In this extract from our latest digital supplement, taking on the single customer view, we analyse expectations of brands in light of technological advancements.

In certain circles, don’t be surprised to hear the single customer view being touted as the Holy Grail of marketing. With customer experience set to take centre stage in retail, brands and advertisers are appearing keener than ever to appease their consumers.

By analysing past behaviour, marketers hope to better target and personalise future interactions. The goal is to ultimately gain a unified view of the customer and, if successful, encourage loyalty to their brand.

Of course, in exploring this approach, there is a strong case for those who believe that by gaining this unobstructed view of the customer, brands come close to overstepping the mark of what is accepted. Over-personalised ads have the potential to appear invasive, which can lead to angering, frightening or unnerving a potential buyer.

But despite the concerns from consumers and privacy advocates fearing an Orwellian future in e-commerce, is there an argument to say that customers have inadvertently demanded this view with their high expectations of brands?

A list of demands

Communications and technology are evolving faster than ever before, while access to data has changed the way brands interact with and target customers.

However, this convenient access to information and advanced tech is also available to the consumer, who has become far savvier than ever before. In this environment, it is not uncommon to see consumers siding with the brand which best caters for their needs without invading their privacy.

In the digital age, where brands are falling over themselves to attract new customers, encourage loyalty and engage with their consumer base across channels and devices, customers simply won’t stand for clunky comms.

Consumer expectations are high and according to Luke Judge, of digital marketing agency Net Media Planet, they expect continuity across channels.

“No one expects to have to tell their mobile phone company what their mobile phone number is, when they are phoning them from the mobile phone that is stored on the system of the mobile phone company that is supplying them with that mobile phone,” he says.

Nicola White, head of affiliates at global media company Medicom, states that if consumers aren’t satisfied with the level of communication and relevancy of ads, they will simply move on.

“With the rise of loyalty and store cards delivering personalised, relevant offers I think customers have naturally started to heighten their expectations and start to dismiss advertisers who are unable to follow suit,” she said.

“No longer will customers put up with generic communications which fail to deliver on relevancy, value and timing.”

Big Brother

It is clear that, as a combined result of advanced tech and human nature, customers demand better communications, relevant ads and a more personal brand experience, subconsciously or otherwise.

However, this personalised approach is not possible without marketers attaining a more unified view of them, which invites a certain amount of controversy.

Without question, marketers and brands must remain cautious when looking to obtain the single customer view. Those who seek a more in-depth vision of their consumers tread a fine line between effective engagement and successful targeting, and bearing resemblance to Orwell’s Big Brother.

White believes there will always be resentment for high levels of personalisation. In light of a number of high-profile data breaches, consumers are more aware than ever of their online behaviour and, more importantly, their personal privacy.

Transparency is key here as, ultimately, consumers want a brand they can trust. Keeping the customer’s needs at the heart of all marketing campaigns is essential to attaining loyalty and ensuring that bands aren’t relegated to Room 101.

Net Media Planet’s Judge advises marketers that to avoid looking creepy, they must use techniques such as frequency capping (limiting the number of times a tagged user will see an ads), and above all, being subtle in the level of personalisation.

Buying data to achieve the single customer view is another issue which should be approached with caution. Many consumers are uncomfortable with being targeted by third parties with whom they are yet to buy from or engage with. Furthermore, purchasing data from outside a business also leaves the brand vulnerable to other risks, such as the data being acquired illegally.

Enjoying the benefits

As to whether customers have inadvertently demanded the world that this unparalleled view exists in, Judge says that whether or not this is the case, they can certainly benefit from better marketing efforts

“They probably unknowingly enjoy the benefits of personalisation that they receive, even if they don’t recognise it.”

James Cartlidge, head of strategic partnerships at Quidco, echoes Judge’s comments on the need for customers to be recognised and rewarded.

“I think it’s a natural human want to have belonging and recognition,” he says. “People like recognition. As a customer if you notice me and reward me for it, I’m going to value you and repeat more. Service is more powerful than price today.”

To appease customers, marketers must tread carefully, ensuring that advertising and customer service remains relevant and works to the advantage of the consumer, without driving them away with seemingly intrusive marketing.

It’s a difficult balance to maintain, but one that is essential to appeal to the people that matter. Because after all, the customer is always right.