In the wake of our most recent roundtable, focusing on the single customer view, we released an expert-led supplement featuring a number of Q&As and features, all of which you can download for free.

In the extract below, our panel discuss the journey ahead for those seeking the single customer view and the main challenges they face.

Is SCV a reality for retailers and where do they begin?

Gill Makepeace: I think it is a reality, yes. They need to identify the data they already have and work on pulling this into one manageable system. Things like company store cards or mobile contract data will help to identify a customer’s shopping and browsing behaviour across physical locations and online.

They also need to identify before starting what they want to achieve from having a SCV. This is hugely important for making sure the solution they build meets their requirements, plus thinking about potential future enhancements they may want, so they capture all the data required.

James Cartlidge:  It might not be the reality right now but it will be expected in the near future, especially when leading retailer brands start investing heavily [in the single customer view]. Ultimately brands that can build a deeper relationship with their customers will win. I’d say start with the vision and work backwards to see how each aspect of that customer view needs to align.  

Lewis Lenssen: It’s unlikely that retailers will have a 100% joined-up and consistent view of every customer, but there are plenty of opportunities to create a rich view of the majority of customers.

It’s not important what everyone else does – retailers should prioritise the marketing channels, sales channels and devices that are most important to their business and move ahead based on that. It won’t be solved straightaway so there needs to be a roadmap to take them from where they are, to where they want to be, in stages.

From where we stand currently, what are the main challenges to achieving this goal?

Luke Judge:The biggest challenges are probably online to offline and across devices. Collating past transactions is not difficult based on contact email addresses/billing details etc.

However, when an email address or a unique identifier is not collected when someone is browsing the client’s site (i.e. on their mobile, or online before they go on to purchase in store) means the client cannot easily connect the two customer interactions, and hence it is tricky to see a singular customer view.

LL: The main challenge is to get brands to stop questioning if it’s possible and start measuring and joining as much as they can. Just because every user can’t be joined across every channel with 100% accuracy, it doesn’t mean that there’s no value in making the connections that are possible.

Nicola White: The extraction, communication and collection of key data sources around the company form some of the major challenges to achieving a SCV.

However it’s important not to overlook the internal resourcing challenges which can also complicate the process; namely determining who is going to be responsible for driving and co-ordinating the project and also gaining c-level buy-in for investing in it.

As it can involve so many different functions across an organization and take such a long time to implement, it’s vital that retailers gain the full backing and support from the top.  

Are today’s companies structured to take on the task?

NW: Some forward-thinking companies have really embraced SCV and have re-structured or invested in additional resource in order to take on and excel in this area. In these cases it’s investment in ‘data analysts’ or ‘data scientists’ who understand the importance of gathering the required data and how it should be used to treat customers as individuals.

Companies tend to struggle where their online systems have had no historic need or ability to communicate with their offline stores, which then forms a major challenge in itself.  

LL: In general, most companies aren’t structured in the optimum way to take this on. Businesses don’t necessarily have to change, but if we look at the structure of the most successful multi-channel business we’re starting to see the creation of new roles with responsibility across online and offline channels.

It’s now more likely to have people with cross-channel expertise, so rather than teams structured around the traditional channels (search, email, display etc.), these businesses are structuring them around product types (menswear, womenswear, furniture etc.), with responsibility for sales across all channels and devices.

Ultimately, what will concepts like SCV promote and achieve?

JC: A happy customer who remains loyal through a better understanding and  actionable data to help increase relevancy and drive a bigger revenue per user.

GM: I think SCV is key for both merchants and publisher to be able to offer intelligent bespoke marketing to customers. The users these days are becoming more demanding and savvy  Receiving offers and content that is not relevant for their needs now could turn a them off from a brand or publisher. I think the future potential is huge once companies are able to have SCV.

NW: SCV can help organisations to understand a customer’s history, their product relationships and allows for better retention, communication and up-selling.

Ultimately,  if  done  successfully,  it  can achieve an increase in customer loyalty with a brand and help to target the right people, with the right message at the exact right time which is vital in this modern marketing era.

LL: These concepts will help marketers to see a more realistic view of their customers. It will help to promote better marketing that’s based on the real consumer, rather than the concept of a pure online or pure offline persona – a notion that doesn’t exist in reality.