. Technologies that leverage NoSQL databases do just that. Not having pre-defined columnar schema allows for much more flexibility. It suddenly becomes possible to ingest new data from new sources without fundamentally refactoring the data model or creating additional tables.

    For companies creating a multi-channel customer experience, this flexibility is critical as it enables the ability to access and analyse data that they can instantly act upon and analyse over the long-term.

  4. Too much data
    The vast majority of data did not exist even two years ago. Companies are struggling to identify the necessary information to impact customer lifetime value. Most marketers continue to rely on demographics - age, location, gender - because there is not a common understanding of the value of going behind these traditional signals. The truth is that there's much more data that must be considered; from knowing the time your customer engages, to what device they purchase on, even down to what colours they are more likely to choose. The entire clickstream is valuable, but turning this data into actionable information and intel is challenging!

    Business intelligence and advanced analytics platforms provide the ability to overcome analysis paralysis. Using such platforms, when directly connected to your SCV, marketers can view the downstream and long-term impact of the day-to-day marketing decisions. Campaign reporting is not the ideal measurement, rather it's this style of reporting that allows data visualisations and reports to provide true intelligence and make sense of the massive volumes of data that brands collect.

  5. Siloed departments
    Too often departments operate in silos and are unwilling or unable to share departmental insight with other areas of the business. This is the traditional marketing organisation structure, but it was created well before consumer behaviours evolved into shifting seamlessly from channel-to-channel. A classic example that most consumers have experienced because of organisational silos: they can an email driving them to download a new app; they shift from engaging over email to engaging in the app and then get a flood of emails asking them to "ome back!" Why? Because the email marketing team and the mobile marketing team aren't connected and there's no cross-functional awareness that the consumer is actually still engaged.

    Modern marketing organisations are breaking down data silos and are connecting efforts across acquisition and retention teams for a seamless and continuous experience, both inside and out. The way this is done differs per organisation: some share data to enable acquisition teams to make better decisions based on retention data for example; some create an analysis centre in order to share the insights; while others have brought on chief customer officers in order to bridge the gap.

"True next generation technology is multi-purpose, combining traditional CRM capabilities with big data and cross-channel marketing solutions. By identifying providers who can deliver an actionable SCV, ecommerce companies can work to overcome the challenges of knowing their customers and being able to respond to them and engage with them as individuals," concluded Capel. "With the growing need to deliver relevant content to consumers across a wide array of channels, marketers need to be smart about where they spend their marketing pounds, and where they can receive the greatest ROI. If their focus isn't on delivering a unified customer view, consumers will simply shift to those brands who do."