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How do you build a Single Customer View platform?

Data management

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Published August 29, 2016 · Updated November 13, 2018

How do you build a Single Customer View platform?

Got too much data? Don’t know how to use it? You need a Single Customer View platform.

Sound familiar?

Probably – since the idea of having SCV capabilities is all the rage these days.

But is it just a buzzword, and if not, how exactly does it work?

In other words, how do you go from point A to point B – from having masses of information about a host of customers to having that data neatly categorized individually so you can get a clear view of each and every potential or returning customer?

Here’s how it works in a nutshell.

Data collection – mastering the masses

The first step in creating a dynamic SCV (or Unified Customer View) platform is building and integrating the data collection elements of the platform.

Because the goal of an SCV platform is to offer a well-rounded picture of individuals, it is important to draw data from a variety of sources – both online and offline. The wider the range, the better – obviously.

Depending the type of business and the goal of the platform, different types of data will be useful.

Let’s take the example of an company that sells clothes. In order to build a Single Customer View platform that can help the site serve personalized content and maximize the lifetime revenue of its customers.

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Single Customer View

As noted above, the sources of data may be online or offline. This is important because part of the power of a SCV platform is its ability to match offline data with online behaviour and enable marketers to target each customer with a unified customer experience regardless of the channel where they interact with the brand – offline, desktop web, mobile web, email or social channel.

This way the experience remains personalized and consistent and creates a positive image of the brand on an individual user level.

Moving on, the platform will need to be able receive this data on a continual basis and push it on for segmentation. This is accomplished on the server side and will look something like this:

Single Customer View
Part of a SCV platform's work is in bringing together data from a wide range of sources.

Data processing – sorting it all out

The heart of a SCV is the data segmentation layer. Without it, the data gathered from all the different sources would remained muddled and unactionable.

To overcome this, a SCV platform must be built to dynamically receive, process and sort the data – and do it quickly and efficiently.

There are several steps and several components needed to accomplish this:

Step 1: Normalization & enrichment

The first step is to order the incoming data and put it in a form that makes it easily sortable and usable.

This process of “normalization” includes creating a common format so that data of all kinds can be passed on to the next processing layer. In the case of an e-commerce shopper, this can mean combining the data from mobile SDK and web trackers to see all the items he or she looked at on a site, regardless of device.

Part of the utility of this step is to allow data profiles to later be enriched with additional data points.

So – for instance – a user’s IP address, when matched up against an external database, will yield his or her geolocation. Analysing the user-agent can reveal what device was used, as well as what OS or browser the user has. As each new event is registered it can easily be added to the appropriate database based on the general event attributes.

Step 2: Profile building

As data keeps coming in, is normalized and over time enriched with more and more data, the process of building a profile begins. This is where the real work of a Single Customer View platform occurs.

Events containing cookies are linked to offline data from CRM sources, other databases or even plain CSV files containing raw data and stored in a common database.
As the data is matched and collated, each profile receives its own individual ID which later can be used for retrieving data about a particular visitor.

Step 3: Audience building

Once data has been organized and merged into profiles, it is then possible to segment the profiles according to the data collected from various sources in order to build a set of audiences. Audience building is where the data management functionalities of an application like an SCV platform show their real strength.

Depending on what aspects are of most interest to a brand’s marketing team, it would be possible to divide the profiles into audiences such as:

  • Visitors who made a purchase in the last 30 days worth more than $1000 and from a specific category of products
  • Customers who had signed up for a loyalty card but did not make any online purchases in the course of the last 3 months

Clearly these kinds of insights would not be possible without the profile-building capabilities of a SCV platform – with various kinds of data being merged into one place.

Now, armed with audience data that gives more specific insights on individual customers, it is possible to connect in a more personal with with them using targeted messages that should appeal to them better.

Data activation – getting personal

The real power of a SCV platform is revealed when it comes time to activate the data that has been gathered and processed.

There are different ways to make use of the data, but in general the process of data activation is the same: matching it with an online identifier (through cookie-syncing or otherwise) that is linked to the customer and then reaching him or her through various digital channels such as programmatic display ads.

One common use case for using a Single Customer View or Unified Customer View platform is when it comes to serving personalized content i.e. emails, display ads, item on an e-commerce site etc. Therefore the final link between the SCV platform and the point of its use is vitally important.

Once customer profiles have been created and sufficiently enriched (i.e. enough information has been gathered to give a reasonably well-rounded picture of the individual), they can be used for enhancing the customer experience programmatically.

What does this mean?

For instance:

  • Serving dynamic ads on 3rd-party site (through programmatic media-buying platforms like Google DoubleClick Bid Manager or AppNexus) using items that customers would be more interested in.
  • Tailoring the front-page content of your e-commerce site to match the profile of the visitor
  • Sending targeted email ads/special offers that are more likely to appeal to the customer

All this is possible by implementing a Single Customer View platform.

PII vs Personal Data (Cheat Sheet INCLUDED!)

Learn how to recognize PII and Personal Data to stay away from privacy issues.

Download FREE Guide


Maciej Zawadziński

Advisory Board Member at Piwik PRO

A serial entrepreneur and angel investor with a background in AdTech, MarTech and online privacy. Over the last 15 years, Maciej has built and scaled several enterprise SaaS and services companies, including Piwik PRO. As the CEO of Piwik PRO, he grew the company from €0 to €10M ARR. He is currently focused on Next New Ventures, an operator-backed fund that invests in entrepreneurs and brings deep expertise in scaling global B2B SaaS products and IT services companies.

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