what we mean by a 360-degree customer view, what it enables, and how we went about doing this at Blueshift. This post is the first in a multi-part series that looks at key innovations in the Blueshift platform.

A 360-degree View of the Customer – Finding Marketing Zen

In this post, we’ll explain what we mean by a 360-degree customer view, what it enables, and how we went about doing this at Blueshift. This post is the first in a multi-part series that looks at key innovations in the Blueshift platform.


 

The 90/20 Reality of Marketing and the Single Customer View

David Raab of the CDP Institute quotes a recent survey that shows that 90% of marketers think that a unified multi-channel customer view is important, yet only 20% of them have such a view. Other studies, such as one performed by Gartner, find that even FEWER brands (10%) have a 360-Degree customer view.

For those of us on the “technical side” of the food chain (building software for marketers), this is not surprising — and more than likely, much lower than the stats suggest. Creating a Single Customer View is a hard problem to solve — people have been trying for a while, and often promising more than they can deliver. The fundamental goal is to provide customers with a unified and relevant experience across all channels. To achieve this, you need to have a 360-degree view of your customers in real time.

Traditional approaches to solving this problem, such as data warehouses and, later, data lakes, have come up short because they have either not been able to (a) collect the data or (b) organize it effectively in real-time.

 

What is a 360-degree view of the customer?

The term 360-degree view of the customer is a catchy phrase. And the problem with catchy phrases is they are used as buzzwords, and once that happens, you really have to look carefully under the covers and beyond the hype.

Figure 1: 360-degree view of a customer

Sometimes referred to as a Single Customer View (SCV), a true 360-degree view of the customer is built on having several important types of information about customers/prospects for use in real-time:

Customer Submitted Data (typically captured in a CRM)

  • Customer attributes & demographics such as Name, Gender, Location, Birthday, etc. The data may be submitted by the customer using online forms or collected through other requests for information.
  • Opt-in and other communication choices.
  • Preference Centers built for a user to indicate preferences for brands, colors, categories, genres, and more.

Customer Transactions

  • Transactional data including purchase records, course completions, and lead submissions along with changes in transactions such as cancellations.
  • Subscription data such as enrollment, upgrades, downgrades, and cancellations.
  • Customer service data including trouble tickets submitted, resolved, and still outstanding.

Product Interactions and Behavioral Data (Observed data, gleaned by collecting the customer’s behavior)

  • Web and mobile behavioral data including page views, swipes, clicks, likes, and “add-to-list” actions.
  • Marketing interactions such as opens or clicks of emails or push notifications, and views and responses to ads from multiple channels.

Derived Information (gathered by analyzing the “metadata”/patterns of customer interactions across channels)

  • “Identity” of anonymous visitors to websites or apps inferred using web cookies or device IDs, combined with login or opt-in.
  • Location information inferred by mapping IP address or latitude/longitude data.
    User affinity towards a category or brand that is inferred through browsing and buying behaviors (beyond stated preferences).
  • Stage in customer journey derived from customer activity.
  • Lifetime attributes such as orders, visits, sessions etc.
  • The propensity to convert based on recent and lifetime activity.

It’s important to note that in today’s online world, the real value of this 360-degree view can only be realized if all these data types are indexed and query-able for use in real-time. The data must be usable.

 

Why does this matter?

Paraphrasing another quote from David Raab, quality data, and more specifically an accurate 360-degree view of the customer, is the fuel that drives effective marketing and provides customers with the best experiences. And for organizations today, it provides the foundation for all customer-facing activities.

Figure 2: Foundational benefits of a 360-degree view of a customer

There are six essential benefits of having an accurate 360-degree view of the customer:

  1. Single Source of Truth
    Providing data access and integrity is fundamental to any organization’s success because it gives a single source of truth about your customers.
  2. Personalization and Segmentation
    Enabling dynamic personalization and segmentation of campaigns using multiple behavioral attributes collected in real-time makes campaigns more effective and relevant.
  3. Data-Driven Triggers
    With data-driven triggered events, companies automatically interact with customers in real-time to influence their decisions.
  4. Cross-Channel Engagement
    Simplifying the orchestration of cross-channel campaigns across multiple systems yields consistent and relevant engagement across all marketing channels.
  5. Compliance and Security
    By having a single source of truth, supporting compliance with rapidly changing regulations and practices around personally identifiable information and the protection of this information through directives like GDPR becomes much easier.
  6. Accurate Reporting
    Facilitating a consistent and accurate reports of activities and results.

 

Imperatives to building our 360-degree customer view

Even before Blueshift started building our 360-degree view, we stipulated the following key principles that were necessary for our view of the data to solve problems for the marketer:

Real-Time
Our customer view has to be updated almost instantaneously after any new interaction. We stipulated that this had to happen in near real-time because many marketing activities, such as campaign journeys are triggered based on customer activities, and personalization is far more effective in the context of recent activity

Unified cross-channel identity
The data has to be query-able with various forms of identity ranging from customer ids, email addresses and Facebook IDs to mobile device tokens and cookies.

Open data schema
We recognized that every business has a different way of looking at data, and we needed an open schema to more easily ingest and work with multiple forms of data coming from multiple sources.

Flexibility in modeling the data
Each piece of data may have something to tell us about how the customer interacted with the brand, and our system needed to model this data into the 360-degree view. For instance, for a client in the hospitality industry, a customer might have multiple “events” corresponding to the same booking ( book, check-in, check-out, complete a survey), and additional events relating to other bookings. Our 360-degree view had to capture and store all of these events in the same context. Similarly, in a Media business, customers might interact with content in different categories or from different authors. Here we had to model all of these interactions relative to the “catalog” of content or products for the media business.

Our technical challenges in building Blueshift’s 360-degree view while adhering to these core principles were in these four important areas:

  • Gathering all the different pieces of disparate data about an individual from dozens of input sources and hundreds of events in each session.
  • Resolving Identity and stitching together all this loosely structured data in order to get an accurate view of the behavior of each individual
  • Building a single customer view from 1 & 2 in “real-time” so that customer behavior can drive personalization and interactions across multiple channels
  • Maintaining data integrity and consistency across different systems(search, user store, data warehouse, data science, analytics)

 

Summary

The unified 360-degree view of a customer is a key foundational element needed to more effectively market to and interact with customers using artificial intelligence (AI) techniques. In our next post in this series, we will discuss how we went about building this single customer view in the Blueshift platform and the challenges we encountered.

For More Information
Read more about AI-powered marketing in our resources section.

This post was made possible through joint collaboration with Atri Chatterjee, Anuraj Pandey, and Cibin George.


Watch this rare webinar with Analysts from Forrester Research and VentureBeat hosted by Blueshift about getting the most out of your customer data with AI